Thought for the Day by Hilary Larkin (St Chad’s)
‘Comfort, O comfort my people’, says your God (Isaiah 40 v 1). A real message of hope.
The earlier part of Isaiah relates to God’s people in exile. They have consistently turned away from God, chosing to worship idols and to put their trust in neighbouring warring empires. Judah, Jerusalem and the Temple are in ruins and the people have been exiled in Babylon, in misery and despair, for almost fifty years.
Today’s reading marks a turning point. Isaiah is looking ahead into the future and assuming the people willl be rescued from captivity and that God will make it possible for them to return to Jerusalem. God refers to them as ‘my people’, they have suffered enough and despite their sinfulness He wants to restore them. God speaks to their hearts. Comfort is a word that expresses care and gentleness.
At this time when we most of us are feeling bruised and anxious, and many are suffering real pain and hardship, we too are needing words of encouragement and healing. We can feel comforted and assured that God loves us and will be with us in all the difficult circumstances of life if we put our trust in Him.
A voice cries out, ‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord’ (v 3).
This puts us in mind of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Jesus and called the people to repent. As we look towards Advent we can reflect on how we might smooth out the rough places and uneven ground in our lives and prepare our hearts and minds to be more open to God and to follow in the ways set by Jesus.
‘The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of God stands forever.’ (v 8).
Jesus refers back to this (Matt. 6 v30) when he says ‘If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t He much more clothe you, you of little faith’. We often fail God but God does not fail us.
These words are familiar to us through Handel’s Messiah where we hear passages of Isaiah that look towards the life of Jesus. There is a link at the bottom where we can listen to and reflect on these words and be uplifted by the music.