Weekly Meditation: 17th January 2016

Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 36:5-10

1st Corinthians 12:1-11

In chapter 62 of his prophecy, Isaiah turns his attention to Jerusalem – Zion – the capital city of Judah. During his lifetime, Isaiah had witnessed the decline of Jerusalem, from the city of King David, home to the glorious Temple built by Solomon, to a city riven by strife, threatened by enemies, contaminated by pagan practices and characterised by unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 23:4). As a result Jerusalem was to suffer siege by the Babylonians, capture, destruction and desolation. But Jerusalem had represented God’s reign on earth; the kings of Judah sat on “the LORD’s throne” in Jerusalem, and God is faithful.

We find this faithful God in one of David’s Psalms (36). His love and faithfulness reach to the skies (v 5) his righteousness is mountain-high, his justice ocean-deep (v 6). All can find refuge in him and he provides abundantly for them (v 7-8). From him we have life, and by his light we can see (v 9).

Therefore, although Isaiah’s prophecy was one of doom and condemnation, of God’s judgment on his faithless nation, it was also suffused through and through with love, comfort and promises for the future restoration of Judah, and the re-establishment of Jerusalem. It is a confirmation of God’s faithfulness to his people – “to those who know him … to the upright in heart” (Psalm 36:10).

When Jerusalem fell, its people were far from knowing God and far from upright. However, their exile experience turned their hearts back to their God (Psalm 137:5-6), and they found him ready and waiting for them. Isaiah’s prophecy told this ahead of time – comfort for all who read his scroll during their exile in Babylon.

In spectacularly beautiful language, Isaiah sets out God’s promises. Jerusalem would no longer be seen as the faithless “Oholibah” (Ezekiel 23:4) – deserted by God – but “Hephzibah” – my delight is in her. No longer a mourning widow but a wife – “Beulah” (Isaiah 62:4). She was to be a “crown of splendour … a royal diadem” (v3). Her righteousness would be like a beacon, so that kings and nations would see her glory (v2), and God would rejoice over her as “a bridegroom rejoices over his bride” (v5).

In the previous chapter, Isaiah had rejoiced because of the salvation that God offered to him personally (61:10). Now he sees this extended first to Jerusalem (62:1-5) and ultimately to the “ends of the earth”. Thus historical Jerusalem opens out into the city of God in the last days – the kingdom of God come to earth (v 11 – not in the lectionary reading, but how can we miss it out?). So these words of Isaiah are not just for the people of Judah and Jerusalem, they speak of God’s faithfulness and extravagant love for all humankind.

By Susan Thorne