Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

God of Comfort

Roland Clarke

Introduction: The article entitled "A Dialogue about the One True God" underscores the fact that only God can save – idols cannot. This was illustrated again and again in the stories of Moses, Jonah, David, Daniel and Hezekiah. God's saving power is also seen in the stories of Noah and Lot. You recall that both of them were saved when a catastrophic judgment killed almost everyone else around them. No doubt they were very grateful. Similarly, we read how the psalmist expressed gratitude to God for saving him. Let me invite you to reflect on God's saving power as seen in Psalm 116.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy... Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow... I was facing death and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears.” (Psalm 116)

The psalmist's testimony reminds us of Christ's words, “God blesses those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3) In a similar way, the prophet Isaiah said God “will comfort those who mourn ... The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.” (Isaiah 57:18; 25:8)

The idea of 'wiping all tears' may seem strange at first. But the more you think about it, the more you see that it makes sense. We realize a day is coming when God will welcome believers into their eternal home – a day when there will be no more death or tears. According to the Bible and the Qur'an this spiritual homegoing is a day of salvation.

We read in the Qur'an that “God will deliver the righteous to their place of salvation: no evil shall touch them, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah 39:61) Furthermore, Surah 44:56 describes paradise as a place where there is no more death. These truths are echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah; “In Jerusalem the LORD ... will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. ... In that day the people will proclaim, ‘This is our God! We trusted in him and he saved us! This is the LORD in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!’” (Isaiah 25:7-9)

How interesting - Jews, Christians and Muslims agree that the demise of death and the end of tears are part and parcel of God's salvation.  

Further confirmation of this comes from the heavenly vision in which the apostle John saw “God's home is now among his people ... God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3,4)

Anyone who is familiar with the writings of the prophets knows that “salvation” was linked to the Messiah.  Isaiah the prophet foretold that a special servant of God “will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) One might wonder, “Who is this servant of the Lord?” “Could it be Jesus the Messiah?”

Muhammad I. A. Usman, a highly respected Muslim scholar, stated in his book, 'Islamic Names' that the name Jesus/Isa means “God is salvation”. This conclusion is all the more significant when we see that it was God himself who chose this name and revealed it through an angel. Clearly this name is in keeping with Isaiah's prophecy.

Further confirmation of this prophecy is seen in the miraculous signs he performed., e.g. he 'saved' very sick people who were “near death”. (Luke 7:2) On another occasion Jesus met a swindler named Zacchaeus who repented of his sin and made restitution. Jesus commented, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Sincere monotheists know that godly repentance often involves deep emotion. You will recall the earlier scripture passage in which God promises “comfort to those who mourn”. But if you look carefully you will notice what kind of tears are in view – not bereavement but repentance. In that same paragraph we read God's words, “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” (Isaiah 57:15)

In a similar way, David said that God is not pleased with the outward performance of sacrifice. He desires “a broken spirit and repentant heart”. (Psalm 51:16,17) Elsewhere David testified (after being disciplined by the Lord), “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing ... that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30)

This same principle is evident in the life of Jesus Christ. We read how a repentant sinner wiped Jesus' feet with her tears causing consternation among certain onlookers.  Simon, a Pharisee, was especially suspicious and critical. But Jesus said to him, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair... You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who has been forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  (Luke 7:44-47)

This story contrasts a high-minded religious leader with a lowly sinner. It reminds me of a Muslim tradition (Hadith) that says, “Every son of Adam is a sinner and the best of sinners are those who repent constantly.”

Christ's encounter with the skeptical Pharisee continues as follows, “The men at the table said among themselves, ‘Who is this man that he goes around forgiving sins?’” The implication is true: forgiving sins is God's prerogative - and his alone. (compare Mark 2:7-10). On this point, the Qur'an emphatically agrees:“Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (surah 3:135)

It is interesting to see how Jesus responded to the Pharisee's criticism. He didn't reply directly, instead he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” A thoughtful reader may ask, “Did this woman put her faith in Jesus or God?” While pondering this, bear in mind how the angel instructed that Mary's special baby should be named, “Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Also John the Baptizer (Yahya) pointed to Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

If you want to read a meditation exploring how the Messiah fulfills Old Testament prophecies about a lamb you can find it here.

If I can be of any assistance, please contact me.