“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for SHE HATH RECEIVED OF THE LORD’S HAND DOUBLE FOR ALL HER SINS. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Is40:1-5KJV)
Georg Friedrich Handel (pictured) was on the whole creditably faithful to the (KJV) scriptural narrative within his much-loved Christmas musical offering; such subtle changes as he did make would have been for metrical scanning purposes; but not, I suspect, the omission of the phrase I have capitalized within the prophecy he was quoting (above).
That had asserted that God’s chosen nation’s many iniquities were now pardoned, for she had already received double (punishment) for her sins; a statement which should make it clear enough that “Jerusalem” could not in this context have been an allegory for the future universal Church. “Jerusalem” was Jerusalem, city of the great king (David), the heart of the Jewish nation. That nation had been punished severely but now she was to be forgiven; and that was the context of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”, the “Elijah” (JB) who was promised to restore everything (Mt17:11) was on his way to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for Him (Lk1:17NJB); the Arch-Angel Gabriel (no less) had promised as much in John’s annunciation. According to such prophecy all would soon be well for Israel (God’s servant cf. Is49:3, Acts13:47), and the whole world would witness it – “all flesh would see it together.
As with other OT prophecy, it simply has not panned out that way – in terms of timing, sequence and personnel that is. But the mouth of the Lord has spoken it and He will not go back on His promises. As Paul addressed the matter, though many of his fellow Jews were hostile to the gospel of Christ they were still elect for the sake of their fathers: “there is no change of mind on God’s part concerning the gifts He has made or of His choice” (Rom11:28-29 NJB). No change of Mind, but there has been a change to the published Plan, and Saul of Tarsus was chosen by God’s grace and commissioned by the glorified Christ to proclaim it (Acts26:17-18). That was along with the other twelve apostles once they had grasped what was going on (Acts11:5-9;17-18), namely that many Gentiles were also to gain a glorious inheritance with God’s holy people (26:18b) through the establishment of “the fellowship pertaining to a secret (plan) hidden in God who had created all things through Jesus Christ, such that through the Church should NOW be revealed to the sovereignties and authorities of Heaven, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom according to (His) purposes for the ages” (cf. Eph3:8-11).
The apostle to the Gentiles would not wish us to be ignorant of this mystery so as to become wise in our own conceits – that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the complement of the Gentiles has come in. Once the Church fully recognizes and acknowledges her error regarding “replacement theology”, indeed her understanding of the very nature and purpose of the current epoch within the overall framework of salvation history, then also might her fathers in the faith acknowledge their reprehensible rejection of the Son of Man – once, that is, they grasp along with the Church why the terrestrial promises of the Law and Prophets were not fulfilled through Him and by Him at the expected time.
It would seem the Lord has concluded both fathers and children in ignorance in this matter so that he might enlighten and show mercy to both (cf. Rom11:32). No wonder Paul went on in the next verse to exclaim “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how inscrutable is His decision-making and His ways are quite beyond our discovery!” Even two millennia of erudite ecclesiological scholarship has scarcely perceived these matters whereas the Spirit holds no such bounds but works as He so chooses.