"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," cried Isaiah (40:1), voicing the words of the Lord. The prophet, feeling the great need of his people for the tender love of God, pictured Him as a Mother and also as a Shepherd who "shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (verse 11). Immediately preceding this description is a verse which points to this tender One as having a "strong hand," whose "arm shall rule for him."

So we find the tenderness of God as Mother accompanied by the strength of the Father. This is quite in keeping with the basic meaning of the word comfort, which comes from the Latin confortare, meaning "to strengthen much." To comfort, therefore, is not merely to soothe, as when a mother takes her baby in her arms, but it is also to give such encouragement as to strengthen the fainting heart and enable the sufferer to go on his way rejoicing in his ability to work out his own salvation.

Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah for such a Saviour, and he referred to himself as a shepherd who would give his life for his sheep, to whom he would give everlasting life. He taught and he preached, but above all he healed the sick, restoring them to strength and usefulness; he raised the dead, restoring them to those who mourned for them; he forgave the sinners, restoring them to righteousness. His ministry was the exercise of the mercy and loving-kindness of God, but his rebuke of error was powerful.

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November 6, 1954

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