In 1917, a pastor in the Midwest, Fredrick Lehman wrote a beautiful hymn titled, “The Love of God.” The refrain says, “O love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints' and angels' song.”
It is impossible for us to express the surpassing greatness of God’s love. The hymn rightly says, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.”
Today, we look at a passage of Scripture describing the love of God poured out upon His children. It is a rare passage in that God uses motherhood imagery to describe how He will care for His children. Isaiah uses poetry to express to us in ways we can relate to the love of God. The pen of Isaiah, through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, reveals to us a beautiful adoring picture of God the Father pouring out perfect love on His children.
Although this passage describes God’s love as motherly, let’s not be in error by referring to God as our mother. Jesus tells us to pray to our Father in heaven. The scripture is clear. God is our Father. As we refer to God as Father, we need to embrace the truth that God the Father is fully capable of loving us in a way that is like a mother. God’s love is perfect and complete. God loves us and will care for us with the affection of a mother with her newborn child.
The main idea of the message is that we are to be enthralled with the intimate love of God. To be enthralled is to be held captive, spellbound, fascinated, and absorbed.
The truth of God’s love is to permeate our mind, invoke deep feelings, pull on our heartstrings, and affect us in such a way, that God’s intimate love changes the way we live.
In other words, if the love of God doesn’t completely direct everything about us, then we don’t know the love of God.
We need to pray that this passage will soak us, and we become immersed in the ocean of God’s love. And, after hearing of God’s love for us, we will be captivated and spellbound by this great truth.
“Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children. Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:7-9)
The passage begins by describing Zion as a woman. God personifies the nation of Israel. God frequently refers to Israel, Jerusalem, or Zion as a woman.
In chapter 51:17-23, God personifies Jerusalem, representing Israel, as a woman. God cries out, “Awaken, awaken!” as He seeks to wake Jerusalem from a stupor. Scripture gives a picture of Jerusalem, being a woman who staggers because she drank the chalice of God’s anger. She is surrounded by devastation and destruction. Her sons fall prey to her enemies and lay dead in the streets.
Here, in chapter 66, God again invokes poetic imagery describing Zion as a woman. The description here is far different than what we read in chapter 51. Now, instead of being surrounded by the destruction brought on by famine and the sword, she is full of life and health. She is a woman who is fertile and strong. She is to give birth to a boy first, and other children after. The new birth brings forth a nation that is born in a day.
What is odd is that she first gives birth, and then she suffers the pain of childbirth. The pain of childbirth comes after birth.
Rhetorical questions arise. Who has heard of such a thing? Can a nation be born in one day? How can this take place? Giving birth first and then having the pain of childbirth is very strange indeed.
Most theologians see this as a unique prophecy with a few places in history we may identify as the possible event for this prophecy.
Perhaps this prophecy finds fulfillment on May 14, 1948, when the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaims the establishment of the nation of Israel. President Harry S. Truman recognizes Israel as a nation on the same day. After the birth of the nation, the pain of childbirth takes place. Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon declare war against Israel. Childbirth first, the pain (travail) of childbirth after. And, after the travail, many of the sons of Israel came back to their mother nation.
Perhaps this prophecy speaks of the day of Pentecost. In one day, a holy nation is born. The church is established in Jerusalem. After birth, pain comes in the form of persecution. The pain of persecution brings more sons and daughters into the spiritual nation of Zion.
Perhaps the prophecy is a double prophecy speaking about Israel in 1948, and the church on the day of Pentecost.
No matter where in history we attribute this prophecy, the fact remains that God is the one who brings forth new life. God says that He causes the delivery and the birth. He alone can open or shut the womb.
God’s love for His people gives birth to the church on the day of Pentecost. And, God’s love for His people gives the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948. God brings about the birth of all things. He is the source of life and goodness.
When we become new creatures in Christ, God gives us birth. God is the one who brings us forth into the new life. We are children, created because of the amazing love of God.
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; (Isaiah 66:10)
God’s love is a joyful love.
The truth of new birth is an event of great joy. The days of sadness come to an end. She enters an age of great rejoicing. The mourning for her is over. We can be glad.
When is this age of joy?
It is a partial age today, where we have the hope of joy. Knowing God is going to make things good is cause for real joy. The complete fulfillment of the age of joy will come after the creation of the new heaven and the new earth.
Each one of us carries the burdens of sadness and disappointment. We are bombarded by news that has no joy but only mourning. Every day, there is death. There is shooting in the streets. Heart disease and cancer take lives. Suicides and drug overdoses continue to escalate.
We experience the sadness of failed family relationships and the breakdown of friendships. Financial hardship strikes far too often, and there is the constant stress of making ends meet. There is no joy in politics. The pain of illness brings chronic pain and continual aching.
We need joy.
God promises us joy. The sadness and sorrow of today are temporary. Jesus brings restoration and redemption to all things. We need joy, and God promises joy that exceeds our imagination.
The joy and gladness of our future are born out of God’s love. The sure foundation of God’s intimate love is our sure anchor of hope. God is love; therefore, His love will most assuredly bring us joy.
“That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.” (Isaiah 66:11)
God’s love is a satisfying love.
Verse 11 describes God’s love in a very intimate way. God will love us through the woman Zion. God transforms Zion from a woman of sorrow and emptiness to be a mother who provides consoling, soothing nourishment for her infant.
Dwell on this image of a nursing mother and compare it to the picture God at the beginning of the chapter. In verse 1, God is transcendent, expressing no need for us. Heaven is His throne and the earth His footstool. We do Him no favors. He has no needs we may meet. He is far, and distant from us.
In a few sentences, the image of God doesn’t change, it expands. God is transcendent, far above us. And, God is closely bonded to us. The God of the distant heavens far from us is also close to us as a woman nursing her infant.
Our image of God needs to span these two amazing images. God is transcendent, separate from His creation. He is majestic, formidable, impressive, awesome, and mighty. And, God is immanent. He is God with us. Immanuel. He is close, soft, compassionate, warm, and gentle.
The image of verse eleven teaches us that our future relationship with God will be that which is completely nourishing. An infant need not turn anywhere for nourishment, but the mother. The mother supplies 100% of the nourishment the infant needs. The infant has no cares or worries. Mother and infant lock eyes with tender affection. The infant finds complete satisfaction and delight in being dependent upon the mother.
As we are forever in the secure arms of God, we will find complete satisfaction and delight. There is joy in being dependent upon God. We will only look to Him for our needs to be met. We will look deeply into His eyes, and He will hold us close to His bosom with intimate love.
As the baby trusts the mother, so we will trust God. God gives us a beautifully intimate picture to help us understand what it will be like to experience His love.
For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. (Isaiah 66:12a)
God’s love is a peaceful love.
As we are in the arms of God, gazing in His face, there will be peace like a river. It will be a peace that continually washes over us.
Just as we need joy, we need peace. We are a people of anxious thoughts. We live in a world of continual conflict. In our lifetime, there has not been one day of peace. Since 1900, the world has experienced over 265 different conflicts.
War and conflict take place as we speak. We are at war in Afghanistan. There are mounting tensions in the East and the South China Sea. Threats are being made in Iran. North Korea and US relations are in a state of crisis. There are civil war and instability in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Ukraine, Turkey, Lebanon, and between Israel and Palestine.
Conflict happens everywhere. More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the U.S. experience domestic violence. Children are bullied in classrooms. The political rhetoric in our country is at a fever pitch and is escalating daily. There is no peace.
God promises peace. Isaiah 66:12 repeats what God says in Isaiah 60:5. As we gaze on the horizon, we will not see warriors armed with weapons. Instead, there will be a continual flow of products and goods as the nation’s come together to enjoy prosperity. Gentiles and Jews will share. There is no want and the city gates are continually open for the glory of all the nations may enter.
In God’s kingdom, there is no currency. There are no tariffs or trade wars. Everyone enjoys sharing their belongings with people of every tribe and tongue. It will be like the early days of the church. Not one of us will claim that anything belongs to us, but all things will be common property (Acts 4:32).
Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees. (Isaiah 66:12b)
God’s love is a caring love.
God’s love will produce in us the innocence of childhood. We will lovingly be fed. We will lovingly be carried about as a mother carries her child on her hip.
God’s care will be joyful. Because of His great protection, we will live in perfect security. Our dependence on God will remove the burdens and anxieties of life’s troubles and responsibilities. We will never worry.
Life will consist of playful times as we laugh and giggle, and enjoy being bounced on the knees of God. We will walk care-free with a spring in our step and a whistle on our lips as God shoulders our burdens and struggles.
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13)
God’s love is a comforting love.
From chapter 40 on, God’s comforting love is a recurring theme. The first words of chapter 40 are, “’Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God.” Isaiah’s book speaks of God’s comfort in many ways.
We have many areas of discomfort. Sin, poverty, conflict, sadness, evil, and instability are just a few things in life which cause discomfort.
God promises comfort. God’s comfort will be felt, like the comfort of a mother.
Comfort will come to us because the discomforting effects of sin is removed. God replaces sin with double the amount of His grace (Isaiah 40:1-2). We find comfort because God’s compassion is poured out upon our afflictions (Isaiah 49:13).
We have discomfort because the earth has waste places and barren wilderness. God promises comfort by making the wilderness to be like the Garden Eden and changing deserts into gardens (Isaiah 51:3).
God gives comfort by removing all sorrow and replacing it with gladness (Isaiah 51:11-12).
We will find comfort in the transformation of Jerusalem as God changes it to become a city of redemption and joy (Isaiah 52:9).
God has compassion upon our condition. Without His intervention, we are afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted. He rescues us from instability and delivers us to beauty and wealth. We will live in comfort enjoying the blessings of living in the City of God; a city covered with sapphires, rubies, and precious stones. All our children will be taught of the Lord, and their well-being will be great. Our life finds comfort because we are established in righteousness, and we are removed from the presence of oppression, fear, and terror. (Isaiah 54:11-14)
God will grant comfort by giving us a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting (Isaiah 61:2-3).
God’s love gives us comfort.
When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like grass; (Isaiah 66:14a)
God’s love gives us perfect health.
The Jews understand the interesting relationship between the heart and the bones. In Proverbs, the Bible combines the heart and bones together in the same verse to speak about a healthy life. Listen to these examples:
The Biblical heart refers to the emotional strength of a person. God says life is in the blood. The heart pumps life throughout the body. A strong heart will supply life.
The bones are analogous to our having strength and vitality. When the bones are strong, we are filled with vigor. When the Bible speaks of our heart and our bones, it is showing the relationship between our spiritual health and our physical health.
Our life in heaven will be one in which our spiritual condition brings health to our physical bodies. Our physical bodies will be strong and healthy because our sin is removed. Our redeemed spirits will give health to our physical heart and bones. There will be no heart disease or aching joints and bones. Our physical bodies will be set free from the spiritual destruction of sin and death.
God’s love brings us health.
The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, (Isaiah 66:14b)
God’s love is known.
In the new heaven and earth, God’s love will be made obvious to us. Today, we say things like, “God works in mysterious ways.” We know God is working, but we don’t always know how or where. Jesus tells Nicodemus that the work of God’s Spirit is like a wind that blows. We hear the sound of the wind, but we do not know where it comes from or where it is going.
The work of God will no longer be hidden. We will know and see God’s hand at work in our lives. We will experience first-hand God working in our favor. Everything He does will be manifestly obvious.
God promises to make His love known.
And His indignation to His enemies. (Isaiah 66:14b)
God’s love brings judgment.
It is uncomfortable for us to think about God’s wrath upon His enemies. But, we shouldn’t be.
The reason we ought not to be uncomfortable is that God’s love is secure only because God condemns His enemies.
As we think about God’s great love toward us, we need to answer the question, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Is there anything that can come between us and God’s love? Will God’s enemies step between us and God? The answer found in Romans 8.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
We put our faith in God’s saving work. God’s saving work delivers us from sin, death, and God’s enemies. For us to experience God’s love, God must condemn His enemies. God desires to love us, and He will not allow anyone or anything to interfere with His love.
Perhaps you are thinking, I’ve heard of God’s amazing love. This is nothing new.
The question I pose for us to consider is this: “Has the truth of God’s love permeated our life?”
As we listen to Scripture’s revelation of God’s love, are we thinking, “This needs to impact my life”?
The truth of God’s love is to have us see life through “God’s love-tinted” glasses. Every aspect of my life and your life needs to be soaked with the truth that God loves me, and God loves you.
As we enter the church, do we think we put this building here or do we recognize it is the love of God that builds the church and brings us together? As we speak with other people in the church, are we quick to insult, and gossip about others, or are we choosing our words carefully because people in the church are the objects of God’s love?
Next time that we go to the grocery store, let’s scan the food on the shelves knowing that it is the love of God that puts it there.
When we are sick or suffering a hardship, let’s think about how it is God’s love working to help us better understand the sufferings of Christ and how He lovingly lays down His life for us.
Our emotions are to find their foundation in God’s love. Anxiety needs to find peace in the truth of God’s love.
The love of God is to give us assurance and confidence because the Bible says that there is nothing that may separate us from His love.
Let’s open our hearts to be shaped and molded by God’s love. Let’s allow the love of God to invade our thought life. Let’s invite God’s love to change our agenda for tomorrow.
Most of all, let’s not look to the world to find our joy and satisfaction. Let’s strive to find joy and satisfaction knowing the God of the universe is unashamed and bold in declaring His love for us.