God’s covenant people face trials in every age, but not every age is the same. We are not always the most accurate assessors of our own spiritual vitality. We tend to confuse ease with goodness. The testimony of history is that the church is frequently at her best when she is facing the most trying discomforts. Whether things may seem great or especially challenging, the promises of God always remain the same. Several of these divine commitments are given to God’s people in Isaiah 54.
First, God promises that the church will be a fruitful mother. For the one who desires to have children, there is little that could be more disheartening than the news that you are unable to do so. Old Testament heroes like Sarah or Hannah faced this trial. But when the Lord took away their reproach, it was the beginning of a new day.
In the days of Isaiah, Israel was like a barren woman. Yet in words that remind us of the contest between Sarah and Hagar, God announces that the children of the desolate one would be more than the children of the one who was married. Paul quotes this verse to refer to the blessings of the New Covenant era. The church would have “offspring” and would “possess the nations.”
It may be hard to sort out some of the imagery being used here, but the promise of God is clear. Though Israel might seem to be barren, through the blessing of God she will be fruitful. Her descendants will not be restricted to the Promised Land in Palestine, for her mission will have an international scope. God has made a promise that will not be broken. His church will be a fruitful wife.
Second, God promises that the church would be a beloved bride. Again, there are many who are ashamed because they feel alone and unloved. They long to know the love of the right man. The church will not have this fate. She will have a husband. In fact, her husband will be God, who is her Maker. This does not mean that God will abandon Israel. The Lord will fulfill His promises to His ancient people. He hid His face from the descendants of Jacob for a brief moment, but with everlasting love the Lord will have compassion on them forever.
The church will not only be a fruitful mother and a beloved wife, she will also be a glorious temple—a beautiful building rich with precious gems. Her foundations, her gates, and her walls will all be made with rare stones of great worth. It is clear that God is actually referring to people here rather than to treasuries, for Isaiah writes of children being taught by the Lord. This is a promise of a building of living stones, and a wonderful glimpse into future days when a godly seed will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, this imagery of precious stones and a glorious building was displayed through the temple itself and through the gems that stood for the tribes of Israel on the breastplate of the Levitical priests. The same symbols are also prominent in the descriptions of the church in the New Testament books written by Peter, Paul, and John. There we learn that the long-expected cornerstone of the final temple will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. With the foundation of apostles and prophets in perfect alignment with that one cornerstone, the church is being built up into a holy temple of the Lord.
Finally, God promises that the church will be safe from all enemies. Throughout the present age we may face the wrath of enemies, but this final promise will also have its day of perfect fulfillment. Even now we believe that no weapon that is formed against the church can ultimately prosper, since our final life is a heavenly one. Even when our foes would steal away the life of one of God’s elect, at the point of death here below the Lord’s beloved child is brought into His glorious presence above.
All of these promises of God are secured for us in Jesus Christ, who is our great King, our covenant Head, our solid Rock, and our Maker and Defender. The church will be a fruitful mother, a beloved bride, and a glorious temple. She will be perfectly safe from all her enemies. This is the blood-bought destiny of all the servants of the Lord.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of the Harvest, You are bringing forth children for the desolate woman. We are the descendants that You have made for the glory of Your Holy Servant, Jesus. He is the Lord of Hosts and our Husband. Your people were cast off in their sin, but now they are being brought back home in Your divine compassion. Your steadfast promise is fulfilled in the One who is both just and justifier. Therefore we rejoice in You and in the covenant of peace with which You have made us glad. We are precious stones now in Your holy temple. The day without fear will soon come in all perfection, and we will be changed from glory to glory. Even today, no weapon fashioned against us will prosper.