"Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORDís hand double for all her sins." Isa 40:2The other we see here is a message bringing conviction of sin and fear of the impending judgment.
While Jesus brought a message of grace let's not forget that much of what he said was for the purpose of bringing conviction of sin. This was particularly the case in his interaction with the religious elite. One is reminded of Matthew chapter 23 in his "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" and going on much as this chapter in Isaiah does to point out the hypocrisy of the "religious" service.
Now at the risk of being labeled an "antisemite" or "religious bigot" let me shout aloud some of the sins of the religious elite of today in obedience to the command God has given here. For there are many who are religiously zealous, who give the appearace of being eager to seek God and know his ways, but who in fact reject God.
To the religious elite of his day Jesus said, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." John 8:24 and so also he says to them, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your fatherís desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44 The hostility of the Jews today towards Christ hasn't changed much considering for example their unjustified reaction to the "Passion of the Christ" film. Their rejection of Christ is a rejection of God. While they reckon themselves "special" or "holy" in God's sight just because they're Jewish, Jesus says, "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." John 8:47 and "If you were Abrahamís children, then you would do the things Abraham did." John 8:39 While Jews today aren't generally violent people yet touch upon their Jewishness or try to speak to them as Jesus had and you will experience what Jesus experienced from them.
But we can thank the Muslims for providing the most obvious and contemptible examples of religious hypocrisy today. For in the name of their god and with religious zeal they have committed all kinds of acts of atrocity. Even many of those "moderate" types join hands with the Islamic terrorists by affirming and defending their unjustified acts of terrorism. When kindness and generosity is done to them they react with murder. And they forbid the gospel to be spread among them. They respond to it with hatred, murder and mayhem. But what is most astounding about these savages, these liars, these bloodthirsty murders is how religiously elite they seem to think of themselves - how superior and special in their god's sight over everyone else. Oh they fast and pray five times a day and go about their religious duties as if righteous, but they are children of the devil, offspring of serpents, and destined for eternal damnation if they don't turn to Christ. Considering the Lord's particular contempt for religious hypocrites I think today He would reckon the Muslims among the most contemptible.
There were times in the past when the Christian community was characterized with religious hypocrisy as the Muslims are today. The dark ages were rightly named. Catholicism has had it's atrocities, but from which they've come a long way presently. So also the Protestants have come a long way from their own atrocities in the past where they would put people to death for not agreeing with them in the matter infant baptism, for example. For with religious zeal in the name of cleansing the church from "heresies" Christians had been involved in lying, slander and murder. But while there are issues in the Christian community today as I've pointed out in A Critique of Modern Evangelicalism, I would not characterize Christians today as zealously hypocritical as it speaks of here. In fact Christianity today I would say has the opposite problem of being generally non-zealous. Yes there are areas in which the Christian community comes off as zealous - primarily concerning non-application oriented dogma concerning interpretations of Genesis and Revelation, but in terms of actually living the Christian life there's really not much zeal at all. The heresy of Free Grace Theology with its treatment of the Lordship of Christ as merely optional has produce a field of nominal "Christians", still slaves to sin, who have "prayed the prayer" or "made the decision", but who live the Christian life apathetically. They continue on in living a lifestyle of sin and they live for themselves and for their own pleasures. But it is written that, "he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."2Cor 5:15 They may be among those whom Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, ĎLord, Lord,í will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Mt 7:21 And they may find themselves ending up with the Jewish and Muslim unbelievers.