Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
(Isaiah 62:11-12 ESV)
I worry sometimes that, as “disciples” go, I’m not a very good example. It isn’t that I don’t love God. It is that, well… life happens. And I know there are attitudes and fears and sins in me that just don’t reflect a life of dependency on God. This passage brings me up short in that kind of thinking.
Isaiah has spent much of his great prophecy warning Israel about their idolatry, their unfaithfulness, and their marrying outsiders. And yet, here, almost at the end his writing, the major thing God is proclaiming – publishing – in the 7th C. BC version of The New York Times, “I have a love-note for Zion.”
Every once in a while some ardent lover takes out a full-page ad in The Times as a way of proposing to his beloved. Imagine opening the newspaper and seeing “I LOVE you! Marry Me, Darling” in huge, bold print. Did you ever wonder what a full-page ad in a major daily costs? Believe me, it isn’t cheap. Every time someone does that, I laugh my head off. What an idiot: spending that kind of money on a proposal. They could have gone on a honeymoon for what it cost him to buy that ad.
Here’s the message God has for “the daughter of Zion” (read: Israel): “Your salvation comes!” God sent his only son at great cost to himself to accomplish salvation for you and me. Buying himself the ability to publish salvation was, to God, as costly as taking out a full-page ad in The Times would be for you or me. Honestly, if saving you had cost me my life, I don’t think I’d be talking about you as “my reward.”
What Jesus “got” in exchange for going to the cross was… ME? And the worst of it is that he didn’t get some idealized, perfected ME. He got a messy disciple who can’t seem to get “discipleship” right; who prefers, as C.S. Lewis says, “everything else to Him.” Somehow, remarkably, God looks at me (warts and all), and calls ME “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” I especially love the last two: Sought out, and Not Forsaken.
God is seeking you out too. He has not forsaken you. To reverse the Lewis quote, he really does prefer you to everything else. And God will be mocked and become a laughingstock for love of you. He has published my salvation and yours at the highest cost in the most obvious way. What an idiot! What love!