11 February 2012

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:5

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,"


This passage rises in a crescendo with a series of reflections that bring into sharp relief the tensions in the previous chapters between the despair and bleakness of the human condition, and the hope and grace of God's kingdom. 

The use of the word 'crescendo' is a deliberate one. There is something wonderfully musical about this passage. Indeed, the commentator Webb explores this with direct reference to the hymns Amazing Grace and And can it be.

Throughout Scripture, songs and melodies are ways of engaging people's emotions, and also the means by which people respond emotionally to God's gracious provision. Here is no different, as we see Isaiah's poetic response to the words and visions that God has shown to him. 

Once again, the kingdom of God is described with great intimacy of relationship. The metaphor that Isaiah uses is that of a bride and bridegroom (verses 10, 5). The hope of Israel is that God is wooing her towards godself, and does so through God's abundant and inexpressible love and care and compassion. 

The actor Ralph Fiennes has said: "So much of movie acting is in the lighting. And in loving your characters. I try to know them, and with that intimacy comes love." Given what has been said about the shift from the shadows in Isaiah 58 into the light of Isaiah 60, perhaps we can see in a renewed way the importance of light in the relationship of Israel to God, and ourselves to Christ. With intimacy grows love. From this love grows greater grace and compassion, songs of hope and of surrender, and experiences of the 'amazing grace' which have been articulated by the hymnwriters John Newton and Charles Wesley - and continues to be our song today. 

As the music of this passage begins to swell, Isaiah encourages Israel, and so too his contemporary reader, to see themselves as people who are crowned with beauty - even on our most grubby days. The promise remains. No longer will you feel deserted or desolate, but you will be a delight (Hephzibah), and God delights in and sings over you. (Zephaniah 3:17). 

To Ponder

Which piece of music expresses your relationship with God today?

How do you respond to the intimacy of the bridal metaphor that Isaiah uses to describe God's relationship to God's people?

How intimate is your relationship with God today? What do you need to do to increase that intimacy and deepen your discipleship?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".