As we start the new year together, I want to spend some time talking and learning about the new things that God longs to do in our lives. The message of the Bible is that God wants to do new things. God works to transform. We can find stories all through the Bible about people God rescued from the scrap heap of life and transforming them into something new. And God is still doing that in 2013.
To understand what I’m talking about, you need to know a couple of things:
1) God loves people and will do everything to bring them into God’s family. He doesn’t want people wandering around out there by themselves with nowhere to belong.
2) People don’t always love God and sometimes they get themselves into trouble and as a result they end up bruised, battered, and broken.
In Isaiah 62, we read about God’s determination to bring people out of their trouble back into his own family. The context centers around the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem represents God’s people; the center of worship. At this point in Isaiah’s history God’s people have been exiled; Jerusalem broken and abandoned. It’s a long story, but if we go back about 2500 years we find that the people of Jerusalem had been snatched out of their own country because they had disobeyed God. While they were away, they recognized what they had done wrong and found that God was ready and willing to bring them back so they could serve God again.
Isaiah 62 describes what God is doing to restore people – to do something brand new; to bring hope and encouragement to a situation that is broken.
Here is the new hope that Isaiah communicates – God will give you a new name. The new name comes directly from God. (v.2 ) Have you ever thought about how important your name is? If I can confess to you – there was a long time in which I never liked my given name – “Ronald.” It always sounded too nerdy! Then to make matters worse, I had an elderly next door neighbor who was like an extra grandmother to me. She always insisted on calling me Ronnie! What a complex to put on a kid. So I never liked the name – it affected by self-esteem. When someone asked me my name, I always looked at the ground when I responded. Then when I was a teenager, I found out what my name meant – “wise leader/wise counselor.” I felt empowered now! It was like a new name; new meaning.
Names are critical – they can determine who we are; how we view ourselves and our purposes. In the Bible we read about people who got new names when God appointed them to do something special. For example, Abram became Abraham and Jacob became Israel; Saul became Paul; Simon became Peter. Why did God give people a new name? God was reshaping their identity and their purpose. God was making a new creation (2Cor. 5) The old things were gone and the new name reflected a new plan.
God said in Isaiah 62 that he wanted to give his people a new name because they would become new people, different from what they were. The new name reflected a new direction and purpose. Their old name reflected brokenness and desolation; the old name said that they had been abandoned. Not the new name – the new name communicates significance and meaning. The new name says that they will be as precious as an expensive jewel. God enjoys taking the ordinary and making it wonderful (John 2).
And then God goes deeper – God will heal your relationships.
(v 4) That may sound strange, but the idea here is that God’s people enter into a relationship with God as strong and important as marriage. It is called a covenant.
In the context of this passage the people were off in a foreign country, some people ridiculed them by saying “Your God has forsaken you; no one cares about you,” like they would make fun of a woman who desperately wanted a husband and couldn’t find one. But God says you won’t be an old maid any longer. You will be happily married. In the New Testament, Paul writes about the church as the bride of Christ. He says that just as a husband loves his wife so much he would be willing to die for her, so Christ loves the church. God works proactively to heal our broken relationship with him, and receives us as a member of God’s family.
When God heals and when God remakes you (and gives you a new name that communicates your destiny) God will give you a new purpose. At the end of this chapter God gives his people a purpose. Yes, God calls his people by a new name, but not just to make them feel good. God heals his relationship with them, but not just so they can save themselves. God has a purpose for his people. He has a task for them. What is the best thing for someone who is depressed and demoralized like these people were? To get their attention off themselves. God saves his people, not just so they can count their blessings, but so they can be a hope. Listen to v. 10. What does that mean? It means our job is to repair the road so people can find their way to God. Our job is to clear away the rubble so people don’t stumble. That purpose should be built into the DNA of God’s people.
It’s interesting that in the context of Isa. 62, we’ve got to look at Isa. 61. This passage is connected to Luke 4:18. These are the words Jesus uses to describe his mission. The reason God remakes us, heals us, gives us a new name is so that you and I can participate in the mission of Jesus.