Advent Readings Day 9
Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
“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.” Isaiah 40:1-2
Words that talk about comfort seem like empty words until you truly need comforted. Lets face it, most of us reading this have fairly comfortable lives. We have struggles and ups and downs, yet compared to most in the world we go for long periods of time between the seasons of suffering and mourning that require comfort. When suffering hits, it seems unusual and out of place.
If we read Isaiah’s words from a place of living a comfortable life, these words will sound hollow and distant – as if they were words simply written for a different era with little to do with today. Yet for many in the world today, their cry is for comfort.
They are facing the loss of children, hungry bellies, chronic unemployment, no safety net, disease without medicine and extreme poverty. They are in a cycle of poverty that has hit multiple generations – and they need comfort. Take one of the children from the project we work in. She is 3 years old and has health problems that are made worse by poverty. Last year her uncle who provided for the whole family was killed in a construction accident, leaving the whole family without provision. Six months ago her mother left her in her grandmother’s custody to try to find work in an Arab country as a household servant – hoping she could send money back, but knowing that she was entering a harsh and dangerous environment. Grandma is now caring for the 3 year old, but she is almost 50, which makes her an old woman in this culture and the only skills she has are to beg daily in hopes of getting enough for dinner.
A message of comfort sounds different in the ears of a family like this. Could it be? Is it possible there is a comfort out there that I have never tasted?
God’s People were living in despair when this message of comfort came. And there are those who live in despair today.
If we look back over these verses we see why the people are to be comforted. The words used are comfort words. “Speak tenderly.” “Proclaim that her hard work has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.” “The Word of God endures forever.” “Good News.” “The Sovereign Lord comes in power.” “He rules with a mighty arm.” “He has a reward with Him.” Amazing words of comfort to those who are hurting and despairing.
But, perhaps the most powerful image is in verse 11, “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.” The Savior who scoops up the lambs into his arms and holds them close to his heart. What a source of comfort, taken one step further for those with children – “He gently leads those that have young.”
Why be comforted? Because you are not alone and neither is the mother, child and grandmother I mentioned above. The Sovereign Lord is present. Jesus has come. God is with us. He is here in tenderness, having paid for our sin, forever present, ruling in power with His mighty arm and with a reward. He is waiting to scoop up his sheep into His arms and hold them close.
May you and I experience this comfort. But, may we also shout it from the mountain tops and sing it in the dark alleys. Jesus, The Comforter, is here.