Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Comfort, O Comfort My People

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

~Isaiah 40:1-2 (NRSV)

For all talk of judgment there is an equally relevant other side of the Divine coin-of-balance. Our relational God is never more centrally characterised than by the redemptive nature. Our Lord seeks, always, to forgive all penitent ones.

Throughout history, and certainly biblically, God is found untiring in scooping-up a fallen humanity.

Three Voices – “Comfort,” “Speak,” and “Cry”

These three voices, captured within the first two verses of Isaiah 40, allude to the voices contained within verses 3-11. This two-verse introduction resounds with power, the desperate, timely invitation of the Lord: come back to me now; you are redeemed!

This strong presence of reassurance has the effect of an echo; it is not to be quickly dispelled. Just as through Jesus grace echoes, now, through eternity, these three voices combine in a stereophonic unison calling the people of God back to their Lord.

Yes, the people of God are never lost to the Lord. Irrefutable commitment to the covenant divinity of such relationship resounds; it is never to be forgotten.

Rationale for the Resounding Proclamation

Such a powerful word of prophecy—these two verses—hinge the entire book of Isaiah. Judgment makes way for mercy; and what a twist, given what has only just occurred in Isaiah 39—prophecy of vanquishment.

There are three reasons for the merciful proclamation: Israel had laboured hard—that hard service was now recognised; the Lord had accepted payment for her sins: and, Israel had allegedly received “double” punishment, meaning, not mathematically, but that the rod was not spared and the chosen nation had accepted such punishment, humbly.

Our penitence shares the same features.

We accept judgment as it’s been meted out; as the Holy Spirit has anointed our understanding. We stand judged by that Spirit or by the circumstance. Ultimately, though, we sense the peaceful breath of the Lord as it calms us, even beyond our understanding, from within. Hence, we are comforted. It’s a miraculous comfort.

Our Punishment, Too, Has Been Met in Full

A wonderful truth it is that, due the simple act of faith to humble ourselves before the Lord Jesus, repenting of our erroneous way, we are freed from the consequence of otherwise just punishment.

It was not as simple for the Israelites as it is, now, for us. That fact, alone, bears suitable contemplative consideration. We have the easy way to grace, not that it should be cheapened; it cost our Saviour his life.


The Lord seeks to comfort every last one. Though the 99 are found, the one still lost senses not the comfort of God; that should cause us pain, because it pains God. The forgiveness of God empowers all forgiveness. To know comfort we must first experience God’s comfort. Come, enjoy that comfort, now.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General References:

Allan Harman, Isaiah: A covenant to be kept for the sake of the church – Focus on the Bible (Fearn, Scotland; Christian Focus Publications, 2005), p. 267-68.

J. Alec Moyter, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An introduction & commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity press, 1993), p. 299.

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