“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” 3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” 6 A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” 9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” 10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”
The idea of comfort here is not what we usually think of when we talk about comfort. When we think of comfort, we typically picture a change of circumstances or a feeling of being soothed. Like sitting on a warm beach watching the waves, and not having a care in the world. Or if it is winter sitting in a comfortable Lazy Boy recliner in front of a roaring fire with a comforter spread over us while we sip hot cocoa and read a good book, or watch our favorite movie. But the idea of comfort actually comes from two Latin words, com fortis which when translated literally means “with strength.” It carries the idea of being strengthened, you see God’s way of giving comfort is to give us the strength to do what needs to be done. When we think of comfort we think of removing the challenge, but God’s comfort means having the strength to overcome the challenge. That is why I believe many times we don’t see or experience God’s comfort because we are looking to be coddled, where He is looking to make us conquerors. As God’s strength comes, we have the power to face the problems. The situation may not have changed, but we have a new ability to face it and deal with it. Many times we pray for our circumstances to change and only then will we feel comforted, but what if instead of a change in circumstances we had the strength of Christ? The people to whom Isaiah was speaking didn’t need coddled, they needed strength to face the journey home, and once there they had the huge task of rebuilding the temple and the city. They were also going to face an enemy that would oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem and God’s holy temple. What they really needed was God’s conquering comfort, His strength, and encouragement. The word encouragement has much the same idea, it means to be in courage. If you are encouraged you have the courage to do what needs to be done. God was comforting and encouraging the people so they would be able to carry out His Will. Sometimes God’s comfort comes by forcing us to change and grow. Again we often don’t like this because we would rather have our circumstances change than us having to change. But we serve a God who is willing to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. There is a story told about a paratrooper who was once asked how hard it was when he made his first jump out of the plane, to which he said oh I didn’t jump, “What do you mean, you didn’t jump I thought you said were a paratrooper?” they responded. To which he said, “I was, but I didn’t jump, the first few times I was pushed, I didn’t jump.” That is what the military likes to call encouragement. Sometimes what we need is a little shove. But along with the shove, God gives us the strength to do what he is calling us to do. The other way that God comforted the people was by letting them know he would take care of their enemies. The kingdom of Babylon was the powerhouse of its day, it looked so formidable that it was hard to believe that anybody would be able to get through their walls or defeat their army. The splendor of Babylon was breathtaking with its magnificent buildings and beautiful hanging gardens. Nobody could imagine the possibility of Babylon being destroyed, but God is not just anybody He is the Almighty. God assured them, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” Isaiah 40:6-8. God was saying that no matter how powerful the Babylonians appeared, they were but grass. As the creator and the one who is ultimately in control, He determines the nation’s time and place. When He blew upon them it would be like the hot desert wind blowing on the desert flowers. They would wither and waste away, but he would remain. No matter what battle you face it is no match for the breath of God, even the mighty Babylonian army would falter when faced with the power of God. And that is exactly what happened, the Babylonians who seemed so powerful were actually defeated without much of a fight. They thought nothing could happen to them, they were so sure they were safe that they did not even post a guard on the wall. But Daniel chapter 5 reveals their tragic fall. While their rulers drank themselves into oblivion, the Persian army simply diverted the flow of the Euphrates River, which flowed under the walls and through the great city. Then they marched right into Babylon on the empty riverbed. The great kingdom of Babylon collapsed in a night, revealing that God was right, we are like the grass that remains for a moment but soon withers and fades. What about you, are you resting in God’s promises or are you trusting in your power? Whose strength are you standing in yours or His?