Thus Saith the Lord: Chill

“’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’”—Isaiah 40:1-2 (NKJV)
 
“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”
 
As a kid, that was a line you never wanted to hear. For one thing, it meant a spanking was coming. For another, it made no sense. How can it hurt more to give a spanking than to get one?
 
But when you become a parent, you understand it. You quickly discover that children need discipline to learn and mature. When your child hurts, it pains you as well.
 
That’s the picture of God we see in Isaiah. His children are a mess—disobedient, self-indulgent, rebellious. God knows it will take harsh discipline to bring them back to the right path. Through the prophet, God spells it out for them: seventy years in exile as slaves to pagan kings. When reality sinks in, God’s heart breaks for His dear children, and His message of judgment takes a sudden and sharp turn: “’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God” (Isaiah 40:1 NKJV).
 
Skeptics are quick to describe the God of the Old Testament as merciless, wrathful, and intolerant. But they only notice the aspects of His character that give them a reason to ignore His commands. Isaiah, perhaps more than any other writer, gives us the full picture of a God who loves justice (and with it, the judgment that follows disobedience), yet loves mercy just as much, if not more. The God with a voice of thunder, who writes His laws in stone, speaks gently to His children of a time when their transgressions will be forgiven.
 
Centuries later, when God’s ultimate plan is fulfilled through the Messiah (about whom Isaiah prophesied in amazing detail), the apostle Paul reminds believers to follow His example: “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5 NKJV).
 
This is not an easy command for many of us these days. We are troubled by new laws and court rulings that seem to run counter to the values we have held for generations. We feel frustrated—even intimidated—by loud voices telling us that if we disagree, it means we hate. We are tempted to yell back.
 
We would be wise to remember that “a soft answer turns away wrath,” (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV) and that displaying gentleness in every expression honors God. Trusting God to be our defender is a better plan than acting as if He needs us to defend Him.
 
DIG: Read Isaiah 40 to remind yourself of God’s heart of mercy, His ultimate wisdom, and His infinite power.
 
DISCOVER: Read today’s headlines and take everything that troubles you to God in prayer.
 
DISPLAY: Ask Him to help you and other Christians respond to what is happening around us with wisdom, truth, and gentleness.