Jocelyn Dippie - Second Convention, Williams, Western Australia - November 2005

Hymn 272

Isaiah 40:1, “'Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,' saith your God. 'Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.'” In the margin it says, “Speak to the hearts.” These words kept coming to me about comfort and last night we were hearing about comforting words.

I have been glad to think of some of the ways in which the Lord comforts His people: sometimes by sending His Holy Spirit near and it’s so real that His presence is felt. Sometimes it’s His word that He speaks to us: maybe we read it or hear it but we know and we aren’t left in any doubt that it’s the Lord speaking to us. Sometimes He gives us something to do and it brings comfort to our soul, like David said, “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”

When I thought of a rod and staff I thought of them as instruments of a shepherd, to direct and correct. We might not always appreciate correction but there’s comfort in correction that God can give us – “Lord shouldst Thou speak with warning voice then I may count my soul as blest; for He who bears the chastening rod is still the One who loves me best.” When God corrects us and changes our direction it’s because He loves us and wants us to know of God-given direction in our life. It’s no wonder when we consider the God of all comfort, that the gospel brings consolation.

I appreciated more that vision that Isaiah got, in speaking of when Jesus comes, He would appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Another rendering says ‘to provide’ and the gospel makes provision for our souls. Jesus said when He was here on this earth, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." Sometimes we don’t always value experiences that cause us to grieve or to bring our soul or hearts into that place of mourning, but wonderful to know the comfort that God along can bring.

We sang in that hymn, “Not one word failed; when we in time of sorrow cried unto Him, to us He comfort gave." When Jesus was to leave His disciples, He was telling them how He would be going and said, “I will not leave you comfortless.” God doesn’t want anyone of us to be left comfortless. Another thing, when I saw and heard you all coming yesterday it brought comfort to me because everyone was just so pleased to be here despite what had gone on before, and you could tell when I spoke to you the comfort just by being here so God could speak and deal with you. There’s comfort in all that.

I have been glad for another illustration that Isaiah gave in the last chapter verses 12-13, “Behold I will extend peace to her like a river and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what the Lord wants to comfort you just as a mother comforts her child? Lovely to see when a child is hurt and they run to their mother and she picks them up and comforts them there on her knee. There’s nothing like a mother’s comfort when we are wounded and hurt, that’s how God wants to comfort.

There are many ways God comforts us: many things cause us to mourn, grieve, and hurt in our heart. Naturally we know that loss causes us to grieve and sooner or later we all suffer some sort of natural loss, but the Lord sees it and wants to take us up and give us comfort. Sometimes when I see a glimpse of my own human nature that’s so cold that it causes me to mourn but there’s hope in the dealings of the Lord. Even those with the most dreadful human nature, the Lord holds out hope. When we see what we are like, He draws near and shows us the help that can be ours. Sometimes we see a lost and dying world, precious souls who have known the things of the God of Heaven; souls whom we’ve loved and prayed for. And we think of them in that cold, hard world, but we are glad the God of all comfort is a merciful God and allows time. It’s like saying we grieve to see the kingdom suffer loss, but the Lord knows and we can go to Him and cry to Him with whatever that’s made our hearts heavy. We don’t need words but cry to Him.

Sometimes we can’t express our feeling and just cry to Him. I was reading in the 1st book of Samuel of the comfort that the Lord gave. I’m sure you all know how this book starts off with that account of Elkanah and how Hannah had no children and one that provoked her sore. It tells how Elkanah loved Hannah and how they went up year-by-year to Shiloh. Verse 8, "then said Elkanah her husband to her, 'Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? Am not I better to thee than 10 sons?' So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” Sometimes when our hearts are so sore with grief, as Hannah was at this time; those that our nearest don’t understand the feelings of our grief. Maybe that’s how it was with Hannah here with Elkanah saying, “Why don’t you eat?” But she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. She had been provoked and maybe it’s like that and our pain is so great we feel that others don’t fully understand. But no matter how bitter our grief is, we can cry to the Lord, He understands.

Then it tells of her prayer and her vow about the son. I wondered when she prayed, maybe she saw that things weren’t all that they should have been at that time of loss when the kingdom was suffering, and maybe that caused her to vow this vow when she realised the need there was in the kingdom. Even Eli didn’t understand: the one that should have understood how deeply she was grieving and how she was crying to the Lord. He said to her, “Go in peace.” And she went away and her countenance was no more sad. That comfort came by coming to him and crying to him, and later when Samuel was born – further comfort when Elkanah encouraged her to keep true to that vow after Samuel was born and she said, “I won’t go until the child is weaned, and then I will go.” Elkanah encouraged her to do. Isn’t it a comfort when others encourage us to keep true to our vows? She took Samuel up with that bullock and brought him to the house of the Lord when the child was young, to Eli. She told him it was the child she had prayed for and was lent to the Lord as “long as I live.” Then we have that song of praise, showing so clearly she had received that oil of joy for the spirit of mourning and garment of praise for the feeling of heaviness. Then we read further on of Samuel that he ministered before the Lord and his mother made him a little coat when she came up year-by-year. I thought of the comfort it would have brought Hannah and Elkanah going and seeing Samuel there. This little coat she made for him; it would have been a comfort when each year she would have to make it a little bigger. I thought of Samuel each year: he’d know his parents would be coming and mother would be bringing him a little coat. Maybe it was comfortable the way that coat was: maybe he didn’t want it a little bigger. But isn’t that so when we get comfortable in the place that we are in? The Lord gives us a little more responsibility and there’s great comfort in just doing it.

In the next chapter, we read of Samuel growing and the Lord was with him and let none of his worlds fall to the ground and all Israel knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. It would have been a comfort to know that Samuel was established and grew and was in favour with God and man. May we all know of God’s comfort these days.