DELIGHT GREATLY IN THE LORD
ISAIAH 61:10---62:3 JANUARY 5, 2003
10I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
621 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.
2The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
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Dearest Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
Christmas is over. That’s the kind of attitude the world wants us to feel. All of the specials in the stores have been packed up and put away if they haven’t been sold out. School starts again. It seems as if the world says, ‘and now we’ve got Christmas packed away. We can wait another year before we have to take it out of the storage places.’ When we look at our lives, we realize that Christmas is never over. In fact, as believers, Christmas is just beginning. It is during this time of year we can sit back and reflect on that role of the Lord’s light that He bestows on us through His Son at Christmas. We can remind ourselves of the blessings that you and I have received because of the birth of our Savior. Peter describes it in his letter when he says: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls"(1 PETER 1:8,9). Peter wrote this thousands of years after Isaiah. If you listen closely, you hear the same thing Isaiah said. He says: 10I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. He, too, realizes that he has received the goal of his faith—the salvation of his soul. That joy in Isaiah’s words we will use as our theme this morning.
DELIGHT GREATLY IN THE LORD
I. We are clothed with garments of salvation
II. We are able to share this crown of glory
I. We are clothes with garments of salvation
Isaiah was a prophet sent by God. His main prophecy was a pronouncement of judgement against God’s people for their disobedience. Yet when it came to these times, when he had the opportunity to announce God’s great gospel news to them, he became excited, quite joyous for the fact that they still were held in God’s hands even though they had disobeyed Him time and again. He still cared for them. Isaiah said, ‘I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.’ Isaiah was filled with joy and excitement and it flows over into the next chapter as we see. He tells why…because he realizes the Lord has pardoned his sins also. ‘For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.’ Very often the prophets weren’t dressed very well. They often wore sackcloth and ashes to show their sinfulness. Jeremiah, the prophet after Isaiah, would do that quite often. Now, Isaiah says, those clothes are taken away. He’s already got a garment of salvation, a robe of righteousness.
In order that the people might better understand that, he uses a common comparison that stands for them to better understand it and for us today. Isaiah writes, ‘He has…”arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.“’ The people thought of the time of the wedding, a time of great celebration, a time of rejoicing. The same goes for today. The bridegroom and the bride—can anyone picture two happier people than on the day of their wedding? That’s what Isaiah says; it’s just like that. It’s like the great joy and expectation on the day of the wedding for the bride and bridegroom. He says, ‘So the Lord has clothed me with these garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness!’
Isaiah realized also, like every believer, it wasn’t because he deserved it. It wasn’t because he had earned it. It wasn’t even because he went out of his way to find salvation, but because the Lord found him and provided him with salvation. He uses another comparison for us. 11For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, (speaking to those who would plant—you can’t grow anything unless you have soil and water. The ground and soil makes the seed grow. It is the Lord who really does it.) Isaiah goes on to say that: so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. All nations would end up seeing the righteousness and praise of the Lord.
First of all, the children of Israel would see the righteousness of the Lord and they would praise Him for it. Then that righteousness and praise would also be for the whole world. Those garments of salvation would not be for just a few people, weren’t meant just for the children of Israel, but the Lord forgave the sins of the whole world. He has covered up the whole world with His garments of salvation. You and I today rejoice! We are just like Isaiah in that we can say we delight greatly in the Lord. As we look at our life, we realize that we, too, have nothing to offer the Lord except our sinfulness, our wicked ways, and yet the Lord, through His Son has covered us up with a robe of righteousness—not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, but because of His great love for us.
John, when he wrote the book of Revelation, was given insight. It was quite a revelation because heaven itself was revealed to him. He saw into heaven and he saw the people that were there. He saw the angels, he saw the elders and he saw people worshipping the Lamb of God. His question was, ‘who are these people? How did they get here?’ The answer that he was given is the answer that still stands for us today. There is only one way to get there and that is to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He says: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb"(REVELATION 7:14).
That’s what you and I do today, don’t we? We celebrate the Lord’s Supper today where the Lord reminds us that with His very own precious blood our Savior has washed away our sins. Jesus has taken that robe which is darkened by sin and made it white and pure with His blood. We are clothed with that. We’ve been clothed with the righteousness of Christ for a long time. It’s good to reflect on that too. When did that take place? When we’re born into this world, no matter how cute and innocent we look as infants, we still are God’s enemies. It is hard for anyone who is an enemy of someone to get close to them personally. You and I know, once again by God’s grace, through the power of His Word with the water, baptism has made us His children. He covered up our sinfulness with the washing of water with the Word. In Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ"(GALATIANS 3:26,27). We’re still clothed with sinfulness because of our sinful nature, but over that sinfulness we are now clothed with Christ through our baptism, the hearing of His word, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. If we want to picture God as looking down on the earth and looking at us, what does He see? He sees Christ’s righteousness covering us up. He sees you and I as believers rejoice greatly in the Lord (just as Isaiah says…’I delight greatly in the Lord.’) My soul rejoices in God because He doesn’t see my sins anymore. He sees the blazing white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Our lives are changed by it.
You and I know that for many, Christmas comes and goes. It is past. It is over with. Some are so happy to have it boxed up and put away they aren’t really anxious for it to come around next year because of the world in which we live. It’s a world darkened by sin. It’s a world darkened with all sorts of wickedness. You and I, then, who are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, do make a difference. Our clothing is not just righteousness, but the gifts God has given us. The next verse explains this. "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience"(COLOSSIANS 3:12). Those words sound the opposite of the world today, don’t they? We don’t hear too much about patience or kindness, humility or gentleness. The world doesn’t operate that way. We live in this world. The Lord reminds us as we reflect on our own lives; we see how much God has loved us. He has clothed us with righteousness. He’s forgiven all of our sins. It’s all the more important for us then, to display those traits of Christian clothing—of humility, kindness, gentleness and patience, especially to the people around us who aren’t used to seeing those things but who need to see them.
It is one way that we are like Isaiah then that we ‘delight greatly in the Lord; that our soul rejoices in God’s salvation.’ We’re clothed in garments of salvation and as believers
II. We are able to share this crown of glory
Chapter 61 ends, chapter 62 begins. It’s an arbitrary division put in the Bible so that when we’re going through verses and chapters we can find them easily. The feeling of rejoicing, the feeling of the joy of Isaiah carries from one chapter to the next. He says: 621 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet. For the sake of the church (Zion) he cannot keep silent; for the sake of the holy city of Jerusalem, he can’t remain quiet. What needs to take place? “till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” He says, ‘Yes, I have come to the knowledge of God’s judgement, but also God’s good news of salvation which has come to the ends of the earth.’ He says he’s not going to hide them, but he wants them to shine out like the morning sun; he wants them to shine in the night like a blazing torch that cannot be hidden. Isaiah says to make that happen, he’s going to rejoice greatly in the word and delight greatly in the Lord’s salvation.
He tells then what is going to happen…that this righteousness, this salvation is not just for the children of Israel, but also for all nations. He says: 2The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. When you look at the history of the children of Israel after reading the Old Testament, we find that the people who were around the children of Israel realized yes, the Lord God was with them. There were many times when Israel who was a much smaller nation, defeated great armies because the Lord was with them. Time after time, the kings had to say, yes, the Lord God is the true God, because he protected the children of Israel.
We take a look at the New Testament and think of Herod. Remember when the wise men came to Herod and said, ‘Where is the King that was born?’ They were following the star. Herod didn’t want to admit it, but he had seen the Lord’s righteousness. We know that Herod had small children killed in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus and his parents had left by then. That righteousness, the Word of God, shone like a blazing torch. That bothered Herod so much that he did that despicable act of putting children to death. Let all kings see your glory. They still do so today.
Isaiah then finally says, (talking to the believers), “you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. 3You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Again, there is great reason for rejoicing. He says to the children of Israel, ‘You will be a crown jewel in the Lord’s crown of glory.’ That was important for the children of Israel because they didn’t often think of themselves that way. They looked at themselves and said, ‘Well, we’re the children of Israel. We’re just a small nation. All those around us are greater.’ They didn’t look very important in the history of the world. The world wouldn’t look at them as very important either in the sense that they weren’t a great nation. They didn’t have great influence or great wealth except from the house and line of David came the Savior…so they had the greatest influence of all.
That’s the crown that the Lord talks about…a crown that you and I are able to share, that you and I are a part of. He tells these people that they are going to be called by a new name. You and I as believers are called by a new name. No longer are we called forsaken. We are called forgiven. In the passages that we’ve read already, we’re called the children of God; no longer enemies of God or foreigners or aliens, but God’s children. We belong to Him. We’re even called His crown. As Zechariah says: "The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown"(ZECHARIAH 9:12). He calls them jewels in his crown for the believers. He says, “He will save us like a shepherd” so we are His sheep. Of course, as you read the scriptures, that new name that the Lord calls us goes on and on and on. First and foremost, the most precious one is that we’re His children; children who know how much our Father loves us and cares for us. He says we’re able to share that crown of glory.
Again, going back to the example of the world around us, we live in a very competitive world. The world says if we keep working hard, we can compete, we can become powerful, we can become famous, we can become rich and wealthy. That is important to the world. If we look at it, as we grow in the knowledge and wisdom of salvation, we realize those things aren’t so important. Solomon wrote in Proverbs to enjoy life. We realize what God gives us is a gift. To be satisfied with our day-to-day labors is a gift of God. We become so wrapped up in the present. We need to look ahead to the future. Paul described it. He was maybe one of the first ones that put the importance of physical exercise along with spiritual growth. He talked about training for the race; for being an athlete and a competitor. His focus was the race of life, attaining victory in eternity. "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; (the world says we work for a crown of glory, we work for a crown of wealth, we work for a crown of power—it doesn’t last) but we do it to get a crown that will last forever"(1 CORINTHIANS 9:25). Paul says we do it for a crown that lasts forever. The Lord has given us the ability to train, to strengthen ourselves as we grow in the knowledge of salvation. For eternity!
That crown of eternity, which is ours by God’s free gift, is something we can share with others. All around us there are people who are sad and troubled because of things in this world. They forget that there is more to this life than life. There is eternity. There is eternal life to look forward to for everyone. God gives us that ability by the knowledge of our salvation to share that light of salvation. Sometimes we do it in the simplest of ways, like when we’re clothed with gentleness and kindness. When we show those things, that’s enough to let our light shine. Daniel explained it this way: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever"(DANIEL 12:3). That’s what he calls us as believers. You and I have been clothed with Christ’s garments of salvation so that now, you and I will be stars that shine in the brightness of heaven. This is especially true in our day and age where the world seems to be becoming darker. News stories are never very encouraging, but discouraging; never very promising, but always taking away promises. It’s all the more important for us to shine like stars.
It’s all the more important to remind ourselves that Christmas isn’t over, is it? Christmas is really just beginning. Now is the time that you and I really celebrate. The next few weeks we’re going to be looking at Epiphany. January 6, tomorrow, is the traditional date of Epiphany, when we assume the wise men came to Bethlehem. It is known as the Gentile Christmas. You and I celebrate Christmas every day with joy, rejoicing in our heart. We have probably put away our Christmas decorations (or soon will), but never put away that light of Christ too far back in the corner of our hearts. We let it come out to the front of our Christian living so that we can be like Isaiah. He could hardly contain himself. “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.” We realize he was able to share Christ’s crown of glory, not just with these believers, but also with everyone.
The psalm writer writes: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever"(PSALM 30:11,12). As we pack up our Christmas and put away the decorations to gather dust for a year, may we always keep our Christmas light shining because Christ does clothe us with garments of salvation. He has given us reason to rejoice! Be thankful to God day after day, even forever. Like Isaiah, we delight greatly in the Lord. My soul rejoices in my God for all He has done for every one of us. Amen. Pastor Timm O. Meyer