“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor!” Isaiah 54:1a
Ten days into the new year I can’t shake the promise stalking me since New Year’s Eve. It lurks at every corner, appears with every bend of thought. As sinister as that sounds, it is more like the security of a strong presence on a dark street at night, or the warmth of an embrace when waking from a bad dream.
That’s exactly what Isaiah 54 was meant to be to the people of Israel–comfort after a time of desolation. The people were bereft, abandoned, scattered, grieving and shaken. Yet suddenly they are being told to sing. To sing in spite of their sad state. How does a barren and desolate woman sing? The answer follows in a promise, the promise of blessing and a relationship with God.
“For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1b)
“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.” (vs. 3)
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth…
For your maker is your husband…
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer…
For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit…
with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:4-8)
Such tender, soothing words from a loving maker continue:
“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” (vs. 11)
“In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.” (vs. 14)
Oppression is far away, because fear is removed. How is this even possible? How can one so oppressed, afraid and grief-stricken believe that good, beyond imagining, can happen? That answer is found before the promise of such abundant blessing, in Isaiah 53.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief […] He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6).
He (Jesus) was oppressed, and He was afflicted, led like a lamb to slaughter. (Isaiah 53:7) He knew greater grief than I will ever know, but because of HIS grief, I have the assurance that MY grief will not last forever. The promise of restoration and blessing and a glorious future are mine.
As I look back on the last year and the loss of family members to the ravages of cancer, the new diagnoses of cancer in close friends, see accidents and illness taking their brutal toll, and think of the mothers I know whose arms are now empty, I feel the weight of so much grief. But I know the One who bore those griefs on His own beaten and bloody back, who was stricken, crushed, and pierced to bring me peace. My sins and sorrows were heaped on Him and the anguish of His soul is where satisfaction is made. Because Jesus Christ bore my sorrows first, I am not crushed beneath the weight of sin and grief. I can do as Isaiah said in chapter 54 and break forth into singing! This grief is passing, but the promised reward is everlasting. It’s a reward that will wipe sorrow and despair from memory.
I am embraced and secure and comforted, and it stirs a song way down deep that can’t help but be sung.
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.” Isaiah 54:4
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. Isaiah 54:1
©Erika Rice 2015