When the Government recently tightened restrictions under Phase 2, I heard many lamenting “NOT AGAIN!”. When I heard of Israel being attacked, when I received news of a friend’s cancer relapse, when someone I knew fell into an old habitual sin… I couldn’t help but moan “NOT AGAIN” with a sigh.
While I was complaining and praying, I felt the Lord’s comfort and was reminded of Isaiah 40:1 – ‘“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.’
In that account, we see the beginnings of Isaiah’s message to those in the future who would experience the Exile. I think it’s hard for us to fully appreciate what a dreadful shock that was.
God had made all those wonderful promises to His people of them becoming a great nation – that they were going to be kings, that everything was going to move towards the ultimate establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, and now that it’s over, has God failed? Has God been defeated by the Babylonians? Or perhaps by their sins? What’s going on here?
In his book, The Book of Isaiah, John N. Oswalt put it this way – ‘Isaiah 40 in particular is addressing three questions that he knows will be in the minds of those people out there in the future:
1) Does God want to deliver us? Does He care about our situation?
2) Can He deliver us, does He have the power to? And finally,
3) Will He do it?’
When all things are going well in our lives, we can answer these questions with a resounding, “Yes, of course! If God wants, He can and He will!” But, during challenging times like these, perhaps God is trying to get our attention. Suppose He can, is He going to do it?
Then I Recalled. Last year, we muscled through a tough and difficult year during the lockdown, and we emerged together – stronger as a nation and as a church.
I Remembered the battles the Lord fought for Israel in biblical history (Joshua 10:42) and I Read the miraculous victories in Modern Israel (Top 17 Miraculous Israeli Military Victories, Israel Video Network [May 20, 2015]).
I Recounted the many salvation and healing testimonies we’ve had and the stories of backsliders who had been restored.
I began to Rehearse, “He has delivered us and He’s going to!”
So from “Not Again”, I’m going to ask Him to “Do it Again!”
In Isaiah 40, God responded with an affirmative “I’ve not forsaken you.” These are people who, like some of us, are deeply discouraged and feel like giving up. God said, “I want to comfort my people with gentle words, tender and kind.” He wants to deliver us. Indeed, as the rest of chapter 40 tells us, He can deliver us and He’s going to.
The word ‘comfort’ appears throughout the Bible but it’s a little misleading in contemporary English. For us, ‘comfort’ in the English lexicon means ‘to sooth – to ease our pain and make us feel better.’
The Hebrew word used here, ‘nachamu’, means ‘to strengthen and encourage’. It instils a sense of security. ‘For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.’ Psalm 23:4
God is saying, “Encourage my people. In the midst of their discouragement, give them courage.” In fact, He’s going to build a superhighway (Isaiah 40:4) so that He can come to us, not just to deliver us ‘out of’ but through the situation.
As we commemorate the Feast of Pentecost this week, may we remember what Jesus promised us in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever…”