Comfort and Hope in Isaiah 40-43

After 39 chapters of judgment oracles, mixed with some prophecies of hope and the Messiah, we come to the second half of Isaiah’s writing. Here he changes his tone and encourages, comforts, and gives hope to Israel. They would still go through the war with Assyria, they would still go into Babylonian captivity. Yet that would not be their end.

The hard part again is identifying any particular prophetic event. We have some help in that the New Testament quotes and applies some of them. Apart from that, many of the events are similar: the return from Babylon and the spiritual return to God under the Messiah. Both are often termed in Old Testament pictures of blessing.

God promises their return and comfort (Isaiah 40.1-5, quoted and applied to John the Baptist in Matthew 3.3 and John 1.23. God’s word is eternal and thus these promised events will happen ( Isaiah 40.6-8, quoted in 1 Peter). God will come, not in wrath, but as a shepherd to gather his people and protect them (Isaiah 40.10ff) God is both wise enough and powerful enough to accomplish this. [Note Isaiah 40.13-14 quoted in Romans 11.34).

The thing that got Israel into trouble was idolatry. This is also the downfall of Babylon and the rest of the nations.

Throughout this section God emphasizes He alone is God.

  • He is the first and the last.
  • There was / is no god beside Him.
  • He is the creator of all.
  • None can compare: “to whom will you liken me” is asked repeatedly.
  • He is able to tell what would happen in the future, which only the true God could do.
  • He rules over nations, raising them up and destroying them in His wrath.
  • God chose Israel to be His servant in bringing the Messiah.
  • God chose Israel to be his witnesses that He is God.
  • God will bring the Messiah, His chosen servant, to redeem and save His people.

Many people today have only a caricature image of God and thus make many foolish statements about Him and about religion. We need to immerse ourselves in these last chapters of Isaiah and get a true understanding of who God is.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17.3).

Do you know God?

–Hugh DeLong

[Hugh and I began preaching together as interns at the Johnson Avenue church in El Cajon, California in 1971. – Bill]


Paul, the Apostle

Besides Peter, the most prominent leader in the early church was Paul, a man from the Greek city of Tarsus. His conversion is a cornerstone in Acts, where Luke describes the event three times (Acts 9.1-9; 22.3-21; 26.1-23). Through his vision on the Damascus road, Paul became a witness of Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.3-11) and an apostle with a special commission to proclaim the gospel among the Gentiles (Galatians 2.7-8). From both Acts and Paul’s letters, we can develop his life and teachings.

Peter describes Paul as a “dear brother” who wrote many letters but whose message was distorted by some within the churches (2 Peter 3.15-16). Echoes of his teaching can be heard in other New Testament letters, such as 1 Peter and Hebrews, and the leaders of the postapostolic church recount many of the traditions surrounding his life, including his martyrdom in Rome under Nero.

Paul’s influence on theology has been enormous. He offers the clearest and most detailed exposition of the Christian faith. Although he worked hard and suffered severely for the gospel, he refused to seek honor for himself since he knew that his efforts were divinely empowered: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1.29).

Zeal for God

The zeal Paul demonstrated in persecuting the church is not simply religious fanaticism. Paul saw his devotion for God and His law as a part of a noble history in Israel, which lauded those who showed outstanding courage to defend and avenge what was holy.

For example, Scripture remembered Phinehas’s zeal, which led him to violence against an Israelite man and a Midianite woman indulging in sexual sin and the worship of Baal (Numbers 25.1-15). Later, 1 Maccabees 2.54 recalled that event, “Phinehas our ancestor, because he was deeply zealous, received the covenant of everlasting priesthood.” According to Sirach 45.23, “Phinehas son of Eleazar ranks third in glory for being zealous in the fear of the Lord.”

Paul understood his persecution of the church as a part of that tradition. His righteous zeal was the source of his greatest sin (1 Timothy 1.12-14). Yet precisely at this point Paul realized he became the recipient of God’s grace: “I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

 – The New Testament in Antiquity, pp. 250-51



The Back Page 10-16-2016

In Our Prayers

Shut-ins – Mildred Meyers in the Manor and Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights.

Sick – Tammy Sutter, Matt’s mom, diagnosed with cancer…Jamie Oliver, whose condition is improving.

TravelingMakenna, in Costa Rica…Jacquie in Shreveport…Bill and Cheryl, leaving today for a trip to California…Neale & Dalissa Bryan and their family are traveling to the U.S. They expect to arrive in Chicago on the 19th.

On the Calendar

October 28-30 Purpose Rally 2016. Youth Rally at Kearney Church of Christ, 302 E. 25th Street. From 7 pm Friday to Lunch on Sunday. Guest Speaker is Shawn Hart from Oregon.

October 30 Fifth Sunday Singing at the Holyoke church, 2:30 p.m.


Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning…

…heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee I pray. In the morning, O LORD, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch (Psalm 5.1-3).

Scripture instructs us to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5.6). David reminds us that God forgets not “the cry of the humble” and “…though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly” (Psalms 9.12; 138.6).

When life knocks us to our knees we discover we are in the best position to pray. Burdened by the weight of civil war, Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go.”

Eugene Peterson has written,

“Untutored, we tend to think prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose there must be an ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not. Prayer is elemental, not advanced language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true, and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything out in the open before God.”

Answer me when I call, O God…be gracious to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 4.1).

– Bill


The Suffering of the Christ

He said to them, “…did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” (Luke 24.25-26)

Why did Luke lay such stress on the sufferings of Jesus? Emphasis on the cross gives us understanding, Christ died for our sins, the cross is the heart of the Gospel. But why the emphasis on His sufferings?

First, suffering identified Jesus as the true Messiah. He had plainly stated the Son of Man must suffer many things and enter His glory through suffering. In his Gospel, Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, paying particular attention to His sufferings.

  • Jesus was betrayed and deserted by His friends in fulfillment of Psalm 41.9: “Even My close friend in whom I trusted, who ate My bread, has lifted up his heel against Me.”
  • He was painfully oppressed and repudiated in fulfillment of Isaiah 53.3: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
  • He remained silent before His judges, Isaiah 53.7: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.”
  • He was flogged, punched, slapped, and spat upon, Isaiah 50.6: “I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.”

All these, Matthew maintains, were signs of the true Messiah, the suffering servant of the LORD.

Second, suffering also identifies the messianic community. For example, the eighth beatitude declares persecution to be a necessary characteristic of the Messiah’s followers.

This is still true today. According to Paul Marshall there are between 200 and 250 million Christians being persecuted for their faith today, and a further 400 million living under serious restrictions of religious liberty (Their Blood Cries Out, Word Publishing: Dallas, 1997). Thus suffering is a badge of both the Messiah and His disciples.

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10.22).

 – Bill
(John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year, 252)


The Back Page 9-11-2016

In Our Prayers

Mildred Meyers in the Manor and Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights.

Dawna Schmidt is still recovering at home. Thanks to all who have provided meals since her surgery.

Please pray for the success of the Doors of Opportunity Workshop, now less than two weeks away.

On the Calendar

Today. Potluck dinner followed by men’s business meeting. The women will meet to plan details for the workshop.

September 15. Women’s Bible Class at the Sunset Apartments, 10:45 a.m., will discuss the introductory lesson in Ephesians.

September 16. Joe and Linda are hosting a Pizza Party for Westside at 6 p.m. at the church building. Please let Cheryl know if you can come so she can give the Thomases a count.

September 24 – Doors of Opportunity Workshop, 8:30-4:30. Today, Joe and Linda Thomas are in McCook and Wray.

October 14-16 Annual Fall Lectureship in Chadron. Copies of the schedule with the list of speakers are on the bulletin board and on the back table.


5 Steps to Salvation?

“5 Steps to Salvation”: How It Can Be Misleading

August 28, 2016 – Bill Bryan

Common Chart Used for “5 Steps of Salvation”PlanOfSalvation








Scriptures Used:

1 John 1:7 – We are continually cleansed in the blood of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Christ to be sin.

Romans 6:1-4 – In baptism, we died to sin. We continue to live in Him.

Romans 10:10 – Relationship of confession to salvation — not just a single act.

Matthew 10:32 – In context, Jesus asks His disciples to be willing to confess Him at the risk of losing their lives.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – We are saved by grace, through faith — not because we have finished a checklist. Salvation is not by merit.



The Back Page

In Our Prayers

Mildred Meyers in the Manor and Sue Jackson in Sunrise Heights…Boomer Libra, recovering from West Nile virus…Jacquie Grams, with an infection in her leg…Danelle Hayes, with a chronic intestinal disorder that prevents her from digesting her food.

For the Westside church, that we might “search the Word  daily” (Acts 17:11), appreciating those who sacrificed their lives so that we could read it for ourselves.

On the Calendar

September 24 – Doors of Opportunity. Joe and Linda Thomas are visiting in St. Francis, Kansas, and Brush, Colorado, today.


William Tyndale: The Cost of Translating the Bible

William TyndaleOn October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was strangled by the civil executioner in Belgium and his dead body was burned at the stake.

His crime? He had translated the New Testament and major portions of the Old Testament from the original languages into English so that English-speaking Christians could read the Scriptures in their own language.

Our Need for God’s Word

The Bible is indispensable to our faith – not just theoretically, but practically; not just through preaching and teaching, but through our own individual reading and study. Since the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us, we cannot know Him without knowing it. Without the Scriptures, the God you worship is the god of your imagination.

How many Bibles do you have? I suspect more than one. I have scores – Bibles in different languages, in different translations, in different bindings (leather, bonded leather, imitation leather, hardback, softback, loose-leaf, etc.). Everybody, or at least nearly everybody in our part of the world, has a Bible. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, there have been times when owning a Bible would have cost you your life. Take William Tyndale for example.

Opportunities and Obstacles

William Tyndale was trained in Greek and Hebrew. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Oxford in 1512 (at the ripe old age 16 or 17!) and his master’s degree in 1515. He later studied at Cambridge to round out his education. In due time, he became fluent in six or seven languages. In short, Tyndale was no dummy! Furthermore, his sense of English style was unparalleled.

As he was contemplating a fresh translation of the Bible in the 1520s, he came to the realization that it was impossible to do this work in England. The 1408 edict against Bible translation was still in effect. Besides, Tyndale could find no one in England who knew Hebrew. So he traveled to Germany – and there he was introduced to rabbis from whom he learned the language of the Old Testament. While on the Continent, he translated much of the Bible into English. He could not return to England for fear of his life.

He had a passion for getting the Word of God to lay folks. He wanted the boy behind the plough to know more of the Word of God than the literati of his day. His prayer would come true.

By 1525 he had completed his first translation of the New Testament, but it would not get printed until 1526. Three copies of this first edition exist today, only one of which – discovered just a few years ago – is completely intact.

Tyndale later revised the New Testament substantially, and the revision was a bona fide masterpiece. He even coined some new words that found their way into the English vocabulary for the next five centuries – words such as Passover, peacemaker, scapegoat, and even the adjective beautiful were coined by Tyndale. Altogether, he produced five editions of the New Testament, but the third edition of 1534 is the one most remembered.

Tyndale also did substantial work on the Old Testament, but he did not complete the task. As far as we know, he translated through 2 Chronicles.

Betrayal and Martyrdom

As he worked in Antwerp, the agents of King Henry VIII and other opponents were scouring Europe, hoping to find and capture him. He was betrayed by a fellow Englishman, kidnapped, and arrested on May 21, 1535. He was imprisoned in a Belgian fortress and eventually brought to trial for heresy and found guilty. His charge: A corrupt translation of the Bible. The reality: A superb translation of the Bible. But the clergy were ostensibly afraid that common folk could not understand the Bible; they needed the clergy and tradition to interpret it for them. The verdict condemning him to death came in August 1536. On October 6 of the same year he was executed at Vilvorde, Belgium.

Tyndale’s dying words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” But he did not know that just a few months before his death a version of the Bible in English, based largely on his own translation, had already been printed in England with King Henry VIII’s blessing. In the sense which he intended, the King of England’s eyes were already opening when he voiced his dying prayer. An English version of the Bible that drew on his translation was in circulation before his death. Three years after his death, Henry required every English parish church to make a copy of the English Bible available to parishioners.

 – Bill

(source: Daniel Wallace’s lectures on The History of the English Bible)