The Afflicted

"I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isaiah 51:12-13)

Subject to Gentile rule and forced to adopt customs and laws contrary to God's commandments, the Jewish people are afflicted. Like a netted bird they are trapped, bound by the ways of the Gentiles. Any attempt to be God's People only tightens the net. They are harassed, tormented and abused, yet in their affliction, God speaks words of assurance and hope to His People. "I, even I, am He who comforts you."

Contrary to what the nations presume, God has not abandoned them. "I, even I, am He who comforts you." The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel is aware of their plight and knows their suffering. Though some perceive it not, God comforts Israel, in their affliction.

Note, the double emphasis, "I, even I, am He . . . ." as if urging His people, who have been brought low because of their affliction, to lift their heads that they might consider their situation in the light of His promises. Indeed, they must remember Him, in order to "experience", to see His comfort. God has not forsaken them, but is their Comforter during their affliction. "I, even I, am He who comforts you."

Far from the Land of mercy and truth, the Jewish people fall prey to injustice and deception. The threat of the Gentile oppressor darkens the skies causing the light of their Divine calling and message to grow dim. Hope is dashed, faith severely tested, yet, they are not consumed.

"Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass?" Remember that you are children of the Patriarch Abraham, who came from Ur of Chaldea. He was one man, with his wife, Sarai, whom God blessed to become a great multitude. Remember, that you are the Nation of Purpose, to bring light to the nations. God is with you; there is no need to be afraid of a man. Evil leaders and tyrants will come and go. Regimes and empires will rise and fall, but the Jewish People will outlive them all.

Fear is a gift which God has given man, so that man may honour Him. When fear is misplaced, God is robbed, while man forgets his place in the scheme of things, and misses out on the blessing. "And you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth . . . " (Isaiah 51:13)

To be sure, the Creator of all has " stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth . . . " so that His people Israel will show forth His commandments, and testify of His Messiah to the nations, indeed, to proclaim His redemption to all of creation. God has set these things in order, and no man or nation can ever change what He has done. He has established His covenants with His people Israel, and He will fulfil His promises, because He is the Creator of all things. Unto Him be honour and glory.

The Jewish people have survived centuries of evil schemes and campaigns meant for their destruction. Numerous oppressors have threatened to wipe Israel off the map, or to exterminate the Jewish people from their lands. Yet, in the end, like a wave crashing upon the shore, the oppressor is no more. " . . . you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isaiah 51:13) What loomed as a catastrophe has ceased to be, the wave is gone and, the Jewish people have survived. Like the sand on the shore, they remain.

Let us be certain and consider these things carefully. God is comforting His people; if it were not so the Jewish people would not survive. It is neither a freak of Nature, nor a plan of man, but God who works all things according to His purposes. He is faithful and His mercy towards Israel endures. Come and see what great things God has done for His people, Israel. Let the nations stand in awe. Let all the peoples praise the LORD, the God of Israel.

When the Messiah came, the Jewish people were under the harsh oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. Yeshua spoke words of comfort, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted . . . " (Matthew 5:3-4)

Since Roman law nurtured ungodliness and lawlessness, the righteous were inhibited causing them to be "poor in spirit". Likewise, they longed for the kingdom of God wherein mercy and truth flourished, and so they mourned for the days of unending peace. The Messiah assured His people that "the kingdom of heaven" belonged to such, and that "they shall be comforted" .

For centuries, the Jewish people have been afflicted because of their hope in the Messiah (they believed He would come), and because they have been seeking the kingdom of God first, rather than the kingdoms of men. This is their Divine calling and message to the nations. Sadly, countless numbers of Jewish people have been killed for no other reason than being Jewish–being the custodians of the commandments of God, they held fast to the testimony that God is King and He would send His Messiah.

The Book of Revelation, penned by the Hebrew prophet Yochanan, reveals a telling scene. "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?'

"Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed." (Revelation 6:9-11)

This prophecy indicates that while the affliction of the Jewish people will continue, God will judge those who have afflicted them. In the end, the Jewish people will survive and live on in the World to Come, the Coming Kingdom.

In the meantime, there is hope in the Messiah. "Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) Despite present hardships or distress, the afflicted can find rest in Yeshua the Messiah.

Note that during the days of Roman oppression, the Messiah urged His people to remain steadfast in their faith, and to continue in the path of righteousness. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works (mitzvot) and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

One of the names of Messiah is Immanuel, which means "God with us". Significantly, Yeshua the Messiah was among His own, in the midst of troubled times, and spoke words of comfort, giving hope and strengthening faith. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

It was the same message of hope through the prophet Isaiah, when God pleaded with His people. "But I am the LORD your God, who divided the sea whose waves roared . . . ." . (Isaiah 51:15) Reassurance and comfort that He is both the Sovereign LORD, and Israel's God!

The sea typifies the nations, while the roaring waves represent the nations' fury towards Israel. Persecution intensifies like a wave rising, threatening to wash away the afflicted, but the Lord "your God" who divided the sea will also quiet the waves –"the LORD of hosts is His Name" (Isaiah 51:15) –He will not allow Israel to be swept away, no matter the size of the tsunami.

There is a higher plan and a greater purpose of which the nations are either ignorant or refuse to accept.

The Word of God, His commandments to life, the path to holiness, the Sovereign Lord has revealed and given to His people Israel.

"And I have put My words in your mouth . . . " (Isaiah 51:16)

This promise is a reminder of the days of Moses, when their forefathers were preparing to possess the Promised Land. At that time, Moses told the children of Israel.

"For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'

"Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'

"But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it." (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

The generation of Moses' day were assured that the commandments of God were near, "in your mouth and in your heart" , thus they could press on toward their goal with confidence. They had journeyed in the wilderness all their lives; now they were about to enter a new phase, a life of holy service to a holy God in the Promised Land. They need not fear nor be anxious because the instructions to life and holiness were in their mouth and heart.

The promise given through the prophet Isaiah, therefore, connects all the subsequent generations since Moses' day. Thus, the generations of the exile are likewise assured that God will put His Word in their mouth, during their time of affliction. "And I have put My words in your mouth . . . " (Isaiah 51:16)

More than three thousand years ago, Moses and his generation were teaching the commandments of God to the next generation. Today, the very same commandments, the Word of God, are being taught and spoken to the younger generation. Thus, the promise that God has put His Word in their mouth continues today, even as it did in Moses' time. In the Jewish home and school, children are taught the commandments of God, the same instructions to life and holiness as their forefathers centuries earlier.

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgements, that you may live and multiply . . . " (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)

History records the terrible plight of the Jewish people, while scattered among the Gentiles. To their shame, the Gentiles have endeavoured to rid the world of the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Word of God remains intact and is devoutly studied, and yet again we see the fulfilment of His precious promises to His covenant people. Praise the Lord!

While Israel has faithfully preserved the Word of God for more than 3,000 years it has not been an easy road. On the contrary, Israel has suffered in the role as a servant of the Lord.

In this regard, Israel's affliction as the servant of the Lord is symbolic of Israel's Redeemer, Who as the Messiah, the Hope of Israel is the Ultimate Servant of the Lord.

Of Him, the prophet Isaiah foretells, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

God will cause the Messiah to be an offering for sin, so that through Him many will be made righteous. "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labour of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:10-11)

These words are intended to comfort Israel. The LORD has promised to send His Anointed who will make atonement for the sins of all.

Bless the Lord for comforting His people, Israel, and in whose mouth He has put His Word, so that through them the nations may know Him and His Son, Yeshua, the Saviour of the world.

May there be many who are comforted in the assurance of their Kinsman-Redeemer, the Righteous Servant of God, even Yeshua the Messiah.