Slow your breathing and become aware of the taking in and letting out of your breath. Focus on putting things aside so you will be open to what God is saying to you today.
Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
Every time I read Isaiah 40, I hear in my head the words and music of Handel’s Messiah. I remember reading that Messiah caused a great controversy when it was written in the 1700s. People of that time thought scripture should only be taught in church, yet this music was being sung in performance halls. Imagine how controversial it could be to spread the Bible outside of a church?!
The words from the beginning of Isaiah 40 tell of a God who is comforting and encouraging, a God who cares about each of us. This passage tells of a God who understands that we are all unfaithful at times; nonetheless, God cares so much for us that we will always be cared for as a shepherd cares for the sheep.
Many people outside of the Church believe that God does not care. Many believe that they suffer because God is punishing them. Singing words from the Bible, such as these from Isaiah 40, could help people see that God straightens our paths when we are suffering in the desert. We must continue singing about God outside of the Church.
Comforting God, your people so often misunderstand your compassion. Help us to be aware of those who are hurting. Help us to offer aid to others in a way that honors you. Help us to reach out and take in the people who most need you so that you might gather them in your arms and take them to your heart. Amen.
Go with God.