Isaiah 62:5, "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy
sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy
God rejoice over thee."
This morning, the subject of commitment is lost in our present society and generation. With the short attention spans of many today, seeing a project through to completion (being committed to it) is becoming a lost art. In the current economic realm, people are jumping on and off many different ships to gain the dollar for today. In the current political realm, people are jumping back and forth depending on what the latest poll has to say. Sadly, in the current religious realm, people are going with the mode of thought (theologically) that is the most popular of the day. Finally, in the realm of families, people are jumping in and out of marriages (or sinful relationships) based on their feelings of today. Commitment should be a key element to our endeavours that we are willing to start what we finish and be faithful to our obligations with the zeal and joy of doing what is right and being honourable examples in our society and lights in our community.
The prophet Isaiah is discussing matters relating to the kingdom in this passage, and the elements of thought are easily seen in the light of the New Testament Scriptures. The cities of Zion and Jerusalem discussed here were literal cities of the land in Isaiah's day, but Paul invokes them (conceptually) to the New Testament church in Hebrews 12. When looking at the shadow in the Old Testament, we need to understand the reality of the object in the New Testament. Therefore, these discussions of Zion and Jerusalem are applicable to us today as real inhabitants of these cities in the church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The language from our verse is one that should give pause for consideration. The verbiage speaks of a woman's sons marrying her as a young man marrieth a virgin. It would be outlandish and sinful for one today to marry his own mother, but the language here designates that very thing. Paul makes the case in Galatians 4 that the heavenly Jerusalem is the "mother of us all." Therefore, we should look at the church in a motherly way, as she provides shelter in this old world. She gives us solace and comfort during trying times, peace and safety like a river, and dandies us on her knees. (Isaiah 66:7-12) When looking at my own experience within the house of God, I can say assuredly that my life without her is unthinkable. My most horrid imaginations would pale in comparison to an actual life without the knowledge and peace of the Lord's church. When talking to a ministerial friend of mine, I asked the question, "What would your weeks be like without
having church services to attend every week?" His response is my sentiment now, "Don't make me think depressing thoughts. I am just thankful to know her and have her by the grace of God Almighty."
So, like a mother to her children, the church is our shelter here by the continual watch care of the arms of God Himself. Now, since she is related (conceptually) to our mother, what does the language mean about marriage? When we join ourselves unto her by submitting ourselves to water baptism to unite with her, we are committing ourselves to be faithful unto her, much like a man would commit to a woman to be faithful to her all their days. When two people marry, their joys and sorrows are all shared, but thankfully, the sorrows are halved and the joys doubled when the couple has the Lord in their midst. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Likewise, our sorrows are decreased by church fellowship as we help one another bear burdens (Galatians 6:1-2), but our joys are exponentially increased by church fellowship and worship as two are better than one with a three-fold cord not quickly broken. The joy of the church, her service, her fellowship, and especially her worship is what cannot be attained anywhere else in the world, even through times of private fellowship with God. Public fellowship with Him in church increases the joy (like a marriage) and eases the sorrows of life.
The most important parallel concept of the church and marriage is that the level of commitment should be the same. When a man vows to a woman to love her, "In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, to have and to hold, and forsaking all others keep thee only for as long as we both shall live," that is a commitment for life. Dear friends, when we commit to the Lord's church, that is a vow that we should honour all our days. A man is not loosed from the marriage vow unless death parts him from his wife (naturally or from unfaithfulness)
Therefore, as she bears aspects of a wife and a mother to us, what should our actions be in our commitment? A man should honour his mother, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1-3) A man should love his wife as his own flesh. (Ephesians 5:28-29) The church should garner honour from us as this is right in the sight of the Lord, and our love for her should be as dear as our love for our own bodies as this is right in His sight as well. By faithfully doing these things, we are godly examples of relationship to her as we should be in our own natural families. As it has been astutely observed in the past about ministers, "If you desire to see how a minister will behave as pastor of a church, look how he behaves around his natural family." Does he care for them, love them, have compassion for them, and honour them by his actions? If he does, then we have good evidence that his actions will be similar as a pastor. Likewise, if we see evidence that someone does not treat their wife with love and respect, honours not his parents, and generally has disorderly conduct in his own house, we see indications that his church conduct will suffer as well.
One of the greatest sorrows to me is to see one that is within the walls of Zion rail against Zion and her inhabitants. While the watchmen need to cry and caution against danger, there is a difference between exhortation and "church bashing." One of the popular statements of the day (which sadly is being found in some of our churches) is, "We should not put the church in too high a place, as we are guilty of 'church worship.'" Consider the last phrase of our verse, "as a bridegroom rejoiceth over a bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." The reason that our conduct should give the church honour and commitment is that her very Husband has done the same. Even though our actions to the church regarding commitment mirror a marriage, He is her true Husband (for which there can be no other). His actions to her have been over and above what any natural man has done or could ever do for his wife. Our Lord gave her His life, and He has loved and honoured her to the full. Therefore, He rejoices over her. She is His love, His desire, His richest object.
As our ultimate example, how could we shamelessly beat up the Lord's beloved? In good conscience, our strictest, Biblical rebukes, reproofs, and exhortations should have the earmarks of the greatest compassion and most manifest love, for short of that, we are not honouring a mother and not loving a wife. Christ has never been nor will ever be guilty of neglecting or abusing His bride in such a way, and our actions need to follow after and mirror His. May our zeal for her increase, for His zeal for her is ever full. May our love for her increase more and more, for His is infinite in scope and abundant in display. Finally, may our commitment to her be continual, for His has never waxed or waned, even in our darkest of hours. By honouring her, we honour Him, so let us be found so doing as a faithful steward and servant that hears the blessed words of the Saviour, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."