• Tiffany Miller

BLOG: (September 19-25) Isaiah 40-49, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people"

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isaiah 40:1).

These are the words of the Lord given to Isaiah after the Israelites had had quite the scare from the Assyrians. They were worried about being taken over by the Assyrians like their brethren in the Northern Kingdom. Mercifully, the Lord spared them, and an angel of death slew 185,000 Assyrians. Jerusalem was preserved a while longer. The people had been humbled. They faced down a force that seemed larger and stronger than one they could possibly take on and come out on top. The Lord preserved them, and at no loss to themselves. How miraculous! How merciful! Their brethren to the north had fallen to the Assyrians, and they knew that it was because of their disobedience to the God of Israel. The Lord had granted these southern Israelites time to change and repent. Their king, Hezekiah, had pleaded with the Lord to help his people not fall to the Assyrians. After the Assyrians fled because so many of them had perished overnight, Hezekiah got sick and pled for the Lord to lengthen his life. His desire was granted, and then some Babylonians came to bring him gifts and express their gratitude for his recovery. Hezekiah showed them basically all his wealth and the wealth of his kingdom. Isaiah wasn’t too happy about that decision and received revelation that the Babylonians would one day conquer them as a people and they would be in captivity to the Babylonians.

That was a super brief, and not at all complete, history of what was going on right before the Lord speaks those beautiful words found in Isaiah 40. Isaiah knew what was going to happen to the Israelites and what almost did happen when the Assyrians came knocking. In the Hebrew, this phrase, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” is written using the imperative, and it’s a direction or a command. The Lord is saying for Isaiah and for His people to comfort each other. I used to read this as more of a directive to receive comfort, but that’s not the same thing. The Lord wants us to comfort one another. Yes, He comforts us, but He also directs us to comfort one another. Life is hard, and we’re here on earth to learn and also to help each other. Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to go through life alone? All of us feel lonely sometimes, but there are always other humans around that we can try to comfort. And amazingly, when we offer comfort to others, we ourselves are comforted.

If we continue on in that same chapter, the Lord continues His directive, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The Israelites weren’t perfect, they had many faults and shortcomings; yet, the Lord chose to bless them anyway, even if their efforts were miniscule. This happened in the Book of Mormon as well. In Third Nephi, there was lots of destruction and death that occurred in the three days after Jesus was crucified on the cross. Then, the people heard a voice from heaven telling them that they needed to repent and they had been preserved because they were “more righteous” than those that had died: “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:14). He didn't say that they were righteous, but that they were more righteous. They had made more right choices and put forth more effort than those of their deceased brethren. Essentially the Lord was saying to them that since you had been spared, will you now return to me and be more valiant than you have been? Will you strengthen your testimony that you may be more converted and draw closer to me that I may heal you? All the Lord wants for us is to heal us and for us come unto Him that we can learn and be like Him.

The Lord is doing the same thing with the Israelites as He did with the Nephites. [somewhat random sidenote: the Israelites' experience happened before the Nephites’ and the Nephites’ had access to the book of Isaiah to learn and study from it. I wonder if they saw the parallels between their story and the Israelites’.] He’s giving them another opportunity to repent and be more valiant than they had been. He does the same thing with us! He blesses us even though our efforts may seem miniscule. All He asks of us is that we try and put forth effort. Our efforts will be bigger on some days and smaller on others. He accepts whatever our “all” is that day and multiplies our efforts like He multiplied the loaves and fishes when feeding the 5,000.

The Lord takes what we can give, and beautifies and multiplies it. Moving on in Isaiah chapter 40, we come to verse 4: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” The very landscape of the land will be changed. The Lord does that in the landscapes of our lives too. We have to come unto Him and He makes our crooked places straight and our rough places plain. He smoothes out our edges and beautifies the perhaps darker parts of our lives if we turn it over to Him and be a little more valiant and a little more obedient. The Lord works in small and simple things. We humans can hardly handle more than that. These small changes of a little more effort, being 1% better, are about as fast as we can go. There’s a quote I love by John Wooden:

“Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens, and when it happens it lasts.”

We’re built to improve little by little, line upon line. Our natural man often gets impatient with this pace, but the Lord knew what He was doing when He created us. He knew that we needed to make lasting changes and the best way for us to make them was line upon line, here a little there a little.

I absolutely love these verses and can’t read them without singing the melodies and music that Handel wrote to go along with them in his Messiah. Here’s the version that plays in my head when I read/think about these verses. It’s the version that’s on my “Rejoice in Christ” playlist that I listen to frequently. Give it a listen and ponder on how the Lord is comforting you, how He’s prompting you to comfort others, and how He’s making crooked things in your life straight and smoothing out the rough places.

I'm Tiffany and I live in sunny Arizona (love me some sunshine!). I have 5 beautiful daughters. I know what you're thinking, that's A LOT of estrogen! and you'd be right, but we have some of the greatest times known to mankind through our adventures in learning (we homeschool), loving, playing, and growing together. In my spare time, I love to read (I own literally thousands of books) and hike in the beautiful mountains near my home.

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