Life Sunday #3 – 2015 LSB #699
Text – Isaiah 40:1-2
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, & 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.
“Baby bye, here’s a fly, we will watch him, you & I… There he goes, on his toes tickling baby’s nose.” Silly or heartwarming lullabies are often sung to little children by the comforting voices of loving mothers & fathers. We are remembering, again, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday today.
It’s a day when we get to focus on several voices: God’s voice, our voice, & the voices of life. We’ll be hearing voices that speak to the heart of life issues. In the Bible text for this morning, we obviously are hearing the comforting voice of God the Father:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, & 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)
A comforting voice is precisely what God’s people need to hear. We live in a world filled with many other voices – voices that call us to look elsewhere for comfort. Loud voices tell us there is comfort in a woman’s right to choose the termination of her pregnancy. One lawmaker suggested that this “right” needs to be available to protect children from suffering!
There are voices claiming to be humane & comforting which urge euthanasia for the elderly & for those with incurable disorders. Other voices speak of comfort afforded to parents of “less than perfect” little ones through advising them it would be better if their imperfect offspring were never born.
Do those voices leave room for God to be Lord? What does our heavenly Father’s voice
say to the woman with an unplanned & unwanted pregnancy? What Word does God have for those suffering with incurable pain & a sense of hopelessness? Does God’s voice say anything to the parents who are told their child will be born with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or some other “less than perfect” condition?
The prophet Isaiah tells us in chapter 40. Yahweh speaks words of tender comfort, forgiveness, & blessing. If anyone needed a word of comfort, it was those who 1st heard these words penned by the prophet Isaiah. Most of Judah had already been destroyed or taken captive by the Assyrian king Sennacherib.
These were life-giving words for those experiencing the Babylonian exile & for those in Jerusalem waiting for their end to arrive: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” (40:1) Those were life-giving words to the people being held captive. Then, in the next verses, we find an even more life-giving word of comfort:
“A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, & every mountain & hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, & the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, & all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (40:3-5)
Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, refers to the words people would hear from the voice of John the Baptist some 700 years in the future – real words of comfort. Everlasting comfort would arrive in the call to repentance & faith in the Christ. John would later point to Jesus with these words: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
All who behold, those who look & listen to Jesus, are enveloped in His comforting words of forgiveness, reconciliation, & hope. That is the tender message Isaiah was sent to proclaim in his day, & we are sent to proclaim in our day. In Christ, our warfare with God is over. Our struggle with the wickedness of our sinful nature, & the eternal fallout from it, is over. On Calvary’s cross, when Jesus said: “It is finished,” (John 19:30) sin, death & the devil were defeated. The sermon text put it like this, “Iniquity is pardoned.” That means there is real hope for those caught in life-challenging situations.
You see, there are other voices, within us & around us – calling out in fear & doubt; voices seeking words of comfort & hope. The woman carrying the guilt of a previous abortion needs to hear that her iniquity is pardoned. All sinners need to hear the comforting invitation to repent & believe – you & me included. This was the comforting goal of the Baptist’s words:
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness & proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4) Your sins are forgiven. What comforting words these are. Words you need to hear. Words I need to hear. Words that our sin-sick world needs to hear – from us: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem & cry to her that her warfare is ended.”
Our heavenly Father wants everyone to know that His warfare against us is finished. It’s over. With God we can find peace & rest instead. Our sins have been removed by Jesus’ holy, precious blood, with His innocent suffering & death. We are declared heirs of eternal life with the Lamb of God. Yes, what comforting words these are! But there is still more.
“She has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2b) The Lutheran Study Bible explains: “Penalty for her iniquity was paid, even though she could do nothing to make amends for the debt she incurred. She received from the Lord’s hand good things in double proportion to the punishment she received for her sins.”
What blessings come from Jesus’ comforting & life-affirming words! Babies are born, cared for & nurtured because Jesus is there with those who are caring for them. The babies can be baptized for the remission of their sins & they can carry out the plan that God has for their lives here on earth. Human beings living with what some call “disabilities” are given a chance to be the voice of our Lord here on earth. The elderly & those living in chronic pain are comforted & assured of their value & importance to God & to His people. The rest of us are afforded the opportunity to proclaim, in word & deed, the comforting & life-affirming voice of God!
What a privilege it is to echo Isaiah’s words in our daily lives, even as we sing:
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me & rest; lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon my breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn & sad: I found in Him a resting place, & He has made me glad. I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down & drink to live.” I came to Jesus, & I drank of that life-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, & now I live in Him. (LSB 699 v. 1 & 2)
Do you know of anyone who is hurting, confused, or living in fear because of challenges in their lives? Do you know of anyone who needs to hear of the comfort that you have in Jesus? This past Christmas season, you, no doubt, heard another reminder of how we get to respond to God’s life-affirming & comforting voice:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray,
O tidings of comfort & joy, comfort & joy, O tidings of comfort & joy.
They are tidings of comfort & joy in Christ Jesus who came to save us from Satan’s power. That is what our fearful & hopeless world needs to hear. Tidings of comfort & joy are exactly what Jesus came to speak – to the confused, to the guilty, to the vulnerable, to the suffering, to the persecuted, to each one of us.
Tidings of comfort & joy is what you hear each Sunday you are in God’s house where your pastor proclaims: “Your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit.” Having heard the good news of the Gospel, having received the body & blood of Jesus in Holy Communion, you heart & soul are healed with tidings of comfort & joy. May the Lord now bless your voice when you leave this place to be God’s voice of comfort & joy to the people whose ears & hearts are waiting desperately for His comfort. Even as Jesus hung on the cross, He provided words of comfort to the man dying next to him. Jesus said to him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” That dying criminal trusted Jesus’ words.
In spite of all our world’s technology, when it comes to spiritual matters, nothing much has changed. Calling to you, from thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah is still speaking & still encouraging you to also trust in the Words of Jesus: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, & cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…” Amen.
The peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Lutheran Study Bible, CPH, 2009, page 1151
Pastor Dean R. Poellet