Pictures in an Exhibition
Lord, You are the great encourager for all those who are down.
Read ISAIAH 54:1–17
“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
9 “To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
10 Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
11 “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.
14 In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
it will not come near you.
15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” (Psa. 66:5).
From one powerfully emotional chapter about a suffering man, we now turn to an equally powerfully emotional chapter about a flourishing woman. The redemption gained for her (Israel) by the servant is portrayed in a series of six glorious pictures about the family or the city.
For openers, there is the picture of the childless woman who astonishingly gives birth (1). Then, there’s the picture of her growing family that requires an expanding dwelling to accommodate them (2,3). Next is the picture of the restoration of a broken marriage (4–8). The husband may have walked out with good reason, leaving his wife deserted and shamed, but he has now returned to renew his commitment mixed with compassion. She is now secure and no longer ashamed. The fourth picture is of Noah (9,10) and of God’s promise of peace, post-flood. Israel’s exile may have felt as catastrophic as Noah’s flood, but God’s “covenant of peace” is now, as then, secure and unfailing. The fifth picture is of a rebuilt city, after it has been devastated by storms (11–15). The restored city is far more beautiful than before. The final picture takes us to the blacksmith’s, where weapons of destruction are forged (16,17). The blacksmith may dominate the picture but its true focal point is the one who made him and controls his work. God created the blacksmith to be his instrument to ensure that Israel will be vindicated.
This wonderful gallery of pictures inspires hope, as shame is banished and security assured. It also demands a reaction: sing, enlarge, expect and fear not. Israel’s experience of restoration after exile is nothing compared to our salvation in Christ. Surely, here is a song worth singing, action worth taking and trust worth exercising.
We constantly see images of cities destroyed by earthquakes, tsunamis or war. Consider what it costs to rebuild them. What can their rebuilding teach us about our salvation?
Lord, we thank You that You are for us and not against us, and that Your restorative hand is always at work in our lives.