But God, who comforts the downcast . . .” (2 Corinthians 7:6).
It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.
But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?
The Deep Well of God’s Comfort
According to Scripture, the predominant means of God’s comfort comes in his life-giving promises (Psalm 1[19:50], 76); which is, of course, the foundation of God’s healing, restoring mercy (Isaiah [57:14]–19; Jeremiah [31:13];Zechariah [1:17]). In fact, as Jason Meyer explains in a recent sermon, the phrase that Paul uses — “comforts the downcast” — is a quote from the Greek version of Isaiah [49:13], “For the Lord has comforted his people and will havecompassion on his afflicted.” Considering the context of his section in Isaiah, the means of God’s comfort has to do with his eternal, saving rescue. God comforts his people by removing every obstacle that keeps them from everlasting joy in him. He comforts his people by forgiving their sins and effectively making them hispeople — a people restored to dwell in his presence forever. The picture here is pure gospel. It is ultimate, deep, wondrous.
And we might expect Paul to say something like that in 2 Corinthians 7:6, except he doesn’t.
Titus Showed Up
Paul writes, “But God, who comforts the downcast…” — and at this point we’re prone to think that he’ll follow with some profound theological truth similar to Romans [8:28] or perhaps a short devotional anthem like inPhilippians [1:20]–21. But instead, to our surprise, Paul continues, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6).
God — the God who comforts the downcast — comforted Paul by sending his friend.
But not only did God comfort Paul by sending Titus, he also comforts Paul in that Titus was himself comforted by the Corinthian Christians. There are layers of comfort here — comfort fromthe God who comforts. And they come through layers of human relationships. Meyer comments,
God is the source of comfort, but people were the face (means) of comfort. . . . God is behind all comfort, but he uses others to do the comforting, which means that God is in the business of building relationships. We depend completely upon God, and he often uses people to meet our needs.
Written by Jonathan Parnell
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