Today’s reading: Isaiah 36-41.
A storm caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steerman, at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: “I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Isaiah filled 39 chapters with warnings of judgment on the nation of Judah, culminating with the prophecy that the nation would be carried off to Babylon. Then it was time for God to smile. Comfort is the theme of chapter 40 of Isaiah and the remainder of the book. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says God. A highway is being built, but not the holy highway of Isaiah 35 with its pilgrims on their way towards Zion. No, this highway is the King’s road, built for God himself, along which he travels, revealing his glory so that everyone can see it and be comforted.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
The comfort of his exceeding glory. God exceeds our weakness, our trials, our need for forgiveness, and our mortality.
The comfort of his eternal word. Isaiah declares that men will pass away as quickly as grass in the field, but he only does this so the eternal nature of God’s word will shine brightly in comparison. God’s word comforts by its promises of help, protection, grace, and redemption.
The comfort of his effective power. The LORD is a strong tower and a shield. His arm is not too short. There is nothing he cannot do.
The comfort of an empathetic shepherd. The red thread of Jesus Christ runs boldly through this chapter. The caring shepherd of Isaiah’s vision is the good shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth, who laid down his life for his sheep.
The comfort of his enigmatic wisdom. Though we cannot always understand his ways, we can rest in the assurance that the one who created the universe knows what is best for us.
The comfort of his enthroned sovereignty. “The nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales.” God “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.” “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.” Therefore, though the world turns against God’s people, we can trust in Him to render justice and ultimately deliver us.
The comfort he gives by energizing the weary. Whether young or old, the strain and toil of life can sap our strength and take away our joy. Praise be to God, who daily renews our strength and restores our hope.
Art thou at a loss for a topic to comfort the aching heart? Hark thee, then; go tell of the ancient things of former days; whisper in the mourner’s ear electing grace, and redeeming mercy, and dying love. When thou findest a troubled one, tell him of the covenant, in all things ordered well, signed, sealed, and ratified; tell him what the Lord hath done in former days, how he cut Rahab and wounded the dragon; tell him the wondrous story of God’s dealings with his people. Tell him that God who divided the Red sea can make a highway for his people through the deep waters of affliction; that he who appeared in the burning bush which was not consumed, will support him in the furnace of tribulation. Tell him of the marvelous things which God has wrought for his chosen people: surely there is enough there to comfort him.
If that does not suffice, tell him of his present mercies; tell him that he has much left, though much is gone. Tell him there is “now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;” tell him that now he is accepted in the beloved; tell him that he is now adopted, and that his standing is safe. Tell him that Jesus is above, wearing the breast-plate, or pleading his cause. Tell him that though earth’s pillars shake, God is a refuge for us; tell the mourner that the everlasting God faileth not, neither is weary. Let present facts suffice thee to cheer him.
But if this is not enough, tell him of the future; whisper to him that there is a heaven with pearly gates and golden streets; tell him that “A few more rolling suns at most, will land him on fair Canaan’s coast,” and therefore he may well bear his sorrows. Tell him that Christ is coming, and that his sign is in the heavens, his advent is near, he will soon appear to judge the earth with equity, and his people in righteousness. And if that suffice not, tell him all about that God who lived and died. Take him to Calvary; picture to him the bleeding hands, and side, and feet; tell him of the thorn-crowned King of grief; tell him of the mighty Monarch of woe and blood, who wore the scarlet of mockery which was yet the purple of the empire of grief; tell him that he himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree. And if I have not said enough, go to thy Bible, read its pages, bend thy knee and ask for guidance, and then tell him some great and precious promise, that so thou mayest accomplish thy mission, and comfort one of God’s people. Charles Spurgeon
Image by Squiggle on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0