Isaiah ended his fourth Servant Song with astonishing good news. 

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, 
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 
because he poured out himself to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors, 
yet he bore the sin of many
    and made intercession for the transgressors. 

Isaiah 53:12 (NRSVUE, emphases added) 


Shout for joy!  

Isaiah 54:1 (NRSVUE, boldface added) 

This is where true worship finds its source, unrestrained thanksgiving that once we were dead but now we are more alive than we ever imagined possible. Not because you and I deserved it. But because the most powerful being in the universe loves us and has given His own life so He could have us to be His own. 

Isaiah used three metaphors to describe this amazing restoration. 

Barren Woman 

Shout for joy, O barren one who has borne no children
    burst into song and shout, 
    you who have not been in labor! 
For the children of the desolate woman will be more 
    than the children of the one who is married, says the Lord. 

Isaiah 54:1 (NRSVUE, emphases added) 

Both this imagery and the next depiction are of a faithful husband forgiving his unfaithful wife and restoring her to a place of blessing. The word desolate implies that this wife was rejected before she had any children. When her husband stopped going in to her, she no longer had any opportunity to have children. In Isaiah’s culture infertility was the source of shame for a woman. Without children there would be no one to care for her in her future.   

But now, forgiven and restored, she was to enlarge her tent to get ready for all the children she would have in her family. Enlarge the site of your tent, Isaiah declared, your descendants will possess nations and will settle desolate towns.   

The apostle Paul quoted this passage hundreds of years later while pointing to Sarah and Hagar for his illustration about the power of the Law and the power of the Spirit of God. Tell me, he said, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? Paul then brought out Exhibit A and Exhibit B: Abraham’s two sons by two women.  

One, the child of the enslaved woman, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise

Galatians 23 (NRSVUE, italics added) 

This is an allegory, Paul continued, about two covenants. Paul drew a thread through Hagar, the enslaved woman, whose son Ishmael was born because Abraham abided by the covenants and laws of his time.  

But Sarah represents another covenant, a better one. Her son was born by the promise and power of God, for her body was miraculously restored and her barrenness turned to fruitfulness. 

Though Isaiah may not have fully grasped the prophetic nature of his oracle, Paul did and we do also. We are all born anew from above by the promise and power of God, miraculously restored and marvelously fruitful, made fully free by God’s great redemption. 

By Carl Haag – Christie’s, LotFinder: entry 4515864 (sale 706, lot 43), Public Domain

Rejected Wife 

Israel had given God every reason to be angry with her, because she was unfaithful. But God said,  

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; 
    do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace 

Isaiah 54:4 (NRSVUE)

Fortunately your husband is your Maker, your God, God of the universe. The Servant, Messiah has taken all that shame with Him to the cross, all the time of separation, heartache, and grief is over, wife and husband can be reunited. 

But how could Israel be sure?   

What if something happened? 

With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, 
    says the Lord, your Redeemer. This is like the days of Noah to me: 
    Just as I swore that the waters of Noah 
    would never again go over the earth, 
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you 
    and will not rebuke you. 
For the mountains may depart 
    and the hills be removed, 
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, 
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, 
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. 

Isaiah 54:8-10 (NRSVUE, emphases added)

חֶסֶד | cheçed, kheh’-sed 

Everlasting love is חֶסֶד | cheçed, kheh’-sed in Hebrew. There is no English equivalent, so the closest we can get to describing chesed is as love, kindness, compassion, mercy, tenderness and utter loyalty, or faithfulness, the persistent, steady refusal of God to let go of God’s beloved.  

שָׁלֹם | shâlôm

God’s covenant of peace is the covenant of שָׁלֹם | shâlôm, another difficult word to translate. Shalom brings with it the sense of completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. This is what the Servant Messiah makes possible. 

By צולם על ידי נואר, CC BY 2.5

Storm-Tossed City  

The ruins of pillaged Jerusalem will be rebuilt in splendor.  

I am about to set your stones in antimony 
    and lay your foundations with sapphires. 
I will make your pinnacles of rubies, 
    your gates of jewels, 
    and all your wall of precious stones. 
All your children shall be taught by the Lord, 
    and great shall be the prosperity of your children. 
In righteousness you shall be established 

Isaiah 54:11-14 (NRSVUE) 

The apostle John must have seen the vision of this same city. 

The holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 

Revelation 21:10-11 (NRSVUE, italics added)

  Never again would they have to fear opposition. 

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, 
    and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. 
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord 
    and their vindication from me, says the Lord. 

Isaiah 54:17 (NRSVUE) 

Just as Paul also passionately asserted, If God is for us, who can be against us?  No one and nothing!  

In all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For I am convinced that  

  • neither death,  
  • nor life,  
  • nor angels,  
  • nor rulers,  
  • nor things present,  
  • nor things to come,  
  • nor powers,  
  • nor height,  
  • nor depth,  
  • nor anything else in all creation  

will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Romans 8:37-39 (NRSVU, modifications added) 
New Jerusalem | By Sailko – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Our Deepest Longings 

Each of these images represents the deepest longings in a person’s heart. 

To be seen, heard, known, and loved no matter what.  

To be fruitful by doing something that is lasting and worthwhile, that will be established to last beyond our lifetimes.  

To live a life that has meaning and purpose.

To be complete, whole, perfect, contented and at peace. 

You and I and everyone else searches for these things in every aspect of life, in romance, family, work, religion, and other pursuits. God is saying all these things are found first and ultimately in God alone.  

Being secure in God’s love satisfies the deepest longings in one’s heart 

The only right place for any person to be is with God. The Lord is our Maker, and we owe God everything, our very lives. And yet, being joined with God answers every one of our deepest longings.

This is not a give-to-God-so-you-can-get-rich theology. This is not a quid pro quo gambit for prosperity.  The focus of faith is the Servant, not the blessings. This is give-to-God-because-you-are-rightfully-God’s theology, and God is by grace also ours. Then, when we give ourselves whole-heartedly to the Lord, we will discover God enlivens us in the deepest places of our hearts, souls, and spirits.  

Leave a Reply