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Devotional based upon Isaiah 40: 1-11

How many unwanted telemarketing calls, how much junk mail, and how many unrequested email messages do you receive every day?  While we are sorting through all of this clutter, it would be easy for us to overlook the encouragement mail e-mail that we receive from God.  On this Second Sunday in Advent your Heavenly Father is sending you some encouragement mail e-mail.  And He does not want you to miss it or delete it.

Many scholars believe that Isaiah 40 and following were written during the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B. C.  Israel needed encouragement.  For fifty years they had been captive in Babylon – in present day Iraq.  They were living in tough times and were feeling displaced and discouraged.  So God through His prophet was sending them some encouragement.

We also are living in very tough times.  Many feel displaced and discouraged.  So God is sending us some encouragement e-mail.  “Comfort, O comfort my people,” the prophet begins.  And then he gives us four words of encouragement and comfort.

First, A WORD OF PARDON.  Verse 2 – “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, her penalty has been paid, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  Israel is like an inmate whose time in prison is about to be over.

For centuries before the Babylonian captivity, Israel had been unfaithful to their God.  They had been following after the false gods of their day and practicing a social injustice that only made the rich richer and the poor poorer.  They had been guilty of gross immorality.  So for the past several decades they had been paying the price for their sins.  They had been held captive in a foreign land, and were being compelled to serve a hated people.  They needed to receive encouragement mail from God.

And we also need to receive encouragement mail from God.  We also need the message that our God is a God who will forgive.  Realizing our sin, we cry for mercy.  We need to hear that God’s deepest desire is not to condemn but to forgive and to save.

Second, A WORD OF PROMISE.  Verse 3 – “A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  When we are in the deepest of distress, God comes to us with His greatest of help.  Like He did for the Israelites in Egypt, and like He will do for the Israelites who are being held captive in Babylon, God hears our cries and knows our misfortunes.  He comes to us at our time of greatest need.

This email from God says, “Get ready; get straight with God by repenting.”  One of the main messages of Advent is that one of the main ways in which we need to get ready for Christmas is by repenting.  Repent means to change your mind.  Change your mind about sin.  Stop doing what you need to stop doing, and start doing what you need to start doing.  Stop walking on the crooked path and start walking on the straight path.  For the e-mail from God to be encouragement mail, we need to repent.  And we need to repent today.

Third, A WORD OF SECURITY.  Verse 8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand forever.”

Life is short.  You do not have as many years left as you once did.  As the beloved hymn says, “Change and decay in all around I see.”  The only thing certain is uncertainty.

This encouragement mail e-mail from God says, The only thing absolutely safe and secure is the Word of God.  God’s Word is as sure as God Himself.   God’s truth is an everlasting truth.  His Word contains His promises, and He always keeps His promises.

To have certainty in life and security in changing times, we need strong convictions based upon God’s Word.  We need to know what we believe and why.  Those who put their trust in God and His Word will find stability in life.

Fourth, A WORD OF HOPE.  Verse 9 – “Here is your God!”  He is coming in strength, and He is coming in love.  Verse 11 – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will gently lead the mother sheep.”

People ask, Is there any hope?  This encouragement mail e-mail from God says, “Yes, there is hope.  Here is your God.”  He is greater than your problems.  He can hold your world together.  He is the answer to all of your needs.  There is no problem so complex that He cannot solve and no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.

A word of pardon, a word of promise, a word of security, and a word of hope.  Which word do you most need to hear from God today?  Whichever word you most need to hear God has for you today.


Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE