The Comforting God

October 30, 2021
November 7, 2021

Isaiah 66:12-16

This week I got to thinking about language and the very prayer we recite each week. It is the Lord’s Prayer. It begins, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”. Yes, God is our father but are the traits of God only reflected in that word? I read the book of Isaiah this week. The prophets, as a collection, never forget anything when they are teaching us. When you think of God, the Father, we have one thought. However, in Isaiah, we will look at the words and the imagery very closely. God the Father, has a nurturing, female, maternal side. He reminds us that it is a variety of individuals that creates our world. The prophets, after presenting vivid pictures of disaster and judgement, present also a contrasting picture of ultimate consummation of history in the Holy City, a place where believers could come to worship God and be transformed without distraction.
Isaiah 66: 13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Those are really beautiful words!

Let’s think back to the old testament days. In the ancient world, it was quite natural to employ father imagery in connection with the deity. In a patriarchal society, like that in which the Bible was written, the male figure had all of the authority and power. If you take a closer look, Isaiah reminds us that there is a female perspective in the vision of God. I would like us to think about this thought. The Bible contains mother imagery of women teaching us. Even Jesus teaches us about female faith. Some people say that they are the most faithful. Who did Jesus appear to first after the resurrection? The women!!

Luke 15:8-10 “Suppose a woman has ten coins but looses one. She will light a lamp, sweep the house, and look carefully until she finds it. And when she finds it, she will call her friends and neighbors and say ‘Be happy with me because I have found the coin that I lost. In the same way, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life.” The background for this parable is that tax collectors and sinners came to hear Jesus by multitudes. The scribes and the Pharisees criticized them because of this. Jesus responded to their complaints with the parable of the lost coin. People are lost and disconnected from God, their true owner. God does not giver up on people. Instead, he compassionately searches for them, freely offering them forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ. He reaches out to them. When they accept His offer, a noisy celebration breaks out in heaven.
A sinner has come home. A person has been reconciled with his or her creator. Jesus uses female imagery to make this point. We must all search and accept Jesus and then our sins are forgiven. Why does Jesus use the illustration of the ten valuable silver coins in this parable? In those days, Palestinian women received ten silver coins as a wedding gift. Besides their monetary value, these coins also held sentimental value , like that of a wedding ring. To loose them would be extremely distressing. The language and storytelling used is really important. We should be thinking of God as a combination of male and female traits. The important point here is that God is a God of compassion. Look at the female words. “Jerusalem is an affectionate mother, nursing her people, carrying them on her arm.”

Isaiah 66:12
“For this is what God says: ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dangled on her knees.” The word comfort appears three times in verse 13. It is here that the application of the maternal metaphor switches from Jerusalem to God. “As a mother comforts her children, so I will comfort you. And you will be comforted by Jerusalem.” (verse 13) Verse 14 goes on to say, ” Under God’s nurturing care, the very bodies and spirits of God’s people receive restoration.”

One does not have to have male qualities to teach about the mysteries of faith which are the divine realities found in the heart of each person’s life experiences. We are all called in some way. God makes sure that the female is represented in the presence of God. The prophet teaches us, through language, that God’s presence encompasses all of us!