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I once heard a learned sociologist, by confession an evangelical, explain with considerable erudition why even a major revival, should the Lord choose to send one to a country like America, could not possibly speedily transform the nation. The problem is not simply the degree of biblical illiteracy in the controlling echelons of society, or the extent to which secularization has penetrated the media, or the history of the Supreme Court decisions that have affected the curricula and textbooks of our schools, and countless other items, but also how these various developments interlock. Even if, say, a million people became Christians in a very short space of time, none of the interlocking social structures and cultural values would thereby be undone.
To be fair to this scholar, he was trying, in part, to steer us away from shallow thinking that fosters a glib view of religion and revival — as if a good revival would exempt us from the responsibility to think comprehensively and transform the culture.
The element that is most seriously lacking from this analysis, however, is the sheer sweep of God’s sovereignty. The analysis of this sociologist colleague is reductionistic. It is as if he thinks in largely naturalistic categories, but leaves a little corner for something fairly weak (though admittedly supernatural) like regeneration. Not for a moment am I suggesting that God does not normally work through means that follow the regularities of the structures God himself has created. But it is vital to insist that God is not ever limited to such regularities. Above all, the Bible repeatedly speaks of times when, on the one hand, he sends confusion or fear on whole nations, or, on the other, he so transforms people by writing his Law on their heart that they long to please him. We are dealing with a God who is not limited by the machinations of the media. He is quite capable of so intruding that in judgment or grace he sovereignly controls what people think.
As early as the Song of Moses and Miriam, God is praised for the way he sends fear among the nations along whose borders Israel must pass on the way to the Promised Land (Ex. 15:15-16). Indeed, God promises to do just that (Ex. 23:27), and promises the same for the Canaanites (Deut. 2:25). So it should not be surprising to find the evidence of it as the Israelites approach their first walled town (Josh. 2:8-11; cf. Josh. 5:1).
God may normally work through ordinary means. But he is not limited by them. That is why all the military muscle in the world cannot itself guarantee victory, and all the secularization, postmodernism, naturalism, and paganism in the world cannot by themselves prevent revival. Let God be God.
Much of the poetry of Isaiah 62 picks up the circumstances of earthly Zion. But the language is so exalted and the promises so sweeping it soon becomes clear that much more than the restoration of empirical Jerusalem after the exile is in view.
At the end of chapter 61 Isaiah delights in the triumph of the Servant-Messiah who transforms the people of God. Here Isaiah still speaks, and then increasingly in this chapter it is the Sovereign Lord who speaks. Initially Isaiah says that, in light of the glorious promises for Zion, he “will not keep silent” until Zion’s peace and glory are established. This means more than that Isaiah will continue in faithful proclamation. Intrinsic to the task of the “watchmen” posted on the walls of Jerusalem (Isa. 62:6) is the warning of judgment to come where there is no repentance, or where there is thoughtless lapse into sin (cf. Ezek. 33). But if there is horizontal proclamation—i.e., preaching to the people—there is also vertical intercession: “You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isa. 62:6–7). Like Daniel interceding with God in light of the promises God himself had made (Dan. 9), Isaiah wants faithful men and women to pray to God, giving him no rest till all his glorious promises regarding Zion are fulfilled. Here, then, is a call for fervent and persistent intercession: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
This Zion will be “called by a new name” (Isa. 62:2, 12); it will have a new identity. It will no longer be called “Deserted” and “Desolate”; now it will be called “My Delight Is in Her” and “Married” (Isa. 62:4)—picking up the massive typology found so often in the Old Testament: the Sovereign Lord is the husband; the covenant people, here represented by Zion, is the bride (cf. Isa. 62:5). Verse 12 rolls out more names: “the Holy People,” “the Redeemed of the LORD” (which reminds us again how they have been transformed), “Sought After,” “the City No Longer Deserted.” This is far more than empirical Jerusalem after the exile. This is the covenant people themselves, and this community raises a banner “for the nations” (Isa. 62:10). This is the anticipation of “the Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26–27, where Isaiah is quoted), of “Mount Zion,” “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), of “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,” “prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
2:1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent1 two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6 But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. 7 So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out.
8 Before the men2 lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.3 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father's house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said4 to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22 They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. 23 Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
123:1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.
124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.
6 Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
125:1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!
62:1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,1
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,2
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,3
and your land Married;4
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
6 On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the LORD in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
“I will not again give your grain
to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink your wine
for which you have labored;
9 but those who garner it shall eat it
and praise the LORD,
and those who gather it shall drink it
in the courts of my sanctuary.”5
10 Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.
11 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.”
12 And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the LORD;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.
10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;1 4 Simon the Zealot,2 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’3 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,4 cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics5 or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant6 above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign7 those of his household.
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.8 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?9 And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”