Comfortable Words: a call to restoration: Reflections on Isaiah 40–55

Comfortable Words: a call to restoration: Reflections on Isaiah 40–55

Author : Steven Croft
£7.99

Nine reflections on Isaiah to bring hope in challenging times

‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God…’


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Title Comfortable Words: a call to restoration: Reflections on Isaiah 40–55
Author Steven Croft
Description

‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God…’

Through nine reflections, Steven Croft examines what these ‘comfortable words’ have to say to us. Each reflection begins from a passage of scripture taken from Isaiah 40—55: the song of an unnamed prophet who sings at the end of the exile to call God’s people home.

The prophet sings of love and forgiveness, of new hope and strength in God, to rekindle courage in the hearts of God’s people. The prophet sings of a new kind of leadership, based on humility and gentleness. The prophet sings to tell us not to be afraid even in the face of death. These are comfortable words the whole world needs to hear afresh in this season.

Details
  • Product code: 9781800391055
  • Published: 19 March 2021
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128
  • Dimensions: 148mm wide and 210mm high

‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God…’

Through nine reflections, Steven Croft examines what these ‘comfortable words’ have to say to us. Each reflection begins from a passage of scripture taken from Isaiah 40—55: the song of an unnamed prophet who sings at the end of the exile to call God’s people home.

The prophet sings of love and forgiveness, of new hope and strength in God, to rekindle courage in the hearts of God’s people. The prophet sings of a new kind of leadership, based on humility and gentleness. The prophet sings to tell us not to be afraid even in the face of death. These are comfortable words the whole world needs to hear afresh in this season.

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft is the Bishop of Oxford. He has a passion for mission and evangelism and for finding creative ways of sharing the gospel, and is the co-author of the Emmaus and Pilgrim courses, both of which seek to help people engage with the Christian faith.

Reviewed by Donato Tallo

As a Benedictine Oblate, Lectio Divina plays an important part in my life, and I recently chose to read these Isaiah 40-55 reflections, written by the Bishop of Oxford during the first lockdown of 2020. The original podcasts were published by BRF in the spring of 2021.

The book of the prophet Isaiah is not one of the easiest to digest but Bishop Steven's short and meaningful reflections on key sections between chapters 40-55 are excellent. He relates these passages directly to the Covid-19 situation as it was during the first lockdown but also writes with a forward-looking perspective for the world, for the church and for individuals.

Taking a few weeks to read this book enabled the text of the prophet himself and the reflections and thoughts offered by the Bishop of Oxford to really sink in. While reading the Holy Bible is important it is even more important to ponder on scripture and listen to what the text is really saying, and the Bishop has helped to bring important sections of the book of Isaiah to life. 

Love, forgiveness, comfort and not being fearful are all key themes in Isaiah 40-55; chapter 40 famously opens with the word ‘comfort’. Comfortable words are needed now more than ever and, as the bishop points out, many of the problems faced by the world and indeed the church before the pandemic have been exacerbated. The humility of servant leadership is another theme in Isaiah, and if the church is to be the face of Christ on earth and support a society recovering from the impact of Covid-19, humility, courage and God-focused approaches will all be necessary and are all concepts explored effectively in these reflections.

The opening words of Isaiah 43 of Isaiah remind us that God is always with us: a comfort that is very much needed in these difficult times. This delightful book gives the reader much to think about and many suggestions for how to turn reflections into actions to help support individuals and communities as they recover from the pandemic. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone wanting to deepen their knowledge of the book of Isaiah, but I recommend it particularly to people in leadership positions across all denominations.

 

Reviewed by Richard Frost

This is an extremely timely publication. Originally written and delivered as a series of podcasts for the Diocese of Oxford in Autumn 2020, Bishop Steven Croft offers nine reflections on the songs of the unnamed prophet who we know as Isaiah.

With references as diverse at Emeli Sandé and John Denver, Dad’s Army and Pilgrim’s Progress, Steven Croft explores Isaiah 40-55 and the message of comfort the songs of the prophet bring for each of us and our world at this time of pandemic. ‘These songs are such a good place to begin to recentre our calling and to find strength and hope again,’ he writes.

‘Comfort, O comfort my people.’ And what comfort we need today. As the comforter, the Holy Spirit brings both the strength for living and the ability not to be afraid. We are God’s servants, chosen ones and friends, Bishop Steven writes. We live as servants ‘grounded in a call of God’: and the author calls upon the church to raise up servant leaders.

Death, such a painful feature of Covid times, is tackled head on – we are to face the reality and the prospect of dying and prepare for it.

The word comfort means ‘with strength’ and Steven Croft reminds us that in these times of both difficulty and emergence, we are invited to return to the Lord and go out with joy.

‘With all my heart,’ Bishop Steven writes, ‘I want to say to you: have the courage in this time to go deeper into God and deeper into your faith and draw on the great reservoirs of courage God gives to people in these seasons.’ Amen to that.

Richard Frost is the author of Life with St Benedict and writes a blog at workrestpray.com