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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Whence Comfort?

Comfort Ye My People

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

Gaudete, the 3rd Sunday in Advent – 12/17/2023

Isaiah 40:1-11, especially verses 1-2

 

That portion of God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 40 with special emphasis on verses on through two which read as follows:

 

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.”

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                Comfort, comfort ye my people. Your struggle is over. Your sins have been taken away! You are free, not merely as slaves set free, but are free as only a son can be free. You have been granted pardon, remission, and salvation. Your eternal fate is secure. You have been brought into the only everlasting Kingdom, that of your Father, whose reign is just and good and whose love never ends.

                Comfort. Real, lasting comfort is yours. And you certainly can use some comfort this time of the year. There are the mundane things that rattle us during the holiday season: the ever-increasing fervor in buying gifts, expectations for hosting and those same gifts, social obligations to navigate, family dynamics, and the like. And this is to say nothing about the cultural and social turmoil that routinely makes an appearance these days. Suffice it to say, our condition is such that there are a lot of things that need to be made peaceable.

                Peace, joy… these things are what we need. And much of our lives are spent pursuing them. Few people like conflict or being miserable. Most of us want to have things go well. The persistent problem seems to be that things do not go well. There is suffering and hardship in life. This is just the way it is.

                But God does not come to us in order to rub dirt in the wound or kick those who are down. He comes bringing comfort. “Comfort, comfort my people” He says. And this is what He grants! Through His Word we receive this very comfort. Through tender speech to His Jerusalem, God consoles. This is a bit surprising if you know the context here. Israel and Judah were rebellious, idolatrous houses. They routinely sinned against the Lord and regularly flaunted those sins. Instead of harsh words of chastisement, Our Lord gives comfort. He announces that warfare is ended. The rebels are brought back into line and are given refuge.

 In this context, it makes sense that God would speak about war through the Prophet. Isaiah lived during the destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel  in 722 BC. And, for the people of the southern Kingdom of Judah, war was a constant threat. The Assyrian Empire was the regional powerhouse and could raise great armies against Israel. But even more than this threat, Isaiah’s prophecy foretells the end of the warfare between God and man in the pardon of iniquity. And, because of this pardon, we will receive double for all our sins. This is not a double portion of what is deserved because of sin, but a double portion of mercy and comfort which is decidedly not what is due for Judah’s sins.

And how will the Lord accomplish this? A voice will cry out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” This, dear friends, is the manner by which these things will be accomplished. God will send a prophet, who will have the power and mantel of Eljah, the great prophet of old. And He will prepare the way for the Lord. His preaching will make the way easy and the path flat and level. This, of course, is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist, who came as Isaiah foretold. What was John’s job? He was the last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. And he did what was needed to call Israel to repentance in anticipation of the Lord Jesus’s own ministry of salvation.

And this hope is built on God and His Word. A voice cries that all flesh is grass and all beauty fades. But the word of the Lord stands forever. These prophetic announcements were born out in the World not because of historical coincidence or some strange happenstance. They came because God spoke it and it was so. Just like in the beginning, God make the heavens and the earth and all that is in them simply by speaking. What God says is the case. His Word accomplishes what it states. Simply by speaking, God makes things come into existence.

How very unlike us! Whatever we want or will has to come from work and effort. And if the want is great, there are typically sacrifices to get whatever it is! And besides this, human words are fickle and false, so often being shown for the fleeting and feeble things that they are. How often have we been lied to? Had promises rescinded to us? And have had words which only entered our ears to wound and destroy?

But this is not the case with God. Just as the flower fades in the fall and the grass turns brown and dies, so are our words. But God is not like us. His Word stands forever. In fact, this was the great battle cry of the Reformation: in Latin verbum Dei manet in aeternum, and in English, The Word of God stands forever, just like Isaiah said. And that Word certainly has stood the test of time.

In due time, the Lord Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, being incarnate by the Holy Spirit. He came to redeem and save. As St. John puts it, “God did not send His Son into the world in order to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”[1] And this was the very thing so long hoped for and promised by God: that a Savior would come, God’s own anointed Redeemer to take away the sin of the world and reconcile us to our God and Father.

And so, then, this is the good news, the Gospel that Isaiah foretells! May we do like that prophet and shout it from the roofs and the hills! Let us also herald the good news, the God comes with His might, not to subjugate us, but to save us. His power is not born out in wrath against us, but is born against our enemies of sin, death, and the devil. And for us, desperately needy people that we are, God will gather us like a good Shepherd, bearing the little lambs in his arms, holding the weak and small against His own chest, and gently lead those who are with child.

And, of course, this too has come to be. Our Lord was born into this world. He did redeem the world in His death and resurrection. He gave His life that you might be freed from sin, that you would overcome death, and that you would slip through Satan’s greedy claws. Yes, these things long foretold have been.

This is why the Lord tells us through the holy prophet Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” What greater source of comfort can there be than this? Our Lord is victorious and stands triumphant over death and the grave and through faith in Him, we stand triumphant as well. What comfort surpasses this? There is no earthly pleasure that even comes close. In Christ we are redeemed and live forever through the forgiveness of sins.

So, dear friends, beneficiaries of the comfort earned from God by our Lord Jesus Christ, breathe easy. Relax your shoulders. Comfort is yours and yours forever, earned by Christ our Lord.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] John 3:17



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