Comfort for Troubled Times

Isaiah 40

God, who sees our trouble and sorrow, longs to be the one who wipes away our tears, who puts an end to our troubles.

Manuscript

Isaiah wrote: 

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 ESV

It is my prayer that, as Christmas approaches, the comfort you receive from our God will see you through a difficult winter.

For our God, who sees our trouble and sorrow, longs to be the one who wipes away our tears, who puts an end to our troubles. It is he that has promised a day when all who have responded to his invitation will join him in celebrating the end of death and all evil with a great feast and forever share in his joy.

Now we are in a time of hard service. Our own actions have brought us suffering, pain, and death. Even things that we see as right have had painful consequences. This year we have seen sickness and death, poverty and disaster, distrust and violence. “Enough already!” we cry, knowing that there is more to come.

But, I repeat, God who has seen our trouble and sorrow, longs to comfort us and the day will come when God acts and such troubles cease.

For God has already acted. The God who delivered Israel from slavery, who opened the door for them to return from Babylon, where they had been banished because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, acted by sending his Son into our world to share our suffering and pay the penalty for our sin.

“Her sin has been paid for,” Isaiah wrote. This was the purpose and work of Jesus, the Christ, to atone for the sins of the world. John the Baptizer, the voice in the wilderness that Isaiah foresaw, proclaimed Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The apostle John, who had been one of the Baptist’s disciples, wrote:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:1-2 ESV

That word propitiation refers to an animal that is killed in place of someone who has broken one of God’s laws. John is saying that Jesus died in your place and mine. He has become our “double.” 

Most folks know that few actors have the ability to do the amazing things we see them do in action movies. Highly skilled people who are dressed and made up to look like them do the stunts. These “stunt doubles” take their place and keep them safe. I bring this up, because people who know Hebrew have told me that the phrase “she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” could just as easily be translated “she has received from the LORD’s hand a double for all her sins.” Jesus, the son of God, stood in for us and received the penalty for our sins, so that as Isaiah says, they have been paid for.

But notice, that the apostle John also refers to Jesus’ resurrection.  He says in the passage I just read, that Jesus lives and defends us from any who accuse us before God. He calls him our advocate, that is one who speaks on our behalf.

And this work of Christ has been done, is being done, and will be done for all who seek his aid. There is no one whose sins are too great, no one who does not need the salvation he offers.

Isaiah wrote:

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:1-5 ESV

He is speaking of every hindrance to God’s coming to His people being removed. If pride or arrogance would prevent them from receiving the LORD they shall be brought low. If they are locked in the depths of despair God will raise them up. Nothing will keep him from comforting those who desire his presence and comfort.

Saint Paul knew great suffering, but he also knew this comfort. He wrote to the Corinthians:

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV

And, in God, he found his comfort:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 2:3-5 ESV

Are you troubled by the events in the world? Look for comfort to your God. Concerning God’s love and concern for you Isaiah wrote:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11 ESV

It is likely that Isaiah intends us to recall David’s words in Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters]
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Psalm 23:1-4

No harm can befall you who are in God’s care. No weakness will make you vulnerable to those who would steal you away. No one can snatch you out of his hand. Even death cannot separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus.

As Paul wrote to the Romans:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

His love and mercy are yours forever. Trust him. He longs for you to be with him and remain forever. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s love and mercy abide forever for those who trust in Jesus Christ.

In the Revelation that Jesus gave to John, the apostle, he showed him the end of all things and a bit of the glory that is coming for those who trust in him. John wrote:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Rev. 21:3-4

Hold these things in your heart and take comfort from them, for these Words from God are trustworthy and true and because they are God’s Words they will endure forever. Amen.

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