The Lord Comforting His People
James Smith, 1859
By nature we are all in a very comfortless state, being wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Being dead in trespasses and sins—our dreadful state is neither perceived or felt. But when the Holy Spirit quickens the soul, enlightens the mind, and awakens the conscience, then our wretched condition is discovered, and we begin to look about for comfort. By repentance and reformation we hope to obtain peace and joy—but are disappointed; and the more we do, the more we strive, the more unhappy we become. All human help is vain. All earthly cisterns are empty. No one can effectually comfort a quickened soul—but the Lord. Not even the gospel, unless it is applied by the power of the Holy Spirit, will impart joy to the broken heart.
It is God's prerogative to comfort, and in comforting, the Lord displays so much of his glory and grace, that the prophet cries out in raptures, "Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing O mountains, for the Lord has comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted." Isaiah 49:13.
The Lord's people are often deeply afflicted. Sometimes in body, sometimes in soul, and sometimes in their circumstances. They are stripped, humbled, and laid low. Everything seems to be against them, and they refuse to be comforted. They go mourning all the day long. They feel as if they were entangled and ensnared, and cannot deliver their own souls. But no afflictions that they may be called to pass through, can at all affect their relationship to God—they are his people still. And being his people he has provided for their comfort, and they shall ultimately be made happy.
He has chosen them for his own, and has given them to his beloved Son; who has taken charge of their persons, undertaken to secure their salvation, and will make them happy in his own love. As they are given to Christ, so Christ is given for them, to expiate their sins, ransom their persons, and in the end glorify them with himself. Jesus is also given to them, to be the foundation of their happiness, the author of their peace, and the source of their comfort. The Spirit also has undertaken to sustain the office of Comforter, and manifesting the love of the Father, and applying the work of the Son, he comforts them.
In comforting the Lord's tried and afflicted people, he shows them that his anger is turned away, that he loves them with an infinite and everlasting love, and will never cease to bless them in time or eternity. He unfolds the promises, and shows them their interest in them. He assures them that he is engaged to supply all their needs, give them victory over all their foes, and fill them full of joy with his countenance.
Now they discover, that God, instead of being an angry God, is a loving Father; and that instead of being pledged to punish them, he has sworn that he will not be angry with them, nor condemn them. That though afflicted and sorrowful now, they will soon be removed beyond the reach of every trial, temptation, and pain. That God will dwell with them, and in them now, treating them as his sons and daughters; and that they, before long, shall dwell with God, and in God, having his name written in their foreheads. He points them upward and forward, reminding them of the mansions prepared, the glory awaiting them, and the welcome that will be given them to the everlasting kingdom. He shows them, that they are delivered from hell, appointed to heaven, and shall never lack any good thing.
As the Lord reveals their interest in these things, and works faith in their hearts to believe it, they are comforted and made happy. Their burdens become light, their afflictions are sweetened, and they sing in the ways of the Lord. But, again and again, doubts will creep in, and fears spring up, and unbelief work afresh, so that the renewings of the Holy Spirit are necessary. He who comforted us at first, must comfort us again, and comfort us until we drink of the river of pleasure, which is at his right hand.
Believer, you are God's child, though at present comfortless. You are God's child, though afflicted. He who comforts those that are cast down—will comfort you. The clouds will soon pass away, the shadows will soon flee. Jesus will be revealed to you, as your loving Savior, sympathizing high priest, and tender friend; and of you, and all like you, it shall be said, "The Lord has comforted his people, and will have mercy on his afflicted."