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Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 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 LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
With occasional oases of hope, the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah are a desert of divine judgment. But then, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone changes. Though the Lord is still a God of justice and judgment, emphasis is placed on restoration and renewal. Thus God calls Isaiah to bring a word of comfort for his people: the days of punishment are over; the time of pardon has begun.
The Hebrew verb translated in Isaiah 40:1 as “comfort” (nacham) means “to console or calm down someone.” This same verb appears later in Isaiah as the Lord says: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem” (66:13). For Judah, God’s comfort came especially in the good news of God’s new work of restoration.
God continues to comfort us today in a variety of ways. When we take our worries to him in prayer, God gives us the gift of his peace. When we remember his faithfulness in the past, we are calmed in the present. Often God’s comfort comes through his people, who care for us, suffer with us, pray for us, and share God’s love with us in tangible ways. Thus we have the chance, not only to receive divine comfort, but also to be instruments of this comfort to others.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you experienced God’s comfort in the past?
Do you need his comfort today?
Who in your life needs to experience God’s comfort?
Are you willing to be a channel of God’s comfort in this person’s life? In the lives of others?
Gracious God, how I thank you for your comfort. I think of times in my life when I was consumed by worry. When I opened my heart to you, holding nothing back, you granted me your peace. I realized once again that my life was in your hands, and therefore had no cause for worry.
Even as you have comforted me, may I share your comfort with others. Help me to be sensitive to those around me, to feel their worry and distress. Keep me from superficial platitudes that often make things worse rather than better. By your Spirit, may I feel along with others, and, at the same time, be a channel of your loving truth. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Servant at Work (Isaiah 40ff.)
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