"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for." Isaiah 40:1,2
The word comfort comes from two Latin words. They are cum and fortis. Cum means together and fortis means strong. So the word comfort points us to the truth that we are strong when we are together with someone else. That someone is Jesus!
Th word tenderly in the original Hebrew language meant speak to the heart of Jerusalem, the people of God. The message was to be not only for their mind. The message was also to include their emotions and their will, their whole being!
What was that message? The message is that her hard service has been completed and that her sin had been paid for. These words are in "the prophetic past tense." Living some 700 years before Jesus was born, he wrote as if it had already happened. Yes, sins have been paid for by hard service, the hard service accomplished by Jesus by his life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection from the dead! That is the foundation of our comfort!
This verse is the first one set to music by George Frederic Handel in his magnificent oratorio entitled simply, Messiah. It was my privilege to join many others to sing this great oratorio in the early 1950s with the Calvin College Oratorio Society and more recently with the Zeeland Civic Chorus.
In 1741, Handel was in debt and depressed. One of his friends knew that. This friend wrote down passages of Scripture from the Old Testament and the New Testament. They were about the coming, the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. The Scriptures were from Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Lamentations, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, I Corinthians, Hebrews, and Revelation.
Handel was inspired by the Holy Spirit and began to compose with super-human zeal and energy. One servant reported that Handel seldom ate or slept from August 22 to September 14. He was in the grip of divine inspiration. When he finished, he said, "I think that I did see all heaven before me and the great God Himself."
It was first performed in Dublin, Ireland. When it was performed in London, King George was so moved by the Hallelujah Chorus that he spontaneously rose from his seat in honor of the King of Kings. The entire audience followed his example. In the 250 years since then, audiences have continued to rise for the singing of that great hymn of praise!
Beethoven said about Handel, "To him I bend the knee. Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived." Handel died in 1759. His grave at Westminster Abbey is marked by a statue of him with a score the Messiah opened on the table. The page visible is, "I know that my Redeemer Liveth."
How the world has been blessed through George and his music! The Messiah should go on blessing people until the end of time and then be carried to the skies and sung by all the redeemed through all eternity!