Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end,
Today’s message from scripture is one of hope. This hope is expressed in three different ways.
The first expression from Isaiah is taken from the second set of Chapters. Chapters 1 to 39 of Isaiah were written before the exile, Isaiah saw the cause of the wars and tragedies that led to the Babylonian exile including faithlessness and overall social injustice. Chapters 40 to 66 were written during and after the exile in Babylon. They are filled with a message of trust and confident hope that God will soon end the exile.
Today’s reading, from Chapter 40 is the start of this second set of Chapters. It involves the commissioning of prophets. God is instructing them on the message they are to bring. Literally, speak tenderly to Jerusalem means they are to speak “tenderly” to the heart, the seat of reasoning of each person. It has nothing to do with the city of Jerusalem proper because the city is a long way off and is in ruins.
This message of hope is so important to us. It provides perspective on the City and Kingdom of God. The City and Kingdom of God has absolutely nothing to do with any earthly city. It is not Jerusalem or Rome, it is not any one place. What people fight over or call their capital is of no import or consequence. How silly will believers in cities seem in the eternal kingdom.
The City of God – the new and eternal Jerusalem, will come from God – not from the earth. That City and Kingdom starts with the state of our hearts and minds, and how we point to Him in Whom our hope is focused.
Our hearts, minds, and hopes are to go to the high places – to rise up. We, like Isaiah and John, are to proclaim the Good News. We are to do so without fear, saying: Here is God. That is a powerful and hope filled message for the world. The reward for those who proclaim that message is exactly this: God will feed us. God will gather us into His arms. He will carry us and will lead us with care.
The second expression of hope is set forth by Peter. It is so helpful to us every day, but with particular import during this penitential season. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some regard “delay,” but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
This is such an important hope – that we have assurance of God’s patience with us. Are we ready? Perhaps not; we can all do better. We can proclaim God’s kingdom better and more often. We can point to God more often in our actions and with voices that correspond to our actions. Here is God. This is what He is like. Come meet Him and find true hope. We must also bring to mind that this hope comes with a warning – Don’t wait forever.
Finally, we have the hope expressed in the Gospel. God made a promise and He was fulfilling it. The Messiah was about to appear. John pointed to immanent hope. Like John, we are to point, but to hope now present.
It is time to hope. It is not just hope because of the past; because Jesus came and spent 33 years on earth. Rather, it is time to hope because we live is the aftermath of that salvation, promises fulfilled, and eagerly approaching the great eschatological moment, when Jesus returns, when we are gathered in, where our hearts and minds will overflow with joy, and where hope is completely fulfilled.