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Comfort Food Sermon - Given by: iluveunc

The distinct smell of ripened fruit released from its dish. The satisfying resistance of its layered substance as a spoon separates a bite. The blend of fluffy cream, freshly cut produce and crisp wafers providing a slew of textures and flavors. Banana pudding – my life’s comfort in a bowl.

We all have our own distinct comfort foods and stories to tell behind every bite. While applying for colleges in the recent months I came across an essay topic I had to write about what my comfort food is and why. Although I had a blast writing about my mom’s banana pudding I felt that there was such a deeper meaning to comfort food that really doesn’t have anything to do with food at all.

There are hundreds of verses about comfort in the Bible so choosing one was a challenge but there is one in particular that stands out to me. I’ll be reading from Isaiah 40:1-11 and Isaiah 40:28-31.

[READ BIBLE HERE]

The book of Isaiah is divided into two parts. The first 39 chapters deal with impending judgment, and the second part deals with forgiveness and freedom. The first 39 chapters deal with sin, but the last 27 chapters deal with a Savior — 66 chapters in all. Many people see Isaiah as a small Bible, since there are 39 chapters in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament — 66 books in all. The Old Testament deals with the sin of the people of Israel, and the New Testament deals with the Savior who came from Israel. There is a distinctly different tone and message beginning in chapter 40 of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters had warned of the destruction of the nation and the deportment of the people to foreign lands. The people had abandoned their God and he would now abandon them. The first part of the book is heavy and slow moving, but beginning with this chapter the language soars with majestic eloquence and wondrous hope. As Isaiah wrote the first part of his book, disaster hadn’t come to their nation yet. People had grown tired of Isaiah’s warnings and his constant talk of their need of repentance and a return to God. But Isaiah wrote the second half of his book to the people of Israel and Judah who would be in exile — they would be taken away to Babylon. He was prophesying about a time that was yet to come when the nation would be destroyed. Jerusalem and its extravagant temple would be lying in ruins, and the people would be in captivity. In captivity they would not need to hear about pending judgment, because they would be living it. They would not need to be reminded of their sins; they would be experiencing the consequences of those sins on a daily basis.

There were three things that Isaiah would have to say to the people because of all of this. The first was: Isaiah spoke of an everlasting comfort. What they would need as captive slaves in Babylon was comfort. They did not need Isaiah to shake the finger at that point and say, “I told you so”; they needed to hear that God still cared for them and that there was hope. And that is the word that came from God to Isaiah, “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, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). It is interesting that the Hebrew word Isaiah uses for comfort is also a word which can be translated “repent.” The word is nâham, and its root has the idea of breathing deeply. It can mean to breathe deeply with sorrow for your sin, or to breathe deeply as you comfort and console someone. The idea is that God’s comfort comes as a result the people’s repentance. Because they have breathed deeply in repentance, God has breathed deeply as he consoled and comforted them.

One of the most dissatisfying feelings related to comfort food is directly tied to the chef. Picture this: you are at a gathering with family or friends or neighbors or anyone you socialize with and you catch a glimpse of your comfort food sitting with the rest of the dishes. There is that moment of awkwardness as you try to butt into the front of the line to make sure you get a portion before anyone else can take your comfort food, that moment of complete joy when you finally reach it and help yourself to a large scoop or slice, and that moment of fleeting happiness as you rush back to your seat to eat it.

All this can be broken down when you finally try a bit and find out that your mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, or whoever makes your comfort food the best didn’t make it this time. Sure, it is still the same food and it’s actually pretty good most of the time too; but there is something about it that just isn’t the same when someone else makes it.

Comfort works the same way in our lives. Sure, when we have had a terrible day and nothing has gone right or something tragic has happened, having that love and comfort from friends and family who think they know what you are going through and try to relate is great. In fact, we all need a lot of that. However, it will never be the same as seeking comfort from the Bible and in God.

In ancient times, when there were no superhighways, history says that months before a king would set out on a journey, word would go out to “Prepare the way for the king. Make a straight way in the wilderness and a highway for the king.” The people would run before the king to remove any obstacles and fill in the rough places in his path. They would build a road and fill in small valleys and dig through the hills so the king’s progress would be smooth. Their reward was to see the king coming in his royal splendor. In our passage of Isaiah, God is on his way to his people who are now in slavery to a foreign nation. He will come to them and deliver them from captivity — bringing them home on the highway that has been prepared for him. The picture we see is one of God coming in glory from Jerusalem to bring his people back to himself and to their home. This was the great comfort the people longed for.

However, the idea of comfort here is not like the comfort we usually think of. When we think of comfort, we think of sitting on a beach watching the waves, and drinking some refreshing ice-cold lemonade. Or, if it is winter, we see ourselves sitting in a Lazy Boy recliner before a roaring fire. There is a comforter spread over us while we sip hot cocoa and read a book, or watch our favorite movie. But the idea of comfort comes from the two Latin words: “com fortis” – literally translated it means “with strength.” God’s way of giving comfort is to give us the strength to do what needs to be done. As his strength comes, grief and sorrow go. The situation may not have changed, but we have a new ability to face it and deal with it. The people to whom Isaiah was speaking needed strength to face the journey home, and once there they had the huge job of rebuilding the temple and the city. They were going to need a lot of strength and encouragement. The word encouragement has much the same idea: it means to be in courage. If you are encouraged you have the courage to do what needs to be done. God was comforting and encouraging the people so they would be able to carry out his will. Sometimes God’s comfort comes by forcing us to change and grow. Its been said that the Spirit of God comes to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Someone once asked a paratrooper how many times he had jumped out of the plane while he was in the military. He said, “None.” His friend said, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times… but I never jumped.” That is what the military calls encouragement. Sometimes we need a little shove. But along with the shove, God gives us renewed courage and strength to do what he is calling us to do. In the end, it becomes something we actually want to do.

The other way that God comforted the people was by letting them know he would take care of their enemies. The kingdom of Babylon looked so intimidating. No one would be able to get through their walls or defeat their army. The splendor of Babylon was breathtaking with its magnificent buildings and hanging gardens. No one could imagine the possibility of Babylon being destroyed. But God assured them, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). God was saying that no matter how powerful the Babylonians appeared, they were only as strong as blades of grass. He determined their time and place, and when he blew upon them it would be like the hot desert wind blowing on the desert flowers. They would wither and fall, but he would remain.

And that is exactly what happened. The Babylonians who seemed extremely powerful were actually defeated without much of a fight. They thought nothing could happen to them. They were so sure they were safe that they did not even post a guard on the wall. But while their rulers sat back and relaxed, the Persian army simply diverted the flow of the Euphrates River, which flowed under the walls and through the great city. Then they marched right into Babylon on the empty riverbed (Daniel 5). The great kingdom of Babylon collapsed in a night. God proved that the people were like grass and that only he remains.

This is Isaiah’s second point. Not only did Isaiah speak of an everlasting comfort, Isaiah spoke of the everlasting Word of God. When all other claims to truth have had their say, the Word of God will stand alone in the end. Everything else changes. Philosophies come and go, but God’s Word remains the abiding Truth.

Whether your particular comfort food is a dessert, a main course, or a side dish, whenever it finds its way into one of your meals, you cannot stop thinking about it. The anticipation of getting to that course in your meal is overwhelming most of the time. Imagine being able to see and smell that freshly baked apple pie cooling in the window and eating an entire feast before being able to cut a slice.

The extraordinary desire combined with patience displayed in this situation has to be just as great when considering God’s special comfort. In his comfort we can find strength and encouragement worth far more than any earthly comfort. God is looking for those of us seeking his protection and aid to offer his services to.

Isaiah told of an everlasting comfort, and he told of the everlasting Word of God, but thirdly: Isaiah spoke of an everlasting strength. Isaiah wrote: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31). Those who were in exile lost hope, and because of that they lost their strength and desire to go on. Even the young were beaten down, weary and defeated. But those who placed their hope and trust in God did not lose heart, and they did not lose strength — regardless of their age. Their hearts and minds soared as they thought about what God was going to do. As new strength and courage entered their hearts it began to affect their bodies. They gained a new enthusiasm for life and a new strength to go on. But you never gain that strength unless you are willing to wait on the Lord and his comforting hand.

The next time you are enjoying what you might call that “little slice of heaven” better known as your special comfort food, think of the unmatched comfort that God offers and remember that the dish you keep closest to your heart doesn’t come anywhere close to the power of the real slice of heaven being offered through salvation.

Amen.

Christianity | Religion


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