Righteous City

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Righteous City

Isaiah continues to use poetic imagery to invite us into the life of salvation God offers.

In the first ten verses of chapter 54, God tells of how we are to respond to our salvation.

First, we are to shout for joy. Of course, we will be joyous for we are saved from God’s wrath because of the sacrifice of Jesus, God the Son.

Second, God tells us to enlarge our tent. We need to prepare to care for children from many nations. The promise God makes to Abraham finds its fulfillment in the Savior.

Third, God tells us not to fear. Even though we have shame and guilt, because of our past sins, God is willing to put it the sins of our past aside. God promises to make an everlasting covenant with those who put their faith in His Servant, the Messiah. God will not turn His face away from the Bride of Christ.

The success and prosperity of the Bride of Christ, the church, comes about because we are joined together with Jesus, our Husband. It is our union with Jesus that guarantees the promises of God come to fulfillment. All of God’s promises find their fulfillment in Christ.

God reveals His motivation to save us and deliver us from destruction. God is filled with great compassion. The word compassion appears three times in the text. God is glorious because He is compassionate and abounding in lovingkindness. Our salvation rests confidently, not on our achievements, but in God glorifying Himself by compassionately sending us a Savior.

We need to obey the commands to rejoice, enlarge the tent, and to live without fear.

The imagery of chapter 54 changes from a bride and her covenantal marriage to Christ to that of a city. God is transforming our relationship with Him which results in fruitful growth. The effects of the transformation impact our lives in profound ways.

Deliverance from Affliction

Isaiah’s writings begin by calling people, “sinful, weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, and sons who act corruptly!” (Isaiah 1:4)

It’s been like that ever since Adam and Eve led the entire human race to turn their back on God. Ever since the fall, devastation and corruption is the story.

We live in fear. Half of the world don’t get enough food to eat. Poverty and hunger fill the streets. Killing and murder are common events. Greed and lust are rampant. Children are without self-control. Abuse and violence bring affliction to women and children. Hospitals continually fill their beds with sickness and disease. Pain is in every home and on every street corner.

People live in continual insecurity.  Some look to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Others escape into entertainment.

We dig our own grave. We started swimming into the ocean deep to escape the presence of God. We keep swimming away from God until we find ourselves drifting on a piece of wood in the middle of the ocean. Winds and waves toss us about. The spray of the sea hits our face. Waves beat upon us from all sides. The tempest of wind, and rain beat upon our head. The deep sea of life underneath threatens to swallow us and pull us to the bottom. There is no comfort and no hope. Our destiny is death.

Such is life without God. There is not one person on this earth who may stand before the throne of judgment and say, I live a perfect life. I deserve to live in your presence. God has no reason to help us. He has every right to say we get what we deserve.

But, God is not like us. God is glorious. He rises from His throne and with deep compassion, He concerns Himself with our condition. Even though we do not seek God, He seeks us. Listen to the tone of God’s voice. We can hear the compassion in ink. He cries out, “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted” (Isaiah 54:11).

God delivers over His Son to die on our behalf. His great Right Arm offers Himself as a guilt offering. God the Son reaches from heaven and whisks us away from destruction. He wraps us with His loving arms and says cry no more. We are more than plucked out of the ocean waves. He brings us to a glorious inheritance.

Saved to a City of Wealth

Sometimes, the human language is lacking in the ability to transfer emotion. Poetry is a great way to invoke feeling and to stir emotions. Poetry paints pictures that touch our hearts in ways that ordinary words cannot accomplish. Word pictures help our mind's eye to visualize great things.

God inspires Isaiah to convey to us poetically where God is taking us. We are saved from the ghetto of misery and saved to a grand city. The description of the walls surrounding this city is unlike any other description in Scripture. The chapter is prophetically speaking of the church, and we need to see it in context.

God is building His church. He is the builder and decorator. He sets the stones and lays the foundations. God chooses the materials and makes the walls and gates. Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone.

God speaks of the entire wall structure. God will set the stones in antimony, which is a black mortar. It serves the same purpose as a jeweler laying a diamond on a piece of black cloth — the gems standout as sparkling stones.

Imagine walking up to such a city and seeing it from a distance. We draw near the city and marvel at how the crystal gates glisten and shine. The foundation is covered in beautiful blue sapphires, prized for their decorative quality in the ancient world. Our eye travels up the wall, and we lose count of the thousands upon thousands of precious stones, each one gleaming in the light. Our eyes scan the top, and even the battlement, that chest-height wall with rectangular gaps that allow men to walk along the top of the wall and to shoot arrows from between the gaps, even that is glorious.

From the foundation to the heights of the top, the multi-colored light refractions shine like the sun. Each individually cut stone dazzles with brilliance. It an amazing sight sparkling from miles away.

Picture this walled city in our mind's eye. Think of how we feel when walking into a beautiful cathedral, or when we listen to a symphony or gaze upon the Grand Canyon. Picture walking through the crystal gates knowing this is where you live.

God wants us to touch the emotions of our heart and have us know that this is His gift to us. It is our wedding present. This city is the home of the Bride of Christ. The description is how God sees the church. He is laying its foundation and setting each stone one by one. The bride is worthy of this gift because of her husband.

How ought we to think knowing this is God’s gift to us? Do we see that as a people, living within the walls of such a beautiful city, we will never suffer or lack? Does this not erase our feeling of poverty and affliction? The inhabitants within these walls are blessed above all people on the earth.

The city walls are shared. All the inhabitants enjoy the blessings that living within these walls brings. It is not one house or a castle, but the entire city that enjoys the resources. Christianity is a shared experience. We are many members of one body. The imagery of city walls helps us to unify around a God who protects us and has us live in splendor.

Having walls around the city gives us security and comfort. A mighty fortress is our God! Our past affliction and poverty dissipate like the morning mist under the blazing sun. Our storm-tossed life finds sure footing. Comfort replaces our anxiety as we enter through the crystal gates grinning from ear to ear.

This picture reveals that we think far too little of God’s gift of the church to the Bride of Christ.

Saved to a City of Blessed Inhabitants

As we enter into the city walls, we are struck by the greatness of the inhabitants, they are taught of the Lord. The knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Inside the city walls, is where the waters of knowledge flow.

Jesus quotes this verse in Isaiah. He says,

“It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” (John 6:45)

In the great city, we are taught of Jesus. We hear of His salvation. We learn

… He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

In this city, our sons and daughters are taught of Jesus. We say that He is a guilt offering. And by faith, sins are placed upon Jesus, and Jesus is crushed on our behalf. The punishment we deserve falls upon Him, and we receive well-being. We receive shalom. We are made right with God. We receive God’s grace. And, Scripture tells us that God’s grace instructs us (Titus 2:11-14).

The shalom we receive by grace instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. Imagine a city where everyone demonstrates self-control. We live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age. Every citizen is zealous for good deeds. We encourage one another, care for one another, and look out for one another.

We walk about, gazing at the jewel-encrusted walls, and we look to the east. We wait hoping for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. We can’t wait to see our Husband who gave His life for us. As we wait, we wash and purify ourselves. We belong to Him. We are a people for His possession. (Titus 2:11-14)

Imagine a city where everyone is being instructed by grace. Everyone is thankful and joyful for salvation. Everyone looks for the appearing of Christ our Lord. This is God’s vision for the church.

This vision in Isaiah reveals that we think far too little of how we are to live within our great city. Rise church, live as we ought for the glory of our Savior.

Saved to A City Established in Righteousness

When we live within the church, we live in a place where we are established in righteousness.

What does it mean that we are established in righteousness? Look around the church.  Are we people who are always right? Are we people who are never wrong? No. We are imperfect.

Being established in righteousness does not mean that we are continually filled with “right-ness” in this present age. We have a desire for righteousness. We wish the world to be filled with righteousness. But, we know we fall short of righteousness.

In Isaiah 51:1-2, God tells us to look to Abraham, and we will find righteousness. Abraham finds righteousness, but it is not from the way he lives his life. The reason we look to Abraham is that he believes God, Abraham has faith in God, and God counts Abraham’s faith as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

Abraham believes God, trusts God, knows God is in control and places his life in God’s hands. God looks at Abraham’s heart, and God knows that Abraham’s faith is real. God sees faith in Him as being the same as righteousness.

The way we are established in righteousness is to believe what God says and trust God is doing good in this world. In God’s eyes, the most right thing we may do is believe what He says.

The church is not filled with people who always do what is right; the church is filled with people who believe God and have faith in the salvation He offers.

It is because of our righteousness, which is having faith in God; we are far from oppression, fear, and terror. This verse is not saying that all the people who want to hurt us will be far away and will never come close (the next verse makes the point that there are people who will try to hurt us). We have enemies that want to do us harm. However, when we are established in righteousness, enemies are ineffective at making us oppressed, fearful, or terrorized. Oppression, fear, and terror are emotions that come from within.

Imagine two men in a room. They have terrorists pointing guns at them. One man sees only the terrorists, and he is terrorized. He doesn’t have all the information at hand.

The second man is given word. He is told that outside the door there is an entire army of men who will bust through the door at any time. He is told the terrorist’s guns have only blanks. He is not oppressed, fearful, or terrorized. He knows how this situation ends. He smiles in the face of danger. He is far from oppression. Fear and terror do not come near him. To him, the terrorists are like school children holding toy guns.  

When we have faith in God, we look at life differently. We know the ending. We trust that God is in control. Our confidence is knowing God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Our future is feasting at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The church is filled with people who are established in righteousness.

Saved to a City Sovereignly Protected

Just because terror and oppression are far from our heart, does not mean that we are without enemies. The devil seeks to devour us. He has one goal, and that is for us to take our eyes off Jesus. He wants us to fear. He wants us to think God cannot help. He wants us to think God doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.

God says that there may be people who, fiercely assails you.” The disciples of Jesus found that to be true. Paul was beheaded. Peter and Andrew were crucified. Thomas was pierced with spears by four soldiers. James was stoned and clubbed to death. John was boiled in oil.

Paul told Timothy that those who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men because not all have faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2).

Persecution of Christians is at the highest level ever. There are so many Christians being killed that it is considered genocide. We will have people try to terrorize us, oppress us, and even kill us. However, we may rejoice in knowing it is not from God’s hand. If it were God, we ought to be terrified. But, God promises that the opposition to our faith is not from Him.

God gives us insight into those who come against us. Imagine the Apostle Thomas, who is about to be pierced through with four soldiers with spears. Thomas remembers these verses. He looks at the spears and thinks, “God created the blacksmith who forged that spear in the fire. If God didn’t want that spear to enter my body, God would not have created the blacksmith.” Then, Thomas looks upon the soldier. “God created this destroyer. God knows this soldier is coming against me. If God didn’t want that to happen, God would not have created this soldier. God may stop the creation of blacksmiths and soldiers that carry spears. But, He did not. Therefore, this is God’s plan. These men will fall. Those who accuse me falsely will not prevail. No weapon that forms against me will prosper because nothing may separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” (Isaiah 54:15-17a).

We are conquerors!

It is very possible that the truth of Isaiah 54:15-17 inspires the Apostle Paul to write this beautiful praise of God’s great love:

Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33-34)

We condemn every tongue that accuses us because Jesus is our advocate. Their accusations have no merit. Only God may accuse us of wrong, and He declares us as just and righteous.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." (Romans 8:34-36)

We may have people who fiercely assail us and persecute us, they may use swords, or try to starve us, or strip us naked, but all these weapons that seek to put us to death and slaughter, do not prosper. They are ineffective in separating us from the love of Christ.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 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 8:37-39)

We overwhelmingly conquer through Christ.

Saved to a Heritage

The end of verse 17 is a summary of the entire chapter.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17b).

Our heritage is that God is blessing the bride of Christ with all the blessings of Abraham. We receive a great Husband who is our Redeemer. We rejoice in knowing that God is prospering His church and saving people from all the nations. We enlarge the tent and make room for the children of the nations.

God gives us the church. He disciples us in the ways of His Son. He establishes us in righteousness. We need not worry or have fear, for God is on our side. If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? God is building His church upon the cornerstone of Christ, and all the fury and hatred of hell will not prevail or succeed in tearing down what God has built (Matthew 16:18). Though many will rise up in opposition on our left and our right, the church is in the center of God’s will. We have an advocate in Heaven, and all authority and power are in His hands. Our vindication, our righteousness, and justice are from God.

Respond with worship

The main idea of this passage is very simple. We are to worship the Savior for His remarkable transforming work of deliverance.

To truly worship Jesus, others will see Him as being the center of our heart and affections. His name is on our lips. His salvation dominates our conversations.

When we worship Jesus, the church is a sparkling jeweled city where we grow in the knowledge of Christ and learn how Jesus is to be the center of our life. Worshipping Jesus means that God’s plan of saving people is at the top of our agenda. Salvation is spoken in our homes. Bringing the nations into the tent is our mission. Proclaim His love to everyone we know. Are you a worshipper of Jesus?