THE HEART OF GOD
As we come to the end of one year and prepare for the next, the news media is alive with commentary from the past twelve months and predictions for the New Year. Indeed as one year closes and another opens there is an underlying fear amongst many.
As we think about the future a good question to ask is, ‘What on earth is God doing?’ The first sentence of one of the great chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 40, tells us: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Written more than two and a half millennia ago, there’s a timelessness about these words as they speak to people in every age. As a lover speaking tenderly to someone he loves, God says to his people: ‘Comfort.’ And the tenderness of his language continues in Isaiah 40:11: He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom…
SERVING A BIG GOD
At the start of a new year it’s good to ask who God is and what he is like. Only a big God can inspire us and keep going in challenging times. This is the God Isaiah speaks about.
Towards the end of this uplifting chapter that speaks of the uniqueness and the greatness of God, Isaiah points out that this God has power enough to sustain us in every situation in life. In Isaiah 40:29 we read: He gives power to the faint, and gives strength to the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
I wonder how we might have written the last two lines. Is not our natural inclination to think of walking, running and then moving to a climax, soaring higher and higher like eagles? But Isaiah’s order makes more sense for he has identified what life with God is really like. When we are faced with difficulties in life, what we need is not the soaring flight of an eagle but rather the determined endurance of a long-distance walker.
Flights of spiritual experience are of no use if they are followed immediately by plunges into dark depression. Walk and not faint. That’s what we need when we are faced with challenges and situations we don’t understand. We need the strength that only God can provide us.
WHEN THE NEW YEAR DOESN’T SEEM ‘NEW’
There may be some reading this who are privately weeping or who are bitter or resentful. You may be finding it hard to believe, hard to pray, hard to sing, even hard to read the Bible. Isaiah is telling us that God has not forgotten us.
We need to listen afresh to Isaiah’s words and fill our minds with the awesome majesty and love of God. The greatness of God’s power is matched by his love and compassion. This is why the opening words to Isaiah 40, ‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ are not empty or meaningless. Even in the midst of the worst situations in life, God provides us with the strength we need to endure.
GOD WITH US
Indeed, as we now read these words through the lens of the birth of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, we have even more reason to be assured by what Isaiah wrote. For as the Christmas season reminds us, we have the evidence of God at work in the world through the One who is called Emmanuel – God with us.
Here is the God worth knowing – the awesome and true God, who is Lord of all. Young men will grow weary. Their energy will pass and the fruit of all their successes will one day be nothing but dust for historians to record. But God’s people will never die out because of the coming of Jesus Christ, the one who supremely reveals the glory of God.
As we stand on the threshold of a new year, Isaiah’s words can inspire us. So important is the news of God’s love and forgiveness that it can’t be contained. God’s gospel must be shouted from the rooftops – not just in the cities of Judah, but to the nations of the world: Get you up on the high mountain, O Zion, heralds of good tidings, lift up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’
In the New Year let’s play our part in introducing our friends, family and colleagues to the God who is truly worth knowing.