The Delight of the LORD

The Delight of the LORD

Last week we looked at a portion from Isaiah that addressed a prophecy he made to Jewish exiles-to-be-in-Babylon that offered them a word of comfort given to Isaiah by God two hundred years prior to their exiled existence. Our passage this week comes from the final section of Isaiah’s prophecy and provides these exiles assurance of their ultimate and certain deliverance to a glorious future kingdom (chapters 56–66 Everlasting Deliverance and Judgment). This future time of salvation will be one in which all things being renewed forever.

As the passage opens, the speaker is not certain—it could be God or Isaiah—but it is likely Isaiah who is speaking on God’s behalf as his mouthpiece. As was true in last week’s passage, this poetic, prophetic section contains various examples of Hebrew parallelism in which the same point is stated two different ways as a means of emphasizing something important, of making a point. Verse 1 begins by declaring “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,…” The parallelism is easy to catch for Zion is another name for Jerusalem, the city of God. So Isaiah is addressing his words on behalf of the redeemed people of God whose true home is Zion or Jerusalem even though they are exiled in Babylon. Isaiah, as God’s chosen representative, is acting as Zion’s lawyer, as her advocate and thus he “will not keep silent” nor “remain quiet” for her sake. And he will keep acting as her advocate, he will keep pleading her cause—and here we see a second parallelism—“till her vindication shines out like the dawn” and “her salvation like a blazing torch.” Part of what is being emphasized in these opening statements is that God is true to his promises. This is part of his nature and it is demonstrated time and again not only in his words but also his deeds.

So, for example, when God made Adam and Eve in his image and placed them as stewards in his garden, even when they disobeyed him, he didn’t remove his image from them nor did he remove them as his stewards over all the earth. There were consequences to their disobedience—their fellowship with God, each other, and the earth were broken and now there would be pain in fulfilling their God-given tasks: filling the earth would now be accompanied by pain in childbirth and caring for the earth would now include thorns and thistles. But God cared for Adam and Eve by clothing them even at the point of their greatest disobedience. This is a pattern we continue to see between God and his chosen people. Though God’s people may disobey and turn from him, he never completely turns his back on his people even when he judges them truly.

As we also noted last week, Israel had a terrible record of infidelity towards God. Turning to the gods, idols, and customs of other nations was commonplace for them. And for this, Israel was often judged. But to be judged is not the same as being abandoned. And in this opening verse in the book of Isaiah God promises to vindicate his people—to save his people, and this not in a quiet manner but until her vindication “shines like the dawn.” In other words until her vindication is known everywhere. As the dawn announces the beginning of a new day, the vindication of God’s redeemed people will announce the beginning of a new age. And her salvation will be like a “blazing torch.” In other words it will be seen from near and afar.

In fact, verse 2, states that “the nations will see your[1] vindication, and all kings your glory.” Again, notice the parallelism. Despite Israel’s oft-repeated disobedience and turning from God, one day the redeemed among her will be shown to be the people of God he intended them to be from the beginning. And this will be due not to the greatness of her obedience, but to the greatness and faithfulness of God and his grace. Not only will the nations and kings see her vindication and glory, but they’ll also see, verse 3, that she “will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of [their] God.” The crown indicates that they belong to the LORD, to Yahweh—notice the all caps—to the one true King who reigns over all the earth and its nations. The diadem similarly—yet another parallelism—is a jeweled crown or headband worn as a symbol of sovereignty. This crown of splendor, this royal diadem, will come about not of their own doing, but it will be the LORD’s, Yahweh’s, doing for they are in the LORD’s hand, they are in the hand of [their] God. So the LORD who is King and Sovereign over everything that exists will share his glory. He will share his presence and his name with those who are his. One day all will know that they are subjects of the one true LORD and God.

What a word of comfort this must have been to those to whom Isaiah was prophesying. Think about it. At the time during which Isaiah lived, Israel’s present, it was under the power of Assyria. And at the time concerning which he prophesied, Israel’s future, the redeemed of Israel would be under the power of Babylon. And if we turn to Israel’s past, we know that they had been under the power of Egypt. So this history of being overtaken by neighboring nations was not uncommon for Israel. To make matters worse, in ancient times it was commonly believed that one of the reasons that one country could exercise control over another country was because its god was more powerful than the conquered country’s god. The dominant country’s power was understood as evidence that its god or gods was stronger than that of the dominated nation. Given this outlook, it really should have been no surprise that when Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to ask that Israel be let go, his answer was “No.” Why in the world should he? After all, he had more wealth than anyone else in the region. He had more power—at least in his own mind—than did the people of Israel. If Israel’s god was so powerful, then shouldn’t they be the ones in control? Yet they weren’t. So why should Pharaoh, whose gods were surely greater than the God of Israel, listen to Moses’ request?

Yet just as in the days of Moses when the LORD did vindicate his people by bringing judgment upon Pharaoh in the form of plagues on Egypt, so too, Isaiah promises, one day he will vindicate his people once and for all in even greater fashion. In that day not only will “the nations see your vindication” and “all kings [see] your glory” but “you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” And note again that this is in all caps, indicating God’s personal name, Yahweh. As we noted last week, names are important to God. Here Isaiah is indicating that he, the God of Israel, who has told them his personal name will bestow upon them a new name. And this new name will reflect their new status. Whereas now they are being called “Deserted” or, in other translations “Forsaken”—no doubt suggesting they have been abandoned by God—and their land is being called “Desolate”—a synonym of deserted, further suggesting a state of bleak and dismal emptiness—one day things will change. One day rather than being known as “Deserted” they will be called “Hephzibah.” One day their land will cease to be called “Desolate” but instead will be called “Beulah.”

And to make sure that they don’t miss it, the significance of both of these new names is also provided in a parallelism in the second part of verse 4 as the dots are connected. For one day all the nations will know that the LORD (all caps)—Yahweh—takes delight in them. “My delight is in her” is the meaning of the name Hephzibah. And one day their land will be married. “Married” is the meaning of the name Beulah. So one day Israel’s relationship with the LORD will be evident to all and the once desolate land will be restored. Though his delight in his chosen people may appear, for the time being, to be absent or hidden given their exiled status, one day all will see the LORD’s delight in his people. All will see that the LORD takes great pleasure—he is greatly pleased—with those who are his.

“As a young man marries a young woman,” Isaiah goes on to state in verse 5, “so will your Builder marry you” and—notice the parallelism for emphasis—“as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” So God’s delight in his people will be like that of a bridegroom’s delight in his bride. Again, the intimacy being addressed here is of the highest degree. And the joy which results from this intimate relationship is also of the highest degree.

So what does this passage from Isaiah, addressed to future exiles in the land of Babylon have to do with us? What possible relevance does this passage have for us? What, if anything, can we learn from this? Good questions!

By way of answering I want to focus on two points. First, when God redeems us, he gives us a new name. Second, once God redeems us, he will be our Advocate until our life on earth ends.

So, let me turn to the first point. When God redeems us, he gives us a new name. As was the case of the redeemed among Israel who went from being called “Deserted” or “Forsaken” to being called “Hephzibah” or “my delight is in her,” so, too, will be the case for us. So, for example, in the second chapter of I Peter Peter states: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Anyone who professes the name of Jesus as their Savior and Lord is now part of God’s chosen people, of our only true King’s royal priesthood, of our loving and just Sovereign’s citizenship. Anyone who professes the name of Jesus as their Savior and Lord is now part of his holy nation, his special possession. Our lives are no longer our own, but Christ’s for we have been bought with the incomparable price of Jesus himself (I Cor. 6:20). Because of this we who have been called out of darkness into the wonderful light of God should declare his praises for bringing us from death to life. We who at one time were not a people and were not recipients of God’s mercy are now the people of God by the mercy we have received by the Spirit’s quickening and applying the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice to our lives. With the result that now we bear the name of Jesus. He has given us his name. We are now Christians. Our primary identity is in Jesus Christ. We are his followers, his disciples. And now we are those who eternally belong to God our heavenly Father, by means of Christ’s life and work, and the Holy Spirit’s sealing and indwelling. So what was true for God’s redeemed people in ancient times is true for God’s people in all times. God will rejoice over us for we, too, are God’s delight. He will never give up on us for he loves us with an eternal love for he is an eternal God who has bestowed upon us his eternal life in Jesus Christ.

And second, as God through Isaiah was an Advocate for his people by not keeping silent and not remaining quiet for the sake of the vindication of his people, so, too, God is our Advocate. Now you tell me: Who in the New Testament is referred to as our Advocate? Right—the Holy Spirit! And we see this title used in various places in the Gospel of John. In all of the following passages, Jesus is telling his disciples about the Holy Spirit who is yet to come and indwell them (Parenthetically, in all the Bible, John 14–16 provides the most information about the third member of the Trinity):

John 14:16, 26: 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 15:26: 26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

John 16:7:But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

So just as in the Old Testament we have God the Father revealing himself as an advocate for his people, so, too, in the New Testament we have God the Holy Spirit, being promised and disclosed by Jesus as an Advocate of his people.

But who else in the New Testament is referred to as our Advocate? Jesus himself! You should have noticed a partial clue in the John 14 passage I just read when Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is another advocate—in other words, another advocate like Jesus is. But in I John 2:1–2 we similarly read: “1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Do you see the unity of our One God who in three Persons is God for us—God who is on the side of his people? He is God who advocates for us. He pleads for us. He publicly supports us. He calls us his own.

Brothers and sisters, we need an advocate for if we have come to a saving faith and knowledge of God and therefore have Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, then we can be painfully aware at times at how far we fall short of his will and his ways. This is why John tells us in I John 3:

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Is your heart condemning you this morning? Confess and turn from your sin and be at peace. Whatever may be the cause of the condemnation you feel is not a surprise to God. He knows about it for he is God who knows everything. And what he asks of us—what he commands of us—will restore us eternally with him. For what God asks of us is “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” It’s so simple, isn’t it? We are to love God in Christ and, as those who love Christ—and belong to Christ—and therefore belong to each other, we are to love one another. This is how we know we are living in him—and he in us—because he has given us his Spirit. God, our Advocate, has gone from speaking his Advocacy through his people in times of Old, to living out his Advocacy in the presence of his people when he took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, to indwelling us as he lives out his Advocacy in us by means of uniting us with Christ and the Father by his indwelling Holy Spirit.

But brothers and sisters, we also need an Advocate for we know that the Ancient Serpent in the Garden, Satan, not only is our enemy or adversary who, as a roaring lion, Peter tells us (I Pet. 5:8) prowls about seeking to devour us, but he is also the Accuser of God’s people. In Revelation 12[2], in this great apocalyptic vision of a heavenly war, we read:

And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night.11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.

So we need an Advocate, don’t we? Because in addition to our own self-recrimination we also have an adversary who seeks to destroy us. But we can take comfort in knowing that the God who made us in his image—who knew that we would turn from him and who declares that none of us is righteous, no not one—who understood that apart from his working not only would we never turn to him but even if we desired to improve ourselves, we would be helpless to do so apart from him—who therefore took on human form that he might receive the punishment that was the due of all humans so that we might be recipients not of his wrath but of his grace—this God who knows us so deeply, is also our Advocate. In Christ, as the hymn goes[3], God’s love has met his law’s demand so who can accuse us?

Last week I ended by quoting Romans 8:26–31 because Paul’s words in that passage encapsulated well those of Isaiah 43:1–7. This week I’d like to end similarly by reading from Romans 8 again but this time I’ll begin with verse 31 and end with verse 39 because again Paul expresses so well in these words many of the major themes we have been considering this morning from Isaiah 62:1–5:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Brothers & sisters, let us pray….

[1] You/your in ch. 62 are feminine singular, addressing Zion.

[2] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.

[3] We Come, O Christ to Thee, 2nd stanza: You are the Way to God, your blood our ransom paid;

In you we face our Judge and Maker unafraid. Before the throne absolved we stand, your love has met your law’s demand.

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