(First in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Isaiah 40:1
A sense of restlessness, a feeling of discontent, a foreboding, hopelessness. What can take away these things from my spirit? What caused them? Who caused them? Was it me? Regardles, they exist and need to be dealt with.
Isaiah was used by God to write these words “Comfort ye…” in the context of national upheaval, turmoil, prophecies of judgment, and rampant sinfulness. All of these pervade our society today. All of these have influence in our individual lives as well.
When God said these words to Isaiah He said it in context of a group of people, hence the KJV use of the word “ye” to convey the third-person plural. Who was that group of people? They were people like Isaiah — prophets. Though Isaiah was undoubtedly the most important prophet he was not the only one to announce God’s displeasure with the sinfulness and rebellion of His people. As exhibited in my own meager calling, Isaiah and company certainly would have similar feelings requiring comfort. Why? God told Isaiah that the people would not listen to what he told them. In essence, Isaiah would merely be a messenger charged with preserving the spoken word of God with the effect being that the people would be held accountable for their own actions. Such an “ineffective ministry” is a disturbing end. It should not be difficult to imagine the the DIS-comfort in Isaiah and his contemporaries. As for me, it is my brand of discomfort.
Personally, the things Isaiah brought out into the open in his messages are the very things that plague me. What did Isaiah do differently that calmed his spirit enough, that gave comfort to him, to enable him to move in God’s gifting? He came before the Lord in worship and was still (see Isaiah 6 and also Psalm 46:10). As the psalmist said in Psalm 85:8 he heard God speak. And what God said was peace.
After speaking comfort to the prophets, God directed them to speak comfort to the people. The people needed to hear the same things God spoke to the prophets. Why else would the prophets be called to be prophets, to proclaim the word from the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:4)?
What then is comfort? It implies that one be still, not restless. Comfort is received from a source other than ourselves, often being seen in a need we ourselves may not be aware. It means that as the receiver of the comfort we should not impose ourselves on the provider of the comfort. We should be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God knows the needs for our lives better than we do (see John 13 re: foot washing).
Probably most problematic about “comfort” is the underlying meanings of the Hebrew word. That word, nahum, was also translated in other places as “repent” or some derivative. If that word means repent as well then secondary consideration is that I must also repent! Repentance brings comfort. Without repentance then, comfort is not possible for people called by God.
Lord, hear my prayer. Grant to me Your comfort. Show me where I need to repent. Still my spirit before Your throne. Let me be weak that Your strength will rise up in me so I can be your obedient servant. In Your comfort bestowed on me, move me to give it to others so they too may be comforted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
[see the entire series here]