Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Sherwin Titus is studying international relations and biblical studies at the University of Sydney – and in his spare time, enjoys good food, better books, and the best of conversations.
Today's reading is Isaiah 40:1-11
‘Never again.’ It was with these words that the United Nations was established at the end of World War Two. Written into its founding-charter is its aim: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Three years later, in service of such a goal, the UN produced and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It lays out the basic rights of all mankind. We commemorate its 70th anniversary today. Observing such a milestone is significant in a year in which we also mark the centenary of the Armistice: the document that ended the First World War: the so-called ‘war to end all wars.’
Seventy years after the United Nations began, war has not ceased. The scourge endures. Threats to global security are on the rise. Challenges to peace persist, not just in number and severity, but also in nature and complexity. Yet, the problems faced by the international order often feel far and foreign. The storms that brew on global horizons are nothing, compared to the tempests within our own hearts.
God’s word to his people in Isaiah 40 speaks into this climate. “Comfort my people. Speak tenderly to [her].” Her service is done. Her sins are paid for. These words speak to the fundamental longings of every human heart: reassurance, rest, and restoration – to be loved, and to be known. Amidst the insufficiency we so often feel is a reminder of God’s all-sufficiency.
Fast forward seven hundred years. The herald here promising the good news of God’s arrival gives way to the angelic hosts of heaven. God has arrived. His promised glory has been revealed. “Here is your God!” Yet, the sovereign LORD who was said to come in the fullness of power comes in the fullness of weakness. Instead of the conqueror, awaited by the people of Israel, comes a child. Away from the mighty and the first, the news is announced to the marginalised, the last and the least.
The more I study the world, the more I am convinced that the peace we so desperately seek cannot come from us. It cannot come from within. It must come from without. God saw that our need was not for a soldier. Our need was someone who would know us intimately and love us individually. So, he sent a shepherd willing to lay down his life for his flock. The cost of peace was not the establishment of rights – but a God who was willing to lay his aside.
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Comfort for God’s People
“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
for all her sins.”
3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”
6 A voice said, “Shout!”
I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass.
Their beauty fades as quickly
as the flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fade
beneath the breath of the Lord.
And so it is with people.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
9 O Zion, messenger of good news,
shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
“Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.