A Land Called Married

Isaiah describes the “marriage” between God and His people. Christians can learn much for our marriages as well.

My youngest daughter was fighting a virus that sapped her strength and made her miserable. Good movies brighten her mood, and soon we were enjoying the six-hour British Broadcasting Company (BBC) version of Pride and Prejudice. Based on a classic novel by Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice mixes romance, social commentary, and morality, detailing the twists and turns of courtship and marriage among the daughters of the aristocratic Bennett family in early 19th century England. The movie poignantly reveals how vastly different society’s view of marriage was two hundred years ago.

In Isaiah 62, the Lord encourages His people, promising them future goodness and glory after their defeat and exile.  God uses the metaphor of Israel as His bride, telling His readers that their land would no longer be called “Desolate” but be called “Married” (v4). Most people in my experience would not juxtapose these two words, partly because “desolate” refers to a place “in bleak and dismal emptiness” and “married” refers to a relationship between two people. Isaiah 62 is not about human marriage per se, but neither is it about the physical land of Israel. Rather, it is about the restored relationship between God and His people. As such, it becomes a model of how human marriage under God can be, and should be.

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Whence Identity?

A Christian view on how and where we find and build our identity. 

“To be a Turk is to be a Muslim” our Turkish tour guide announced during our tour of the Seven Churches in Revelation. I asked him why he believed that, and he replied that since Allah made him a Turk, clearly Allah intended for him to be a Muslim. Both his logic and his history were faulty. While the descendants of the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks are overwhelmingly Muslim, the modern descendants of the Khazar Turks are largely Jewish. Present-day Gagauz and Chuvash Turks are predominantly Christian.

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Living While Dead

To strive is human, but give up the ambitions and worries of this world, seeking only God, is to have life as He intends.

Our church regularly performs Infant Dedication, a ceremony in which the parents dedicate themselves publicly to raise their child as a Christian and the congregation dedicates itself to supporting the parents in this holy work. Parents choose a special verse for their child, one intended to guide them in the ways of Christ through their lives. Psalm 23:1, Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16, and Philippians 4:13 are popular.

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The Identity of the Child in Isaiah 7:14

God uses normal means to accomplish wonderous effects, and He does so for now, for the future, and for eternity.

Judah was in desperate straits.  The strength and prosperity of King Uzziah had given way to the weakness and poverty of King Ahaz.  Tilgath Pileser III, the ascendant ruler of Assyria, was expanding with a mighty army and his neighbors, Syria and Israel, had attacked Judah to force it to ally with them against Assyria.  Judah had suffered a severe defeat, and at that moment, Ahaz was not thinking about something that was going to happen 730 years later.  Probably, Isaiah wasn’t either.  Therefore the child promised in Isaiah 7:14 was not, at least in Ahaz’ mind, the future Messiah.  Isaiah had promised him a sign that God would deliver him and his nation from the combined might of Israel and Syria and the child was to be the sign.  The sign was not that a young woman would bear a child; this is an ordinary part of human experience.  Rather it was that the birth of this child would begin the countdown to destruction for Judah’s enemies.  Specifically, the kings that Ahaz feared would be destroyed before the child reached preadolescence.

That prophecy was most likely fulfilled by the birth of Isaiah’s second son, Maher-shalal-hashbaz (MSH).  According to Herbert M .Wolf, “almah” most reasonably refers to a young woman of marriageable age, who in Hebrew culture was expected to be a virgin.  The event in 8:1-2 is likely the marriage ceremony between Isaiah and his new wife, and the child is conceived in verse 3.  Isaiah’s prophetess was a virgin when she married but obviously not a virgin when she conceived.  In verse 4, Isaiah clarified his prophecy; this time saying that before his son was even old enough to talk, Israel and Syria would be no more.  Thus MSH was the immediate fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.

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