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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 2, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 40:1–5

Comfort, O comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that she has served her term,
   that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“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,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NRSV)

Reflection
There is a danger to walking into the middle of a movie. You risk missing the context, the original conflict, and initial attempts at resolution. If you miss the first part of the movie, you may misunderstand the actions and the attitudes you see. To start with Isaiah 40 is to miss the whole first part of the movie. The first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah confront people with all that is wrong: their mixed-up priorities and unjust actions.

In Isaiah 40 there is a dramatic shift. God declares that the people shall be comforted. The people are reminded that God is the still the God of love, tenderness, and care. It didn’t always feel like that in the first thirty-nine chapters. Even though the text says the people have served their term and paid their penalty, things are not completely resolved. Things are still not OK. If you don’t see the first part of the movie, this may not be clear. We may be tempted to rejoice in this call for comfort without understanding the challenge.

Isaiah asks us to hold two truths: things can be wildly out of whack and yet God’s love and care are still present. In the first part of our movie, we may have made horrible mistakes and acted in ways that are counter to God’s desire. God never abandons us. In the midst of brokenness, God’s love doesn’t waver—no matter what it may feel like. There are two truths: God holds us to account and God’s love is constant. If we miss the opportunity to understand the conflict, we may miss the blessing of the resolution.

It may be awhile before the valleys are lifted and mountains are made low, yet I can depend on God’s challenge and comfort. These two truths are the crux of the movie—no matter when we enter in.

Prayer
God, no matter where I am in the movie, open my heart to your challenge and your comfort. Give me the humility and courage to seek your ways when the mountains are high and the valleys are low. Allow your glory to be revealed even now. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Director of Operational Ministries

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