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 (Isaiah 40:1–2, esv).
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” the prophet Isaiah recorded. Let those words soak into your soul. God doesn’t say, “scold, scold.” Not “shame, shame.” Not “punish, punish.” “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
The speaker here is God. God Himself speaks comfort over you. Are you in need of comfort? Or strength? Or encouragement? God wants that for you too! God doesn’t want you to hang your harp on a willow tree (a picture of grief from Psalm 137:2). God doesn’t want you wallowing in the heartaches and disappointments of your life. God doesn’t want you crushed by the burdens you’ve been carrying for a long time.
God wants you to be comforted.
If you need comfort, God is aware of your need. His words are tender, not harsh. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” God said. “Jerusalem” is euphemistic for God’s people. Just as Washington represents America, so the capital city of Jerusalem stood for God’s people. Through faith in Jesus, we are now God’s people—which means these tender words are for us.
Sometimes life is hard. When we have to make a difficult visit to a hospital, or we get terrible news and have to share it with a family member, we may fear we’ll say the wrong thing. Our words require such thought and sensitivity. In this passage, God exhorts Isaiah to choose his words carefully, to “speak tenderly to [My people].”
And God wants Isaiah to speak with passion: “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.” These are two pieces of fantastic news for God’s people!
First, God announced, “her warfare is ended”—meaning, our hard service, days of labor, burden, and heartaches are finished. Some of the hard things that come into our lives are not of our doing: a health crisis, a financial setback, a trial. When something bad happens that’s not our doing, we need comfort.
Second, God said, “her iniquity is pardoned.” This is the best news! We also need comfort when our own sins, failures, and bad choices have invited hard consequences. How many of us have things that we wish we could do differently? If only we could go back, we would never make those same choices again. And here is what God says to us: “Your sins are forgiven. I’m not counting it against you. I’m not holding it over you.”
We can’t evade all the consequences of our choices (Hosea 8:7, Galatians 6:7), but God is keeping track of the heavy consequences of our sinful choices. God doesn’t take this vengeful stance against us: “If you do this, then take THIS.” It’s not like that. Bound up in the behavior itself are the consequences. Choose to sin; choose to suffer. We reap the natural, bad consequences of our wrong choices.
But when God sees those consequences falling on us, He reminds us, “Forgiven! You are forgiven.” In regard to our sin, we are pardoned. In regard to our hard years of labor, they are coming to an end.
So whatever the condition of your heart today—whether weary or worn down by trials and heartaches or weighed down by the consequences of your own, bad choices—because of His unchanging, unconditional love for you, the message is the same: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
Lord, You are my God. Thank You for speaking tenderly to Your people. To me. Thank You for speaking comfort over me, over the raw and wounded places in my soul. Thank You for comforting me during trials, when the end is not in sight. Thank You for comforting me when I’m suffering the consequences of my own rotten choices. Most of all, thank You for forgiving my sins, through the blood of Your only Son, Jesus Christ, Lord of all, in whose name I pray, amen.