God comforts his people

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This is one of a series of short reflections that can be used by individuals or small groups. It may be worth considering keeping a journal to make notes as you use each reflection.

The book of Isaiah is not written by one author, and it covers a 300 year period of Jewish life and history.
The middle part of the book (Chapters 40-55) is concerned with the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The message is one of comfort: God is about to do something new and the punishment and pain of the past are over.

Settling in.
Spend a few moments to prepare to be open to receive from God during this reflection.
You may consider putting your phone on silent for a while. Light a candle. Get comfortable.

Gathering Worship

Be still . Put books and sheets of paper on the floor so that your hands are uncluttered. Listen to this piece of music from Handel’s Messiah.

Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God;
speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:-
Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

At the end say this prayer:
Let me prepare myself for the Word of God, as it comes to me in the reading of Holy Scripture. My heart and mind are open.

  • Bible Study part 1 – what’s it like to be an exile?

The setting for this passage is the exile. Picture Jerusalem as a ruin and the Jews exiled in Babylon as slaves. Then someone remembers the stuff Isaiah wrote before they left. They dig it out, dust it off and flick through …. There is hope

Read this opening verse from ‘Word on the Street’

“Comfort my people; hug them. Speak gently to the Jews. Tell them they’ve had all their punishment. They’ve had double discipline. It’s over” Isaiah 40:1-2

Read Isaiah 40: 1-5

God’s people had been removed from their homeland into exile. Similar to children being evacuated in the war – but this was a whole nation forcibly removed and put into slavery.

Reflect on what you think that must have felt like?
Can you think of examples of people today who live as exiles?

Bible Study part 2. Comfort

Look again at Isaiah 40:1

God here speaks about comforting his people

Reflect on how God has comforted you?

Is this always the case – have you experiences where God has felt far from you?

Bible Study part 3 Clear the way

Look again at Isaiah 40:3-5

God here speaks about a messenger preparing the way for the Lord. Christians see this as referring to John the Baptist (see Mark 1:1-4)

Isaiah refers to a straight road being built, getting stuff out of the way so that the way is clear for ‘The Lord’ to come.

What is it we need to clear away for The Lord to come to us in our lives as disciples of Jesus?

What is it we need to clear away for The Lord to come to us in our church?

  • Closing Worship

Be still and quiet in front of your lit candle.
Sit comfortably in your chair, clear from clutter, papers and bibles. Hands held with palms up.

Listen again to ‘Comfort ye’ from the Messiah

Pause and pray for people who may need God’s comfort at this time.
(You are allowed to pray for yourself!)

End with this prayer:

God for whom we watch and wait,
You sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
Give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen

This is part of a series originally compiled by Bob Callaghan and Alison Spreadbridge for St Edmund’s Church, Dartford.

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Still figuring out what being a disciple might mean. Anglican priest and cyclist. One of the founders and editors of New Roots - partly as a way of hanging on in there!

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