Comfort ye, My People
“Comfort ye,” wrote the Prophet Isaiah, a man who – to put it mildly – had to denounce the sinfulness, to say many uncomfortable things, to the stiff-necked Israelites, which is to say to people very like ourselves. A people, like people in every age, in need of comforting, true comforting, because of the turmoil around them and within them – often the result of their own waywardness – with no ordinary human remedy in sight.
It must have been a crucial message even back then, because Isaiah repeats it and – surprisingly – even specifies from whence it came: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Is. 40:1-2)
All that, of course, has inspired and encouraged the world for nearly 3000 years, which has included many moments even more troubled than our own deeply bewildered age. Just a few centuries ago, it gave Georg Friedrich Handel the inspiration for his Messiah, which many of us will hear in this season. A servant stumbled in on Handel just as he finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus and found him in tears: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” If you are prone to doubt divine inspiration, consider: Handel produced that immortal 260-page score in just twenty-four days.
And Isaiah’s spirit is still alive among us.