Last Sunday we observed Palm Sunday, the celebration of the beginning of Holy Week as Christ entered Jerusalem for the final time of his earthly ministry. The day was fraught with Messianic expectation, as the news spread regarding this upstart prophet from Nazareth who was teaching with authority and performing incredible miracles. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, the people raised their voices with the expectation that an emancipator had come to deliver them. Their hope was that he would restore Israel to its former geo-political greatness. Once again they would be prosperous and powerful, resembling their former days when David sat upon his throne.
But Jesus had made no such promises. His Kingdom was not of this world. His rule was not political. He sought no throne other than upon the throne of the hearts of his people. So they killed him. On Sunday they sang his praises, and by Friday they were screaming for his crucifixion. All because he wasn’t the Messiah they expected.
Isaiah 54 speaks about the expectations we should have of Messiah and the gospel. A bit of review may be helpful. Because of their idolatry and disobedience, Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be deported and exiled. Though they would live as slaves in a foreign land, God would not forget them. God would deliver them and return them to their homeland, graciously restoring them to their homeland.
The first thing Isaiah said they would do is sing with joy.
Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, you who have never been in labor. For the desolate woman now has more children than the woman who lives with her husband,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1, NLT)
The opposite of joy is not sadness; its hopelessness. Isaiah called the people to sing with joy because their redeemer had not forgotten or abandoned them. They were not without hope, for their redeemer had not forsaken them.
But not only should they sing with joy, they should make preparations in accordance to what God was preparing to do in their midst.
“Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you back from your grief— as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:2-8, NLT)
Why was this preparation necessary? It was because the gospel does not operate in isolation. What we experience through Christ is not just for ourselves. It is like anything that is worthwhile; it is to be shared.