Summary: When God takes us off of the trash heap and makes something new, he has promises and expectations.
Christmas is one time of the year when many people get creative. Some people make new things. Others take old things and make them like new. I remember reading about prisoners who took on the project of refurbishing old toys so some kids could have something special for Christmas. And Kay has clothed many old dolls with new clothes.
One Christmas, when I was a child, my dad gave me some old tin cans, a used sewing machine motor, and little bag of rice. Now that sounds disappointing until you understand what he had done with them. He had rescued those cans from the trash and measured, cut, bent, and soldered them to create a little farm grinder, just like his big one outside. Then he connected it to a motor with a belt, so that when you started it up and scooped rice into this thing, the rice went into the chute, through the fan, and came out through a pipe into my little toy wagon. What’s more, he had painted the whole thing red and mounted it on a board. It was great fun! He had taken something from the scrap heap to make something new and useful.
The message of the Bible is that God has been doing the same thing for a long time. We can find stories all through the Bible about people he rescued from the scrap heap of life, putting them together with others, and transforming them into something new and useful. And he is still doing that in 2005. Our study of the book of Isaiah this past month has given us a glimpse of God’s handiwork. And today our final message from Isaiah focuses on a really important project God is working on.
To understand what I’m talking about, you need to know a couple of things:
1) God loves people and he will do almost anything to bring them into his 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 like kids might who open a present too soon or adults who think they know how to run their lives better than God does. As a result they end up bruised, battered, and bent out of shape.
In Isaiah 62, we read about God’s determination to bring people out of their trouble back into his own family. One writer calls this chapter “The Song of the Church.” The word Jerusalem in this chapter doesn’t just refer to an old city; it refers to God’s people in a future time and that time is now, the time of the church. It’s a long story, but if we go back about 2500 years we find that the people of old Jerusalem, the Jews, 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 some of God’s promises to them along with his expectations:
Promise: God will give you a new name. (v.2 CEV) “The Lord will even give you a new name.” Have you ever thought about how important your name is? If you didn’t have a name no one would know who you are. You wouldn’t even know who you are. 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. We don’t do it in our church, but years ago in Japan, when people were baptized, they were given a new name. It was usually a name from the Bible. Why did they do that? Because that person had become a new person, different from what he was before. When you recognize your sin and ask God to forgive you, you are born again, the Bible says. You become a new creation, we read in II Cor. 5.
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. Isaiah looks forward to the time of the New Testament, when the church came into existence. God can take broken, battered, and bruised people and give them a new name. That’s what happens when we are baptized and become one of his people.
Promise: God will heal your relationships. Without God we are like so many empty tin cans on the trash heap, disconnected from everyone, and of no use to anyone. But God can take those bent and rusting cans and create something new and useful. In v. 4 (CEV) we read “You will please the Lord; your country will be his bride.” 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.