Sin troubles the mind. It plagues the conscience, burdens the soul, weakens the knees and pains the heart. But where there is great pain, there is also great pardon.
Israel had sinned and her sin was great. Her cities had been destroyed and she now found herself in the misery of captivity. But God loved her still.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 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. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Isaiah, speaking at a time when Israel had lost her beauty, looked forward to the day when God would pardon all her sin and His prophets would bring comfort (lit, ‘speak to the heart’) to a downtrodden people in desperate need of tenderness.
“…double for all her sins”, does not mean she had received more than she deserved. God’s people have always known that they have received way less than they deserve (Psalm 103:10). Both Israel in the North and Judah in the South had been struck down by God for their sins and sent into captivity. Now, God declared that the battle was over. Her discipline was sufficient.
The prophets had cried allowed in the streets with words of judgement, now they were to cry louder still with words of consolation.
A new day had dawned, brimming with mercy, and above the shame and the tears and the grief was a word of tenderness. God had pardoned her sins.
Isaiah would go on to envisage a day when our despair over sin would give way to great atonement and all our troubles would be removed by love (Isaiah 40:3-5).
That day had come.
In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God comes to the weary and the faint-hearted with immeasurable words of comfort. He speaks to the tired, sin-addled heart saying,
I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
Looking to the cross in confession and repentance, those troubled by their sin find relief. Here, at the footstool of the Throne of Grace, love covers even a multitude of sins.
Though our sins are ever so sinful, though our weakness be ever so weak, there are none who pour out their soul on bended knee before Jesus who do not find God speaking comfort straight to the heart. Your iniquity is pardoned.
And rising from repentant knees, your soul strengthened by the God of all comfort, the only thing left to do is walk outside, take a deep breath, wipe away the tears and say, thank you.