Comfort Ye My People

By Pastor Teck Uy

As believers, we are called upon to comfort God’s people. Through the prophet Isaiah, God commanded, “Comfort, comfort my people.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sin” (Isa. 40:1-2). But who are God’s people that needed to be comforted? These people are none other than the children of Israel, or the Jews. Referring to Israel, the Lord said, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6). When the command to comfort them was given, the Israelites were living in captivity in Babylon. As far as they were concerned, there was no end to their sufferings. This message of comfort was given just in time to relieve them of their sufferings.

Believers today are in the best position to comfort God’s people. It is because we were once in the same situation as the Jews. We were living in the dark and were captive to sin, yet by God’s grace and mercy, we were saved. The apostle Paul said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Our salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ is the relief and comfort that we needed. Only doom and gloom awaits those who are still living in the captivity of sin.

The suffering of God’s people had reached the level where they could see no hope, but only more suffering coming. The Lord himself revealed this through the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more”  (Jer. 31:15). Israel, referred to here as Rachel, had gone into exile and there was no hope in sight. Having been fully devastated, they could see no chance of coming back. However, the Lord comforted them, saying, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded. They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants. Your children will return to their own land” (Jer. 31:16-17).

With these words coming from the Lord, it can be gleaned that the sufferings of God’s people are not for eternity. As they seek the Lord, there is a day of restoration. Even in their darkest moments, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, their deliverance will come. In his letter to the church in Smyrna, Jesus made clear that the sufferings of believers, as well as God’s chosen people, are but for a moment. He said, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Rev. 2:10). These assurances should serve as comforting words to those who are going through sufferings. They can always look forward to better days. There is indeed relief that will come to those who will persevere and endure until the end.

For someone looking from the outside, it is not easy to give comforting words. We need to be careful in releasing our words. It is best to be guided by what the Book of Proverbs says: “Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time” (Prov. 25:11). The case of Job is a good example of how we need to use our words wisely when comforting others. When his three friends who visited him during his suffering him were quiet, Job was very much comforted by their presence. It was enough for him to know that he had friends who cared. But the moment they opened their mouths and started to argue with Job, hoping to comfort him with their arguments, Job said, “I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?” (Job 16:2-3). Friends, let us be careful with the words we say. We might think that those who are suffering need our advice, but they don’t. They just need our company and prayers. Our unsolicited advice is often not welcomed. Therefore, as we comfort God’s people, let us do so not with many words, but more so with our actions. Let us pray for them and stand with them. Hallelujah!