Isaiah 61:10-62:3 Gifts for a Fashionable Faith
What did you get for Christmas? I wonder how many times we will be asked this in the next few days. Did you get what you hoped for? Did you have to pretend that you liked something that is already destined to be returned or re-gifted whenever possible? I wonder how many of you got clothes. I remember in my childhood years I hated getting clothes. I wanted toys. It is hard to play with clothes. Now, however, I love getting clothes. This brings up the next question we are likely to hear, “Did you get that outfit, that shirt, those shoes, or coat for Christmas?”
Isaiah is telling the people who have gone into exile that God has some wonderful clothes for them. Clothes that are a gift, a Christmas gift, even though they really do not know what that means yet.
What are these clothes God gives as a gift? They are garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness, a bridegroom’s a garland, and the jewels of a bride. To be clothed in salvation means a person again walks in the life of God and not in the curse of death any longer. It means the shame and pain of our sin is replaced by grace and glory. God’s promise to us is this, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55 NIV)
To be robed in righteousness means we are given the gift of guidance, of truth, of living in the light of God’s grace and wisdom. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are told, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24 NIV) How can we know we are robed in righteousness? We can know by examining our lives. What are your desires? What are your goals? How is our Lord seen in your live? If you have a hard time with these questions, you may need to ask yourself why? Remember the story of the emperor’s new clothes? The emperor was deceived into believing he was robed in clothes that a fool could not see but in reality, he was naked. If your life does not show righteousness, better make sure your religion is not one of deception. To be clothed in righteousness is to be in the process of being changed by the Holy Spirit.
Then there is the garland. Garland was a sign of one who was to be honored at a festival, a marriage. Being in exile was not a reason for celebration. The prophet is letting the people know that “Weeping may linger for the night (exile), but joy comes with the morning (deliverance by the Lord). (Ps. 30:5 NRS) A time for them to be honored, to have a celebration has been promised.
And the jewels of a bride are a symbol of her value to the groom and as a reminder of the groom’s commitment to her. The prophet wanted to remind the people God had not forgotten them and God desired to be with his “bride” (those whom God loves). Throughout both the Old and New Testament there are numerous verses that speak of our value to God and God’s commitment to us. Life can be very stressful for every human being on this planet. We face global warming, rising crime rates, a radical polarization of different political groups, pandemics, growing economic worries, isolation, and the list can go on and on. It is good to know we do not have to face it alone. God has assured us that God will be with us. God will not abandon us. God incarnate will come again. We are promised, “On that day the LORD their God will save them for they are the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.” (Zech. 9:16 NRS)
Next, God uses the analogy of plants, gardening, and the changing of seasons to continue with the message of what is to come. How we dress in winter is not how we dress in the Spring. Right now, in our part of the world, not much is growing, well if the seasons were not made so crazy by global warming, things would not be growing. The plants would be dormmate, awaiting the warmth of Spring. Yes, we are in winter, a time associated with cold, dying, freezing, and desolation. Yet we trust, we believe, we feel confident that Spring with come with warmth, new life, and all the color and positive consolation that Spring can bring.
God’s people had been in the grasp of the desolation of exile. The prophet brought a message of hope, a reminder of God’s forgiveness and faithfulness. Desolation is a hard part of living. No one escapes it.
One of the best ways to deal with desolation is to remember in desolation we need to seek to be patient, which is contrary to the difficulties in which a person is in and let such a person think they will soon be consoled, employing against the desolation the assurance of God’s consolation. God does not and will not abandon us. Also, we need, while in consolation to remember the feeling of consolation to face the desolation that will come to find strength for such a time. Yes, desolation will come, be it diseases, defeats, debts, depressions, or deaths. Remembering God’s consolation is a warm covering during cold hard times.
The purpose of a prophet was not to predict the future. Prophets do not predict they pronounce. They either remind the people of what God expects, warn them of the desolation to come, or give them a word of hope, of consolation, in telling them of God’s promises to those who love God. The prophet is striving to get the people of God to remember God’s love and promises.
In verses 2 and 3 of chapter 62 we find the word vindication. This word has two primary meanings. First, it can mean the fact of proving that what someone said or did was right or true, after other people thought it was wrong. Secondly, it can mean the fact of proving that someone is not guilty or is free from blame, after other people have blamed them. However, the word vindication is an interpretation of the phrase “see righteousness.” Why did the translators use the word vindication? Why because God’s people had been written off. They had been conquered, taken into exile, and were scorned for their faith. If their God was so powerful, how come this happened to them? Those who thought these thoughts were in for a surprise. God would restore the people. God would again let it be known that God was the one true God, and his chosen people would find the promises of the prophet are true. This is how the world would “see righteousness. This is a vindication of their faith.
Finally, a new name and a crown. A new beginning, a new life as royalty, heaven’s royalty.
I hope you have received these Christmas gifts. God does want you to have them not only for December 25th but for every day of your life. God offers these gifts to those who want to believe, who want to have faith, and are willing to accept the life these gifts offer. But be careful, there are knockoffs, fake gifts, and deceivers out there who will willingly lead you down a path of disappointment, disillusion, desolations, and defeat. Our journey in life will not be easy. If we try to walk it alone, we will fail. Please, please let the Lord dress you for success. Make you choice to say yes today. Don’t waste another minute. Open these gifts with you heart. God is waiting for you.