Advent Midweek 1 – Isaiah 40:1-11
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
“Comfort, comfort MY people, says YOUR God.”
“Cry to [them] that [their] warfare is ended.”
The people of Israel, the direct recipients of these words in Isaiah chapter 40, were tired, they were frustrated, stubborn and worn out.
For they had been at war for quite some time, they had been fighting for as long as they could remember.
And yet as much as they fought, as much as they went to war, they weren’t actually very good at it.
They were small, often outnumbered, often much weaker than the armies they came up against.
For in truth, the only reason Israel ever stood a chance against its enemies, was that it had sure fire defense system…God.
Through his grace, power and strength, Israel was kept safe from all of its enemies, through his protection and compassion, Israel was able to sleep soundly at night, not having to worry about the outside evils and dangers that lurked beyond its walls.
And yet even with this protection and guarantee of safety the people of God still went to war.
But not with the Babylonians or the Egyptians, no, they fought against God himself.
They rejected his compassion, they declared themselves someone else’s child, stripping away the Lord’s covenant and replacing it with their own.
And so their kind and loving Father, the one they scorned, despised and rejected, gave them what they asked for.
He drew back, lifted his protection and let them have exactly what they thought they wanted.
To be their own gods, to be children without a father, to be all they could be on their own.
And as we know, this didn’t exactly go very well.
Standing on their own, the Babylonians swept through and quickly defeated all of Israel. They broke down their walls, shattered their defenses, killed their sons, and carried them away into exile.
And yet even here, even in the midst of defeat, ruin and their exposed weakness; the people of God continued to fight against their true Father.
Even in their slavery and oppression, they longed not for God but for themselves, to again follow their heart’s desires, to continue trying to be their own gods.
And yet, the stubbornness of Israel, as surprising and baffling as it may appear, is nothing new.
They themselves and you and I have had great figures to imitate from the very beginning. This warfare against God is not unique to Israel, it’s common to man.
For there was Adam who rebelled in the garden, Cain who rose up against the gift of life, Jacob who wrestled with God, the nation of Israel who forgot and despised Him, and of course the stubbornness and restlessness of our own hearts.
Are you and I really all that different from people of Israel?
Do we not take for granted the Lord’s protection and care for us?
Do we not secretly in our own hearts, desire to be our own lords, blaze our own trail, and live our own life?
And so do we not, in this way, war and fight against our God, desiring at last to lead rather than follow?
Luther himself, spoke of this warfare as the tyranny of our sin. That each of us, in our sin, are tyrants in our own hearts, we desire not for God to lead us, but for ourselves to make our own way.
Luther said that the problem with tyrants, particularly found here in Isaiah 40, is that tyrants do not want for their warfare to be ended, they want it to be perfected.
In other words, comfort, peace and rest make very little sense to the prideful human heart.
In our sin, we don’t actually want comfort, we don’t really desire peace and rest, rather, we long for victory, for conquest, for the moment in which our struggle is finally vindicated in our own eyes.
We are, like Israel, a stubborn people, a body of believers full of sin, distrust and unfaithfulness.
Perhaps, in the midst of our fighting we may start to wonder if we’re really all that Christian, if we really take our faith all that seriously, maybe during confession and absolution, we’re somewhat disappointed that we don’t always feel forgiven. Maybe the guilt of our own sins, cause us to question whether we’re truly God’s people, or that he’s actually our God.
In this life, and in the wilderness of this fallen world, there are for you and I, a multitude of voices that cry out to us and cause us to question whether or not we’re actually still in the faith.
If you and I were left to simply trust our feelings, thoughts, and voices for the comfort that is found in Christ…we would never be at peace, and our warfare would not be over.
This is why the true peace and true comfort that is to be found in Isaiah chapter 40, is found precisely in the fact that it is a one sided conversation.
The Lord cries out his peace, he delivers his comfort, and he claims his people as his own.
Comfort, comfort MY people, says YOUR God.
Although Israel is stubborn and sinful, although you and I are restless and self-centered, the Lord calls us his own, we are his people, he is our God.
He doesn’t ask how we feel about it, what we think, rather, in peace, in comfort, and in Christ, he makes us his own, and keeps us in true comfort.
Although your feelings, thoughts, and desires may cry out in the wilderness and cause you to question your identity and comfort in Christ, the Lord continues to cry out to you in His word, through his table, and in the waters of your baptism.
He points you to where he himself has ended your fighting and your warfare, as he shows you the broken and poured out body of his son, he declares you his own and gives to you a double portion for all your sins.
For in Christ, and in his cross, you have not only been forgiven, but redeemed. Not only has your record of debt been cancelled, but you have been given Christ’s own righteousness, his perfect faith, perfect peace and perfect life.
In this, you have true peace, for in this crying voice, the peace and comfort of the faith is certain.
For this voice that cries out is indeed certain. It not only proclaims Christ’s comfort but it makes it so. Where your heart and mind, anxiety and guilt may suggest that you are not God’s people, the voice the cries in the wilderness not only declares it, but delivers it in full.
Where you may at times forget the name given to you in your baptism, it is the voice that sounded there in those waters that is the guarantee, the done deal…for his voice that cries out, makes it so.
Behold, your warfare is over, it has been drowned in his name, he is yours forever.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.