Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 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. 3 A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 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. 5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 6 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. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. 9 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!" 10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 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.
This very well known passage from Isaiah offers hope to a captive people. The prophet is speaking a future hope that is yet to be realised: They are offered the hope that God would “gather his lambs together” from their exile in Babylon. Their term of suffering is over and God will lead them back to Mount Zion. A highway would be built so that the people could travel easily, God’s word on this matter is to be trusted, and this good news is to be preached already.
The central idea is one of comfort: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly...” The invitation of our faith offers hope to people without hope, comfort to those who have suffered discomfort, and tenderness to people who know only hardship. We who follow the way of Jesus are to become comforters of those people who are lost, and afraid of life.
Handel, upon reading these Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments (compiled by a friend) (August, 1741) was overcome by their power. and immediately shut himself in and worked night and day, often forgetting to eat. He finished the original libretto and score in twenty-four days.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Good Shepherd
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 160.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.