The Lord Will Surely Comfort

by Rev. Kevin Daugherty

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm: Psalm 138
Second Reading: Romans 12:1-8
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20

In today’s Scripture readings, there are two passages that I want to emphasize. The first comes from Isaiah 51:

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing. (Isaiah 51:3)

The second is from today’s psalm:

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands. (Psalm 138:6-8)

In these two passages, we learn a couple very important lessons about the Lord that we should meditate upon this week:

1. God is compassionate.

The Old Testament prophets frequently ministered to a nation that was under severe oppression. The people of Israel were unfortunate enough to live in a part of the world that was right between Egypt, Babylonia, and Asia Minor. Every major empire was conquering, invading, or marching through their territory. God understands the struggles his people faced. He gives them a wonderful message of hope. He is going to comfort, have compassion, turn their deserts into paradise, and wastelands into gardens. His people will experience gladness and thanksgiving even after generations of suffering. God does not forsake his people. He guides them through the wilderness.

This is often a very difficult concept to grasp, especially when we are going through a trying time in our lives. Speaking from personal experience, I have gone through many challenging experiences over the last couple of years, and it can be very difficult to see God’s compassion during those times. When we find ourselves in that state, I believe we have to set our egos aside for a moment, and try to see things from God’s perspective. Our moments of trial often seem to be eternal or permanent from our perspective, but God’s perspective shows that they are but a season. If you are in a time of trial, build your foundation upon God’s compassion.

2. The Lord defends the defenseless. 

This week’s psalm reminds me of the Magnificat. The Lord looks upon the lowly, the beaten down, and the weak, and the Lord preserves them. It is the same basic message that we saw in the Old Testament reading. When we feel defeated or beaten, we can rest assured that the Lord will fight for us. He will be there to extend a helping hand.

Looking at both of these passages, I am reminded of a teaching from French bishop and mystic François Fénelon. I have been reading his book Christian Perfection, and he talks about how it is often in these times of trial and defeat that we often come closest to God. He says, “It is in the depth of the abyss that we begin to find foothold.” Fénelon is describing what it is like to sink in water, and oh what a perfect parable for times of trial and tribulation! It is only when we sink to the bottom that we can put our feet down and begin walking to the coast. We must set our feet upon God in those times.

The Lord is our defender and comforter. His love endures forever. Amen.