The guys, on one of those rare occasions in their life, wear a tuxedo. A spiffy little bow-tie. A cummerbund. Suspenders. French cuff links. And the boutonniere that goes on—which side it is again?
But that’s nothing compared to the ladies! The gowns for the bridesmaids—meticulously chosen after hours of hyper-analyzing the color and the style. The dress fittings that take place months ahead of time. Yet when the dresses finally come in, inevitable alterations still need to be made. And the shoes--will they be gold-glittered? Plus there’s the make-up, the hair, and those acrylic nails with a kind of a squarish shape that I just don’t get.
And we haven’t even mentioned the bride yet--in her gown, dazzling white, a symbol of purity. Long, flowing with a stately train. A veil and a bouquet of brightly-colored flowers complete the perfect picture.
It is a picture of a bride that the Prophet Isaiah holds before us in Isaiah 62:1-5, but with an additional Cinderella twist. Isaiah explains, “You will never again be called Abandoned, and your land will never again be called Desolation, for you will be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land will be called Married, because the LORD delights in you, and your land will be married.” This bride has gone from the wrong side of the tracks to a regal palace. From rags to riches.
How can it be? The Prophet adds, “You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will assign to you. Then you will be a beautiful crown in the LORD’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.” (Isaiah 62:2-3) Isaiah shared this bride-picture in the last days of the Divided Kingdom. Soon the Assyrians would sweep in and take the people of the Northern Kingdom away into exile, never to return. A little over 100 years later, Babylon would descend on Judah, destroy Jerusalem, and take her people into bondage. “Abandoned. Desolation.” Those were the names God’s people deserved!
Why? Earlier Isaiah had explained, “These people approach me with their words, and they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their way of worshipping me is nothing but commandments taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) The Children of Israel had tipped their priorities upside down. They had stuffed the Lord into a box and shelved him out of their everyday life. Worship became nothing but a duty, done with little thought. Offerings were lukewarm leftovers grudgingly tossed God’s way as if a bone to a dog. Instead money, power, possessions, career, fun, entertainment—these were the things that consumed the Israelite’s life. Israel had been an unfaithful tramp. Who would want her?
Are we all that different from the Israelites of Isaiah’s day? Have we ever gotten into a rut where our daily priorities are tipped a bit upside-down? Have we ever tried to stuff our LORD into a box and hide him in the back corner closet of our mind and heart, even for a moment or two? The answer to that, my friend, is painful. So who would want us?
Only the Lord of pure grace! Only the Lord who turned Isaiah’s Cinderella picture into the eternal truth of his plan of salvation! Sinners like us—sinners who deserve the names “Abandoned,” “Desolation,” receive new names from ours gracious groom. “My Delight Is In Her.” (Hebrew, Hephzibah) “Married.” (Hebrew, Beulah) (See also Revelation 2:17) Oh the comfort! The unfathomable peace that floods through us, as we hold Isaiah’s picture in our heads and hearts! Isaiah shows us that our LORD does everything to make this marriage happen! It’s all grace, every step of the way.
And once the Lord brings us to him as his bride? Once he lights in us the fire of faith? “For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth shining brightly, and her salvation burns like a torch. Nations will see your righteousness, and all kings will see your glory.” ( Isaiah 62:1-2)
Am I living my Spirit-worked faith every day to his glory? Are you? Put another way, Is Your Righteousness Showing? Now, I’m being a tad bit mischievous when I ask, “Is Your Righteousness Showing?” How so? I am still picturing a wedding day. And the last thing a bride would want would be a slip showing on one of the bridesmaids. Or somehow an errant undergarment strap. Talk about a fashion faux pas!
But there is no fashion faux pas in what the Lord God has done for us through our wedding with Jesus Christ, our bridegroom! “Nations will see your righteousness, and all kings will see your glory. You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will assign to you. Then you will be a beautiful crown in the LORD’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.” (Isaiah 62:2-3)
When God’s Son, the Promised Christ, came down to this earth, he added a few brush strokes to Isaiah’s picture of the Bride, the Christian Church, you and me. Christ’s nestled his word-picture in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket. No, they put it on a stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. In the same way let your light shine in people’s presence, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
At the beginning of a New Year, as we make our resolutions to lose weight, learn a new language, make less jokes about Chihuahuas (well, maybe not), use heftier fluorocarbon line for leaders on our tip-ups so Northerns don’t bite them off, write shorter Wednesday Encouragements—at the beginning of a New Year, it’s also a perfect time to review how we will let our light shine for the Lord in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
So I ask again, “Is Your Righteousness Showing?”
Privileged to Serve,
Rev. Glenn Schwanke