11 December 2007

Isaiah 40:1-11

"Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God." (v.1)


Isaiah is prophesying to a people who are as low as they can get. They are deflated, defeated, without purpose as a nation, and their only unity is in their lack of hope for the future. They feel abandoned by their God and their belief that once brought such courage is now of no use in their time of distress.

The words of Isaiah would have lifted the most dispirited of Israelites, "Comfort, O comfort my peopleā€¦ speak tenderly to Jerusalem". Wow, what healing restorative words!

God, who seemed silent, now speaks gently to a people who could not have coped with a prophecy of triumph and victory. God's words of comfort softly awaken hope for tomorrow and give sensitive reassurance that soon the struggle will be over.

The comfort on offer is not human but divine: it is not passive sympathy which offers a shoulder to cry on but an active transformation of the situation. The way of the Lord is to show the way out of despair to a future of hope.

For the Church this Advent and Christmas there is a huge challenge to be those who proclaim the comfort of God to the oppressed, broken and despairing. This is a hope that brings a change of circumstance - not simply a temporary solace from the pain of life so easily done at the time of goodwill and peace to all people.

To Ponder

Have you ever felt that God was silent?

Have you ever experienced the comfort of God? What did it feel like?

As you look at your community and world, who are those that need the transforming comfort of God? What can you and/or your church offer?

Bible notes author

Revd Matt Finch

Matt Finch is a Methodist Minister in the West Norfolk Circuit where he shares oversight of ten rural chapels. He is a Fresh Expressions Associate Missioner and passionate about seeing churches flourish in all contexts and people groups.