8:18

Shouts of comfort

Shouts of comfort

At this time of year, I’m hard of hearing.

We live in a house without central air, so throughout the hot days, fans are hissing and window units humming.  Conversations have to be elevated a notch.  It’s strange to be saying normal things at half-shout: “DO YOU WANT SOME ICED TEA?”

Loud kindness.  (Kind loudness?). Feels a bit oxymoronic.

In Isaiah 40, there are three shouts commanded by the Lord.  But all are to bring comfort to God’s people.  The messages are so good, everyone should hear them.

In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord…
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together. (vs. 3, 5)

The first shout is to prepare the way for the Lord.  Level the ground.  Make a highway.  The emphasis here is that God is coming to rescue his people.  It’s a sure thing.  He, himself, is coming, in all his glory – revealing exactly who he is.

All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. (vs. 6)

The second cry turns our attention to the people God is coming to save.  Other translations have “all their glory” or “beauty.”  I’ve always taken this to be a reminder of our mortality.  But that’s not the point.  The contrast is between God sure commitment to us and our fickle faithfulness to him.

When blessed, we blossom and flourish.  But in the heat of trouble, our love fades like dried flowers.

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm…
 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young. (vs. 10-11)

Shout number three reveals to us some of that glory that everyone will see.  Note the wonderful double reference to his “arm.”  It represents both his sovereign power and his deep tenderness, carrying weak lambs close to his heart.

There’s a lot of noise in our world right now.  The clamor, the anger, the disputing, the fear, the finger-pointing, the suffering all threaten to drown out what we need to hear the most.  We all need God’s comfort -- but not the false solace of a deity who simply supports us in our self-determined plans and opinions.

We need a God who sees us for who we really are: wanderers.  And then bares his powerful arm so that he can, to our astonishment and relief, pick us up and carry us home.

Jesus, you are that Good Shepherd, come to retrieve us.  And you are the revealed glory of God.  Forgive our fickle hearts, Lord.  Thank you for shouting loud enough for us to hear.

Reader:  What has God been shouting to you through all the background noise?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.