Comfort and hope (30-11-20)
Bible Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Comfort, O 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.
A voice of one calling: "In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
These beautiful words from the prophet Isaiah were written to the people of Israel in Babylon, in what is now Iraq, where they had been in exile for around seventy years. God is comforting his people with words of hope, that their oppression is ending, that they will return home and that their nation will be restored. They also speak prophetically of the coming Messiah, to save the world from the oppression of sin and death. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed.
How do these words speak to you today, in a world that has been in oppression for almost a year?
How might God speak tenderly to you today, what might he say?
The road home from Babylon to Jerusalem was around 550 miles, on foot, across unforgiving desert lands. It would an anxious journey, but there is joy at the prospect of going home as Isaiah asserts that “The glory of the Lord will be revealed”.
Today we share similar mixed emotions as we grieve over the destruction of what has been lost, whilst looking forward in the hope of deliverance and the joyfulness of the prospect of a return to normality. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas in these anxious times, what would it mean for the glory of the Lord be revealed in your life, and in your world?
Isaiah continues by urging the people of God to lift up their voices and shout “Here is your God!” May we have the confidence today to discern the hand of God at work in our lives and in our world, and to proclaim to those that will listen “Here is your God”, the God of comfort and deliverance, the God who “tends his flock like a shepherd”, and “caries them close to his heart.”
God of all comfort; may your glory be revealed in this anxious world as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Saviour.
Jesus, hope of the nations.