Jerusalem's Future - Isaiah 62

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©October 9th, 2022 by Rev. Rick Goettsche SERIES: Isaiah
As we’ve gone through Isaiah, we’ve encountered all sorts of different things. We’ve seen Isaiah’s call, Isaiah’s warnings to the people of Israel, the destruction of Israel, and the promise that God isn’t done with them yet. This morning we turn our attention to Isaiah 62, where God makes promises about the future of Jerusalem and how God’s people should respond to these promises.
Isaiah 62 is a challenging passage because it raises many questions but doesn’t give answers to most of those questions.
· Who is speaking? Is it God or Isaiah?
· When did this occur? Was it before, during, or after the destruction of Jerusalem?
· Are the promises about Jerusalem about the earthly city or something bigger?
While there are some unanswered questions with this passage, it does have some clear teachings that are wonderfully encouraging, and that’s where we are going to direct our focus this morning as we unpack Isaiah 62.

God’s Plan for His People

The opening verses of Isaiah 62 offer some wonderful promises to God’s people.
1 Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. 3 The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4 Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. 5 Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. (Isaiah 62:1-5, NLT)
As I mentioned earlier, we aren’t sure whether God or Isaiah is the speaker. Regardless, we know God has inspired these words and they give us a picture of God’s love for His people. He does not give up on them and has a plan to restore and honor them.
These promises would have been precious to the people of Israel. Especially after the destruction of Jerusalem and during the subsequent exile, they would have been a tremendous comfort, because it reminds the people that God hasn’t turned His back on them. God had a plan to restore and redeem His people, no matter how things looked right now. Imagine how we’d feel if God made such a promise to the United States. It’s a wonderfully encouraging promise.
Throughout this passage, Isaiah makes promises referring to Zion or Jerusalem. I believe it is clear from the context here (and elsewhere in Isaiah and throughout scripture) that these references are not so much about a specific earthly city as they are a symbolic term for God’s people. When He speaks of Zion being the Bride of God, we know that image is often used in scripture to refer to the Church—God’s chosen people. So when God makes these promises about restoring Zion and saying that it will no longer be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land”, it is right for us to also hear that He is saying that His chosen people are not forsaken. And we should hear in these verses not only a promise to the people of Israel in Isaiah’s day, but a promise to us as well—as everyone who believes is part of God’s chosen people. So the promise that God does not abandon His people and has a plan for us is good news not just for the people in Isaiah’s day, but us as well.
It is interesting that He says that the salvation of Zion blazes like a burning torch. Why does God’s salvation of His people burn like a torch? It is because it’s God who is doing all the work, and as people see the changes in God’s people, it points them to the Lord, who is making these changes. We must never forget that our hope and our salvation come from God alone. If we are placing our hope anywhere else, we will be disappointed.
So these opening verses teach us that no matter what you are facing, you can keep trusting that God is working. We can get discouraged for lots of reasons: because of sin, persecution, or because things just aren’t going the way we think they should. It is often tempting to think God has given up on us, but these verses remind us that no matter what happens in our lives, God promises He isn’t done with us.

A Call to Diligent Prayer

The next section sees Isaiah calling people to diligent prayer. The picture of prayer we see in these verses should challenge us greatly.
6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord. 7 Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn to Jerusalem by his own strength: “I will never again hand you over to your enemies. Never again will foreign warriors come and take away your grain and new wine. 9 You raised the grain, and you will eat it, praising the Lord. Within the courtyards of the Temple, you yourselves will drink the wine you have pressed.” (Isaiah 62:6-9, NLT)
Here Isaiah speaks to the watchmen of Israel and tells them to pray boldly and persistently for God to keep His promises. This is the challenge I believe He issues to every believer today as well. We should continue to pray boldly for God to do what only God can do.
Prayer is a difficult discipline, partially because we approach it differently from the way we have conversations with other people. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation with God. It’s also easy for us to neglect our prayer lives because no one will force us to do it and no one knows what our prayer lives are like but us. But I think prayer is also difficult because often when we pray for something God doesn’t immediately do what we ask. Because of this, we often give up, and our prayer life (and spiritual life in general) suffers.
So why doesn’t God always answer our prayers the way we want? There are several reasons. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what we’re asking. We think we know what is best for us, but sometimes we unknowingly ask God for things that would harm us. And sometimes I think God tells us no because He has something even better planned for us. It’s like a parent telling their child they can’t have a snack right now, because they know dinner is almost ready.
Sometimes I think it feels like God doesn’t answer our prayers because He has chosen to delay. God isn’t necessarily telling us no, He is saying, “not yet.” Isaiah says here that when we know that we are praying for things God has promised in His word, we should be persistent in our praying. I love that Isaiah says, “Give the Lord no rest until He completes His work.” That kind of makes it sound like we are just supposed to keep bugging God until He does what we want.
Jesus gives us a different perspective on this idea of persistent prayer. He says that if you go to a neighbor in the middle of the night and ask for help, if you keep asking, he’ll eventually get out of bed and give you the help you need. His point is that if even your grumpy old neighbor will eventually get up and help you, then how much more can we be certain the Lord will help us when we ask?
Our goal in persistent prayer is not to wear down God until He does what we want, it is to keep His promises ever before us as we ask Him to act and wait for Him to answer. I love the acronym PUSH for prayer. It stands for Pray Until Something Happens. Sometimes God doesn’t change our situation until He changes our hearts or attitudes. Spending time with the Lord and baring our hearts before Him has a funny way of changing us. As we spend time with the Lord, we will find our hearts, our priorities, and our thought processes get more aligned with His. Often prayer will change us before it changes our circumstances. We should pray until something happens, recognizing that sometimes what will happen is God changing our hearts.
Verses 8 and 9 raise some potential questions for us, especially if you are familiar with the history of Israel at all. When God promises that He will never allow Jerusalem to be handed over to its enemies again, question what that means. We know that in 168 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to Jerusalem and tried to set up his own rule, even desecrating the temple. In AD 70, Rome completely destroyed Jerusalem. Israel did not exist as a nation again until 1948. And even today, Israel does not have control of Jerusalem, and a Muslim mosque sits on the temple mount! So how can we say that God has kept His promises to never allow Jerusalem to be handed over to its enemies?
Remember when we read about Jerusalem and Zion in these verses, I don’t believe they are referring to the earthly city of Jerusalem. Rather, I believe they are promises to God’s chosen people that He will protect and provide for them. In addition, in the book of Revelation God promises that there will be a New Jerusalem, a place where God will dwell with man and where things will be restored forever. He promises us that one day we will all live in this city where we no longer need to worry about war, or fighting, or destruction. We will live in the Jerusalem built by God. I believe this is the right way to understand the promises in verses 8 and 9.

Clear the Way

With that in mind, listen to the concluding verses of Isaiah 62.
10 Go out through the gates! Prepare the highway for my people to return! Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders; raise a flag for all the nations to see. 11 The Lord has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ ” 12 They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.” And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place” and “The City No Longer Forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:10-12, NLT)
In these verses God moves from giving His people hope and encouragement to giving them marching orders. He says that because we know He will keep His promises, because He will give us peace and salvation and a city where peace will reign forever, we should be preparing the way for people to come to that city. How do people come to the New Jerusalem? It is only through Jesus Christ.
We are supposed to be making the way clear for people to come to Jesus. We are to raise a flag to signal to people where to go. And He tells us to smooth out the road and pull out the boulders so people can come to Him. These commands are an important mission for us today.
We must ask ourselves, what obstacles exist to people coming to God? What keeps people from the gospel message? One of the greatest obstacles to the gospel is the message itself. It is hard for people to give up the idea that they are basically good people. It is hard for people to come to grips with the reality of their own sinfulness and to see their sin through the eyes of a holy God. We cannot make that any easier for people—ultimately they must come to a point of submission to Christ. But there are often many other obstacles that keep people from even getting to that point. Our job is to try to remove as many as possible so everyone can hear and understand the message of the gospel.
Christians through the ages have worked hard to remove obstacles. We work to make sure people have bibles they can understand. In America, that means producing a translation that is readable and understandable. Around the world, it means working to produce accurate translations in people’s native languages so everyone can have access to God’s word. Christians have tried to provide for people’s physical needs so they might be open to hearing the gospel message. This is the driving force behind many Christian aid organizations.
These are all big things, but I think there are simple things we can be engaged in to help remove the obstacles to the message as well. We can speak in a way people understand. We often use churchy words when trying to speak about Jesus. Most of us aren’t even aware that we do that. Unfortunately, when we do that we cannot effectively communicate with people who don’t know what those words mean. The best way to see whether you’re communicating effectively is to talk to others about your faith and see if they understand. Kids a good test for us, because kids will tell you if they don’t know what you’re talking about. Practice finding ways to explain the gospel message in a way that even a child could understand. If you can do that, you’ll be able to explain it to anyone. It’s harder than you might think—but we can remove a big obstacle to the gospel by presenting it in a way people can understand.
We can address people’s questions honestly.Many people have the mistaken notion that the Christian faith asks you to turn off your brain and “just believe”. Sometimes I think they get this idea because Christians are afraid of questions and we come up with excuses to avoid them entirely. We can help get rid of this idea by engaging with people and helping them see the Christian faith is rational. Let people see that we aren’t afraid of questions—even if we don’t always have all the answers. That’s what we’re trying to do here with our Q&A sessions—we want people to know that God tells us to use our brains, not to shut them off. Don’t shy away from people with difficult questions—rally to them and help them see that the Lord is actually the answer they are searching for.
We can try to remove ourselves as an obstacle.Most people who are hesitant toward the church or God have a story of how the church or the people within it have hurt them. Almost any time you talk to someone who tells you they used to go to church, it’s safe to assume they’ve been hurt by the church. In those situations, I find it helpful to simply ask, “What happened?” and then listen with love.
The way we relate to each other and the way we treat the world around us communicates a great deal to people about the God we serve and the gospel message. We deal lovingly with those inside and outside the church. We must strive to be consistent—the people we are on Sunday morning should be the same people we are come Monday, or Friday or Saturday night. Often the greatest obstacle to people coming the Christ isn’t Christ at all—it’s us. The good news is, that’s an obstacle we can actually tackle by living as God commands and striving to be consistent.
God tells us that we should be doing what we can to smooth the way for people to come to the New Jerusalem. It is only through Him that people can find forgiveness and new life. We have a responsibility to hold out that hope to others and do everything we can to make it so people can truly hear, understand, and believe it.

Conclusion

To be honest, this is kind of a strange passage. When I first read it, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. But I think as we take the time to unpack it as we have this morning, we find there are some wonderfully practical lessons for us to learn.
First, God will not give up on us. Many times we feel alone, or that God must surely be so sick of us messing up that He will turn His back on us. These verses remind us that’s not true. God has chosen to save us and He will not give up on us. In the times when you doubt God’s love for you, you need look no further than the cross. There we see God’s love revealed—and Isaiah reminds us that God doesn’t give up on His people. So we should find courage and strength to keep moving forward, knowing He’s not done with you yet.
Second, we should be persistent in prayer. We need to look at prayer less as a way to get what we want and more as a way to bare our hearts to a trusted and wise friend. Even when what certain things weigh heavily on our hearts for a long time, the Lord welcomes us to come to Him—and He will help us. He doesn’t always change our circumstances, but often He changes us. We should remember to PUSH: pray until something happens—because God cares, and He keeps His promises.
Third, Jesus is what the world is looking for and we are His messengers. Our world is pretty hopeless. No one seems to believe that things can ever get better. And left to our own devices, they won’t! But Christ promises us a future that is better than we can fathom right now. But He alone is our hope—not any of the things our world holds out to us.
People in our world are desperately lost. We are becoming ever more isolated. Suicide is an epidemic, even in the richest country in the world. People are searching for meaning in every place they can, but it can only be found in God. The most loving thing we can do for others is to point them to Jesus. Our world needs to hear that they matter to God, that God cares about them and has made a way for them to be forgiven, have fellowship with Him, and enjoy Him forever. They need to hear that God gives us commands not because He wants to ruin our fun but because He loves us and wants what’s best for us. It’s no different than a parent setting boundaries for their children. Often children think the parents are ruining their fun, when in actuality the parents see things the children don’t. Our world desperately needs to hear this message. We should do whatever we can to make it so people can hear and understand this message.
Isaiah wrote these words to give hope and direction to the people of Israel, but they should give hope to us today too. Hope and assurance is found in Jesus Christ alone—so we need to embrace Him fully for ourselves, and help others to do the same.
©October 9th, 2022 by Rev. Rick Goettsche SERIES: Isaiah
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