First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa

Isaiah’s Hope

by Tim Stafford

Tim started to teach an in-person class by this title, but it was postponed due to our observance of the County’s health mandate to limit group gatherings. This is the first in a series of devotionals Tim has prepared related to this class.

My class on Isaiah’s hope began on January 9 with a study of Isaiah 40:1-11. The premise of the class is that our current sorrows are more than personal and individual; we feel deep communal sorrow over our nation’s polarization and rancor, and the American church’s politicization and trivialization. 

We usually think of our faith providing comfort for individual sorrows. It speaks personally to our spiritual and emotional needs. Yet when our sorrows are corporate and communal, we need comfort that speaks corporately and communally—which is just what Isaiah’s comfort does.

Isaiah spoke into a political and religious situation worse than ours, yet a good half of his message was hope. It’s communal hope, which of course filters down to the personal level. Isaiah 40 (and other passages) plant our hope in God’s arrival—not coming into our hearts but coming into history as a king, powerful, generous, and gentle:

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him, and
    his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young. (40:8-11)

Can you see this as a prediction of Jesus’ coming to the world? His first coming in Bethlehem, and his second arrival yet to occur, provide our hope. We can’t bring it about by our efforts or our goodness. It’s for us, but it’s not by us. We can only anticipate, welcome, and celebrate it. 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her king.

Let us not forget this. God knows all about the state of our nation and our church. He has plans to set it right, not according to our timing or methods, but by his.

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Published on January 26, 2022

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