Sermon Notes – January 20, 2019

Beulah Land – Isaiah 62:4

   2 Kings (chapter 21) tells of the reign of the most evil king of Judah—Manasseh.  His father Hezekiah had been a man of great faith and destroyed the idols in the high places of Judah.  Manasseh rebuilt them.  Hezekiah worshiped the one true God in the temple of Jerusalem.  Manasseh built altars for Baal and “worshiped all the host of heaven and served them” (v. 3), built altars to false gods even in the temple, “burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers.” (v. 6)

   Isaiah the prophet, who was active during the reigns of both Hezekiah and Manasseh, foresaw (decades before it happened) the Babylonian Captivity of Judah (2 Kings 20:17). The nation of Judah would be punished because they followed Manasseh through the wide gate and on the easy way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13) rather than follow Hezekiah through the narrow gate and on the hard way that leads to life. (7:14) Even though Manasseh himself would repent and be restored (2 Chronicles 33:12-13) he was not able to guide the people of Judah back to the LORD.

   What does any of this have to do with Isaiah 62:4?  In our Old Testament Reading (62:1-5) Isaiah foresaw (many more decades before it happened) the return of the exiles from Babylon and the restoration of Judah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Their just punishment brought the desired result.  They were humbled and repented of their idolatries and rebellions against God.  Isaiah foresaw it and “For Zion’s sake [he did] not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake [he would] not be quiet…”  He told them that God would give them a new name.  “You shall no more be termed Forsaken [Azubah], and your land shall no more be termed Desolate [Shemamah], but you shall be called “My Delight Is In Her [Hephzibah], and your land Married [Beulah]; for the LORD delights in you.”

   This is a potent message of God redeeming, forgiving, and restoring His people, reconciling them to Himself.  Isaiah (sometimes called the Fifth Evangelist because of his prophecies about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) proclaimed God’s wrath with undiluted force.  By God’s direction, however, the proclamation of wrath (Law) always yielded to the proclamation of God’s steadfast love (Gospel).

   What does any of this have to do with us?  Everything!  Through Isaiah God also warns us not to be led astray and also proclaims God’s ultimate goal is for us.  It is not punishment or destruction or damnation.  The goal is redemption, forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation through the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord calls us by a new name, Hephzibah (which, by the way, was the name of Manasseh’s mother) “My Delight Is In Her.”

   Paul quotes another prophet to announce our inclusion in God’s plan, “As indeed [God] says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not My people I will call “My People,” and her who was not beloved I will call “Beloved.”’  And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,” there they will be called “sons of the living God.”’” (Romans 9:25-26) [Random naming vs. deliberate naming]

   God, however, was always deliberate in giving new names that reflect “good news” changes in the lives of His people.  When God changed the name of the land from Shemamah (“Desolate”) to Beulah (“Bride, Married”) He was building up one of the great Gospel themes—God’s union with His people symbolized as a Bride (God’s people) and a Bridegroom (God).  [e.g. Song of Songs; Isaiah 54:5, 8; Hosea 2:16]

   Paul says that the profound mystery of marriage established in Eden (“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”) “refers to Christ and the church.”  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:31-32, 25-27) Beulah Land is Eden restored. Beulah Land is where we who were rightly called “sinners” or now declared by God to be “saints.” (1 Corinthians 1:2) Beulah Land was shown to our apostle John as our eternal home.  [Revelation 21:2-5]

 

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