Comfort, comfort my people (Isaiah 40:1 ESV)
Here Isaiah announced the comfort of a God, who is the very essence of true comfort. Comfort is not something that comes alongside God; he himself is the comforter and comfort. This comfort, which God brings because of who he is, has three aspects: forgiveness, presence, and rule.
First, God’s comfort is his forgiveness:
‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her…that her iniquity is pardoned…’ (v.2)
We desperately need pardon. We need to have the past erased and sin dealt with so that it no longer controls us. We cannot pardon ourselves, but God can forgive us so that sin is defeated once and for all. This is part of the comfort God provides.
Second, God’s comfort is his presence:
‘the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together’ (v.5)
Isaiah’s God is not remote, but is visible. God comes in mercy, to reconcile the alienation that has occurred between us and him; to restore a life-giving and an eternal fellowship. His presence with us is a source of great comfort.
Third, God’s comfort is his rule:
‘Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him…He will tend his flock like a shepherd’ (v.10-11). God will rule with tenderness, gathering scattered and harassed people and shepherding them with infinite compassion. God’s rule as a loving shepherd will comfort his people, not terrorise them.
What was hope to Isaiah has been fulfilled for us in Christ Jesus.
Jesus has come
‘full of grace’ (John 1:14). Even when humanity did its worst, Jesus forgave them (Luke 23:34); his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28).
In Jesus, God has been made known to us (John 1:18). He is Immanuel, God with us. (Matthew 1:23) In him God’s presence is not only with us but in us (Colossians 1:27).
Also, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who searches for the lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7) and who lays his life down for them (John 10:11). The Lord is my Shepherd, who provides all my needs and enables me to be in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).
It is Jesus who provides true healing and comfort for our lives.
Isaiah’s prophecy isn’t locked away in the vaults of history; it is extremely relevant to each one of us today. We are forgiven in Christ Jesus simply on the basis of his grace and mercy; past sin is eradicated and we are free to live in the light of God’s glorious presence. God doesn’t just await us in eternity; he is with us in Jesus, and as a result we live under the protective rule and care of a shepherd who is good.
Such is the comfort of God to each one of us.
Father, help us to see that you are the God of all comfort, and that your comfort has been showered on us in your Son. In his name we pray,
Have a good week being comforted by Jesus.