by J. R. Miller, 1912
"Comfort, comfort My people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and
announce to her that her time of servitude is over, her iniquity has been
pardoned, and she has received from the Lords hand double for all her sins."
There is need always for tender words. Always there is
sorrow. Everywhere hearts are breaking. There is no one who is not made
happier by gentle speech. Yet there is in the world, a dearth of tender
words. Some people scarcely ever speak them. Their tones are harsh. There
seems no kindness in their hearts. They are gruff, severe, faultfinding.
Even in the presence of suffering and sorrow, they evince no tenderness.
"Speak tenderly" is a divine exhortation. That is the way God wants us to
speak to each other. That is the way God himself ever speaks to his
children. The Bible is full of tender words. We would say that in view of
the wickedness of men, their ingratitude, the base return they make for
God's goodness, the way they stain the earth with sin—God would be angry
with them every day. But instead of anger, only love is shown.
He is ever speaking in words of loving kindness. He makes
his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the just and
the unjust. Every message he sends is love. All his thoughts toward his
children are peace. The most wonderful expression of his heart toward the
world, was in the giving of Christ. He was the Word, the revealer of the
heart of God. He never spoke so tenderly to men—as when he sent his Son. Who
can measure the comfort that was given to the world in Jesus Christ? Never
an unkind word fell from his lips, never a frown was seen on his brow. Think
of the tender words he spoke in his mother's home. He was a sinless child,
never giving way to angry words or violent tempers. His youth and manhood
were without a trace of unlovingness.
We also know what he was during his public
ministry—having all power—but gentle as a woman; able to call legions of
angels to defend himself—but without re sentient, returning only gracious
love for cruelty and bitter hate. Think of the tender words he spoke—to the
sick who were brought to him for healing, to the mourners sitting beside
their dead, to the weary ones who came to him to find the warmth of love in
his presence. The ministry of his gracious words as they were uttered
by his lips and fell into sad and discouraged hearts—was marvelous in its
In his life, Christ set an example for us. He wants us
ever to be speaking tender words. We shall not meet a man today in our going
about, who will not need the tender word that we are able to speak. The gift
of speech is marvelous in its possibilities. Man is the only one of God's
creatures to whom this gift is given. This is one of the qualities that
makes him Godlike. It is never meant to be perverted—it was intended always
to be beautiful and pleasing. Dumbness is very sad—when one cannot speak.
But would not one better be dumb—than use his divine gift of speech in anger
to hurt others?
Yet how many are those who never speak—but to give pain?
The hurt that is done any fairest day by words, is incalculable. War is
terrible. Who can describe the ruin wrought by shot and shell rained upon a
city of homes, leaving devastation everywhere. Words may not lacerate,
mangle like the missiles of war—but they may be almost as deadly in the
cruel work they do. God wants us to use our speech to speak only and ever
tenderly. When this message was first given to the prophets, it had a
definite meaning. The people were in sore straits. They were suffering. They
were in sorrow because of the judgments visited upon the land and upon the
holy city. Jerusalem lay in ruins, a city through whose breached walls all
the winds of heaven blew mournfully across her forsaken floors. And the
heart of Jerusalem, which was with her people in exile, was like the
city—broken and defenseless. In that far-off, unsympathetic land it lay open
to the alien; tyrants forced their idols upon it. The people tortured it
with their jests." It was to these people in sorrow and distress, that God
bade his heralds go with divine comfort.
The words were remarkable for their tenderness. The
heralds were to go to carry comfort to these broken-hearted ones. The words,
"Speak tenderly," have in them therefore a divine sobbing of love. God cares
that men and women and children about us are sad. He knows their distress
and pities them. He would have us go out to them in his name, carrying in
our hearts and upon our lips the echo of his compassion and yearning. It is
our privilege to represent God himself in our relations with people about
us. How can the gentleness of God be passed to those who are being hurt by
the world's cruelty and unkindness, if not through us, God's children? Who
will carry God's sympathy and impart God's comfort to those who are
sorrowing and broken-hearted, if we do not? God needs us to be his
messengers, his interpreters. If we do not faithfully and truly represent
him, how will people in their suffering and distress know his gracious
interest in them and his compassionate feeling toward them? If we fail in
showing kindness to those who are in need, if we treat them with coldness,
withholding our hands from the ministries of love which we might have
performed for them, we are not only robbing them of the blessing which we
ought to have given them—but we are also failing to be true to God, are
misrepresenting him, giving men false conceptions of his character and his
disposition toward them.
Men learn what God is, and what his attitude toward them
is—only when his own friends are faithful to all their duties and
responsibilities. When one in trouble receives no kindness, no help;
when one in sorrow receives no sympathy and comfort, it is not
because God does not care—but because some child of God neglects his duty.
A story is told of a child sitting sadly one day on a
door-step when a kindly man was passing by. "Are you God?" the child asked.
The man was struck by the strange question. "No," he answered. "I am not
God—but God sent me here, I think." "Weren't you a long time coming?" the
boy asked. Then he told the passer-by that when his mother had died a little
while ago, she told him that God would care for him. The boy had been
watching for God to come. Too often not God—but those he sends, are long in
coming to speak for God or to bring the relief or comfort God sends by them.
People in distress, who have learned to believe that God will provide for
them, are ofttimes compelled to wait long, until their hearts grow almost
faint before the blessing comes. Sometimes they begin to wonder whether
after all God really hears prayers and keeps his promises; while the delay
is not with God—but with us who are so long coming.
"Speak tenderly." We need to train ourselves to remember
that we are God's messengers, that it is ours to be intent to any bidding of
our Master and to go quickly with any message of relief or cheer, or
comfort, which he gives us to carry. We must not linger or loiter. The need
may be urgent. The person may be near death. Or the distress may be so keen
that it cannot be endured a moment longer. What if the sufferer should die
before we reach him? We are sent to give comfort to one who is in the
anguish of bereavement. We hesitate and shrink from carrying our message.
Meanwhile the bereft one has come back from the grave to the desolated home
and the emptiness and silence. God's heart is full of compassion and he has
blessed comfort for his child—but there is no one to go with the message.
There are Bibles in the sad home—but there is no human
messenger to speak the tender words. It needs a gentle heart to bring
in tender and loving words and the warm touch of comfort which is
needed. We fail God while we do not hasten on his errand to our friend who
sits uncomforted in the shadows. We try to excuse ourselves by saying that
we ought not to break in on our friend's sorrow, that we should make our
condolences formal, that it would be crude and could only add to the pain if
we were to try to speak of the sorrow. This may be true of the world of
people in general—but there is always one to whom God gives the message, "Go
and speak tenderly," one who will fail God if he does not carry the message,
leaving the heart to break when God wanted it to be relieved and comforted.