Committed to Save
On Friday morning this week the results of the Rochester by-
For those of us who are not interested in politics our response could quite easily be: "A plague on all your houses! We'll wait and see."
Such a response is perhaps entirely appropriate when we have to do with the pontifications of men but we should not adopt the same attitude when it comes to the prophetic sections of the Bible.
Now some of the time the prophets spoke out in order to call men and women to account for how they had lived and how they were still living. But sometimes the prophets were enabled to speak into the future and when God inspired them in this way it was not just for us to have a few interesting ideas to think about when we've nothing better to do; he expected and he expects his word to be a spur to reflection but more importantly to action too.
In the closing chapters of his book Isaiah is gazing into the future. After the exile in Babylon that he had declared would take place he looked further and saw a restoration of God's people to the Promised Land. But the magnitude of Isaiah's vision is such that it can't be restricted to something as small as Israel's return to their homeland however important or significant that return was.
Isaiah, using language that would be readily understood by his contemporaries, was speaking about the full and complete salvation that God intended to secure for his people. This salvation burst upon the world in vital and living reality with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (we have noted this as we compared Is.61:1-
In fact God's salvation package is so great that it cannot be limited to the world of men. The entire created order has been negatively affected by sin and the salvation God has planned will not be complete until the whole of creation is set free too!
So here in Is.62 we are in another of these sections where Isaiah is gazing ahead and sees something of the wonder of God's plan and purpose of salvation. He begins with what God is doing but he doesn't finish until he has called God's people to action and expectant action at that.
Let's look at just what he has to say.
How committed the Lord is to fulfilling his plans for the salvation of his people! He is absolutely determined to do everything that he has promised to do! The righteousness of his people, which has been already mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter, will indeed be made to blaze forth. The full salvation of his people will be no hidden or illusory affair but one which is cearly visible because it is real.
The salvation the Lord God intends for his people is described in a variety of ways in the following verses.
Firstly, God's people will experience righteousness and in the NT we learn that this comes about in two related ways:
Imputed righteousness – justification
Imparted righteousness – santification
Both come to the people of God through their union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the salvation that God promises to bring about includes glory – we have already noted that this is specifically included as Paul outlined the main blessings of salvation in Christ.
Thirdly, name changes are involved and this is not an attempt by the people to improve themselves or their prospects by trying to put a new gloss on things. The name change is something that God does for them. Now if we think of names as being nothing more than convenient labels then this name change will not seem at all important but that is not the way the culture of the Bible generally regards names. In Bible culture there is often (if not always) a harmony between name and meaning or name and significance. A name in the Bible is not a label but it relates directly to the character of the one who is so named.
While the giving of a particular name might only reflect the desires of the parents for their offspring and be beyond their actual control to bring about the character required the same cannot be predicated of the Lord himself – he has the undoubted power to assure conformity to any name he might choose to give. And it is the LORD who changes the name by which his people are known!
In the past, he says, his people were called "Forsaken" and "Desolate" v.4 – their situation was poor and needed to be changed. This change he is committed to bring about and the name change corresponds to this change – "My delight is in her" and "Married" v.4.
We say that a wedding is the bride's big day and that may well be true but it is also true that the bridegroom rejoices over his new bride and God uses this very warm and intimate picture drawn from everyday life to tell us of his own loving commitment to and delight in his own people!
At the end of the section the LORD completes his description of the salvation status of his people with further list of names – they all speak of the value and worth that he gives to his people:
v.12 – "The Holy People"; "the Redeemed of the LORD"; "Sought Out" and "A City not Forsaken"
How should we then live? vv6-
But Biblically informed logic is not comparable to this ordinary human logic. Prophecies and declarations about what the LORD God determines to do are in no way invitations to inactivity in fact quite the reverse is the case. It is explicity BECAUSE God promises to act that prayer becomes urgent and activity can be carried out with enthusiasm and expectation. I wonder if you have seen that.
Look at vv.6-
Isaiah's prophecies at this juncture are full of the free and full exercise of divine sovereignty but far from stifling human responsibility this serves only to stimulate and increase it. Men have a role to play and function to carry out precisely because God is sovereign and has promised to act – that is the Biblical logic which trumps human ways of thinking every time.
It is precisely because God has promised that he will not rest until he has fulfilled his promises to his people that his people are encouraged to give him not rest! It is precisely because God is determined to secure such a great and glorious salvation for his people that they are to pray and pray earnestly that he do so. This is the biblical and spiritual reaction of faith to the promises of God. Human patterns of thought might encourage inaction and prayerlessness but all that goes to show is that human ways of thinking, unenlightened by the Spirit of God are quite simply wrong!
If we can hear and understand in some measure just what God has in store for his people then we will go to earnest prayer with great expectancy of being not only heard but answered! If we react any other way we are not following the biblical pattern but rather we are revealing just how poor our own spiritual state really is – to ask the question as to whether there is indeed any spiritual life in us would not be entirely inappropriate.
Do you remember the story of Daniel. He was one of the Jews who was carried away into Babylonian exile just as Isaiah had prophesied and while in exile he read some other prophetic writings that he had in his possession. He read the works of Jeremiah and one day he came across a passage in which Jeremiah wrote that the exile would last for 70 years.
Daniel made his calculations and realised that the end of that 70 period was not far off. He could have sat and waited but instead he gave himself to earnest importunate prayer – see Dan.9:3-
Dan.9:3 "Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes."
Commenting on these verses Barnes wrote:
"The prayer which Daniel offered is an illustration of the truth that men will pray more earnestly when they have reason to suppose that God intends to impart a blessing, and that an assurance that an event is to occur is one of the strongest encouragements and incitements to prayer."
A little later he added:
"A belief that God intends to do a thing is never any hindrance to real prayer; a belief that he is in fact about to do it does more than anything else can do to arouse the soul to call with earnestness on his name."
Nor is prayer the only response that is appropriate when God makes known to us what his wonderful plans for his people actually are.
At the end of the chapter Isaiah writes of how the people are to behave and act specifically in the light of what the Lord had promised to do.
God was coming and so the people should be up and actively preparing for his coming. This preparatory work would include the sharing of that excellent news preparing others to hear and respond to gospel truth. Do you see this in v.10? There we read:
"Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples."
When an important political figure or monarch plans to visit a particular spot what efforts are made to make sure that the place is presentable. Potholes in the route to be taken, potholes that have been there for ages are suddenly repaired, flaky paintwork is rubbed down and a bright new coat is applied. It all could have been done before but the imminent certain visit was the catalyst for action.
The church continues to go about her work of sharing the good news sure of the triumphs of her God and of the full realisation of all his plans and projects. The work is carried out in expectation of success as we trust the LORD to do what he has promised to do.
When Daniel began to pray there was little if any evidence of the coming deliverance in the surrounding political environment – but his confidence wasn't in what he thought he could see but in the promises of God. What we can perceive ourselves is by no means all that is actually going on. In another situation Daniel prayed and nothing seemed to be happening but he was later told that from the moment he began to pray he had been heard -
How we need to take seriously the promises of God and as we need to feed upon them and be encouraged by them! Then we will be energised both to pray with expectancy and to serve with an expectation of the fruit of gospel success.
And the chapter ends not with man's efforts, with our efforts, but with more of those declarations of what the LORD determines to do for his people. That this is so is a wake up call to us to remember that all our hopes depend upon him and he works in order that his great name might be honoured and glorified. He has said elsewhere that his glory he will not give to another but he does in his wonderful grace allow his people to see his glory in the face of his Son, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so may God be glorified in our individual lives, in the life of our little church and in the life and extension of the church of Jesus Christ thoughout the world.