1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
When you looked at his hands, you realized that this man had worked hard and rough. They were scarred and misshapen by accidents and years of gripping tools. He was an iron worker and welder by trade. But it was not only this man’s body which spoke of a hard life. You could see it in his face, his eyes, and hear it in his speech. His was a life that had not always been lived carefully or with an eye to the future. Building big things on the edge of industry often attracts a certain personality type. He had that personality. He had lived in hard places and with other hard people. He admitted freely that a large amount of alcohol had been involved.
But Jesus has a soft heart for people, all people. Eventually, for some folks, such a hard life becomes hardly life. God brings into their circle of family or friends someone who sees things a little differently, who leads a life which nurtures and cares more than it conquers and extracts. And God begins to work something beautiful. We were starting a preschool at church and that necessitated rebuilding an entrance. Concrete needed to be poured and there was much steel rebar involved. He was just the guy you wanted for that sort of work. Compared to what he did every day, this was child’s play. I thanked God for him that day. As dusk fell and we were picking up tools, he told me that he thanked God for a chance to use his skills for something good like this. He could envision the children coming into this building through that entrance. He liked that vision and the fact that he had been part of making it happen. I am not sure that the young man who first picked up a welding helmet would have thought of that. But God had leveled a few rough places his life, raised up a few valleys, and beat down a few proud mountains.
God’s love has no preconditions. He expects no one to meet a standard of behavior before He gives His Holy Spirit. That is hard sometimes for us to imagine, but in truth there is no one whom God does not love. On the other hand, God’s love is post-conditional. He does not leave us in the darkness of our sins and the destructiveness of our ways. He works blessing in the lives of people. We are not doomed by our past, our culture, our parents’ failures, or our poor choices. None of them are insurmountable obstacles for Him. He wants what is good for you too.