Christ’s Passionate Zeal for the Glory of His Bride
I will not keep silent because of Zion, and I will not keep still because of Jerusalem, until her righteousness shines like a bright light and her salvation, like a flaming torch. (Isa 62:1)
Main Idea: Christ’s passionate zeal for the glory of Zion, his bride, is relentless, calling forth a corresponding zeal from his people until her radiant beauty is finally and perfectly consummated.
- Christ’s Passionate Zeal for Zion’s Glory (62:1)
- Christ’s relentless proclamation for Zion’s sake
- Christ’s goal: Zion’s radiant salvation
- Zion’s Glory on Display for the Nations (62:2-5)
- Zion’s radiant glory is seen by the nations.
- Zion’s population is ever increasing.
- The Lord delights in Zion’s glory.
- Zion’s sons delight in Zion’s glory.
- Relentless Watchmen Posted on Zion’s Walls (62:6-9)
- The Lord appoints and charges watchmen.
- The Lord swears to make Zion prosperous.
- Zion’s People Redeemed to Build Zion (62:10-12)
- The highway of Zion’s construction
- The promise of Zion’s consummation
Christ’s Passionate Zeal for Zion’s Glory
There is a dramatic pause, and the hearts of everyone in the sanctuary rise in anticipation. Processional music starts. The doors at the back of the church swing open, and everyone stands, turning back to look. The bride, radiant in beauty, begins her long-anticipated walk down the aisle. For the first time that day, the bridegroom sees her, and his heart swells with love and anticipation. Her physical beauty is enhanced by all the preparations she has been about since early that morning: her hair is perfect, cosmetics flawless, jewelry sparkling, dress spectacular. The bridegroom’s eyes drink in her glory in a way unique to the assembled throng. Soon, she will be his wife, and he will love her and be joined to her in a mysterious covenant known as marriage.
Every wedding I have ever observed has followed this pattern. Ephesians 5:32 says that marriage is a profound mystery patterned after the perfect union between Christ and his bride, the church. In Revelation 21 John describes that union:
I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. . . . [One of the angels said,] “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He then carried me away in the Spirit . . . and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a precious jewel, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. (vv. 2,9-11)
The glory of the church was perfected, ready for her Bridegroom, Christ Jesus, to come and take her forever. Every Christian wedding ceremony is a foretaste of this final reality.
However, there is a significant difference. In our culture the bridegroom contributes nothing to the radiant beauty of the bride on her wedding day. Tradition often dictates that he not see her at all that day until those doors swing open and she begins her processional. But the radiant glory of the bride of Christ—the church, the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem—is completely the work of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. He found her corrupted and defiled, ugly through rebellion, spiritually dead. He redeemed her by his own blood, raised her from the dead spiritually, washed her with water through the word, in order that he might present her to himself as a radiant bride, holy and blameless in his sight (Eph 1:7; 5:25-27; cf. Ezek 16:1-14). Throughout every generation of church history Christ has been patiently and passionately preparing his bride for the wedding day. Every beam of her glory on that day will be his, every sparkle of radiance, every holy aspiration and passionate desire for him he worked in her heart by his Holy Spirit. When she is finished, she will descend from heaven, coming down as God’s perfected work. And when the new heaven and new earth finally come, they will shine with God’s glory. But nothing in that new creation will be more glorious than the bride of Christ!
Isaiah 62 is a brief description of the relentless passion Jesus Christ has for the glory of Zion. Again, “Zion” in prophetic perspective is the new Jerusalem, the people of God, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, redeemed from every nation by the blood of Christ. In verse 1 Christ declares his passionate zeal for the final glory of his bride. Many commentators believe the speaker in this verse is Isaiah the prophet, and I respect their views (Young, Isaiah Chs. 40–66, 467; Ridderbos, Isaiah, 550). It may well be. But I was compelled by Jesus in Luke 4:21 to see the first-person speaker of Isaiah 61:1 as Christ himself, and it is powerful to see the same here. Even if the speaker were Isaiah, his zeal for Zion’s glory came from the Spirit of Christ anyway.
So, in Isaiah 62:1 Christ proclaims his relentless zeal to speak his powerful word until Zion’s “righteousness shines like a bright light and her salvation, like a flaming torch.” Christ will not “keep silent” because his bride is not yet perfect: some elect have not yet been saved; other elect have not yet been glorified spiritually; none of the elect have received their resurrection bodies. So there is massive work still to be done on Zion until her glory is perfected.
Yet it is not only Christ who must be zealous for Zion’s glory. Later in this chapter he will post watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls and command them to give themselves no rest and to give God no rest until Zion is the praise of the whole earth. So the Christian reader of Isaiah 62 is drawn quickly into Jesus’s zeal for his bride, the church, and challenged to be as passionate for her consummation as he is.
Zion’s Glory on Display for the Nations
A key to the building of the heavenly Zion is the present glory of the church on earth. The immediate and partial fulfillment of this chapter is, of course, the restoration of the physical city of Jerusalem by the remnant from Babylon. But the small, rubble-filled city of Nehemiah and Ezra was hardly the final consummation of the vision of Isaiah 62. Rather, we must see the ever-increasing glory of the church of Christ as the fulfillment of verses 2-5. As the church grows both numerically and in holiness, nations will see her righteousness, and kings will be forced to acknowledge her glory. The nations and their kings will see the functioning of healthy local churches and see the transformation of their own citizens from darkness to light (v. 2), and they will be attracted to her King, Jesus. Thus will the glory of the spiritual Zion (even while in construction) be attractive to the elect from every nation who have not yet been converted. Zion will be populated more and more; she will no longer be deserted and her land will not be called desolate.
Key to this process is the commitment of the sons of Zion to her final glory. The same love Christ has for his bride, so must her sons have. In a difficult mixing of metaphors, verse 5 implies that the sons of Zion must marry her and delight over her as Jesus does. What this means is that, by the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8), the church must be committed to evangelism and discipleship, driven on by the goal of the final consummation of the bride of Christ.
Relentless Watchmen Posted on Zion’s Walls
To this end, the Lord posts watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls. Their mission is one of intercession above all else: they are commanded to remind the Lord of Zion’s incompleteness, of her neediness, of the work yet to be done. They are to give themselves no rest and to give him no rest until God establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the whole earth (v. 7). This work of relentless intercession in the face of overwhelming opposition to the building of the church is one of the most difficult tasks ever entrusted to God’s people. God tests his people by this, for the glory of the church seems so dim, the enemies of the church seem so powerful, and the work seems so immense. Furthermore, every one of us is relentlessly committed to our own pleasures. For us to learn to give ourselves no rest until Zion is perfect in glory is an extreme work that will challenge every child of God until the day we die.
Thankfully, despite these overwhelming challenges, God has sworn with his right hand and strong arm to make Zion prosperous. Using the language of covenant blessings, he speaks of never giving to her enemies the grain and wine that belong to her.
Zion’s People Redeemed to Build Zion
The final section of this amazing chapter speaks of constructing a highway from the nations to Zion. The redeemed of the Lord are urgently commanded here to “go out, go out through the city gates.” The image is clearly borrowed from the experience the exiles would have in fleeing Babylon, the city of destruction. All the redeemed from every nation on earth will have essentially the same experience spiritually that the exiles would have physically: Rescued from evil “Babylon” (Satan’s world), they are commanded to flee it (Rev 18:4) so that they may journey to Zion along a prepared highway and populate her. But it is a highway that the redeemed are just as urgently commanded to build as to travel on (v. 10). Thus do previous generations of faithful Christians leave behind them a smooth highway for their spiritual descendants to travel on. They raise a banner for the peoples (v. 10) by the proclamation of the salvation that the Lord alone is working among the nations (v. 11). The end result is that God’s “Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed,” will be overflowing in Zion, “A City Not Deserted,” cared for by almighty God (v. 12).
Plainly these images speak of the great worldwide work of the church in the Great Commission, preaching the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected, making disciples who are being taught to obey everything the Lord has commanded (Matt 28:19-20).
Christ’s relentless passion for his bride’s perfection dominates this chapter and challenges every generation of Christians to join him. Jesus will never stop speaking his word into the hearts of his church, “cleansing her with the washing of water by the word . . . to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:26-27). The immediate application for us as members of his bride is to be holy ourselves (1 Pet 1:15). This text challenges us to love the Bridegroom with undivided love, to put away all idols and worldly affections. It also challenges us to be just as zealous for the holiness of other Christians, to be energetic in the work of the church. It calls on mature Christians to disciple younger believers, “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). This chapter should put within us a vision for the final perfection of the bride, a yearning to see her finally glorious in heaven.
This chapter also commands leaders (especially elders: Acts 20:28) to act as watchmen on the walls of Zion, overseeing the doctrinal and practical lives of the flock. Just as watchmen are awake all night because danger may come at anytime, so elders must keep careful watch at all times. And, clearly, Isaiah 62:6-7 calls on relentless intercession for the church’s final glory. This is perhaps the hardest work for any Christian, for we easily get weary in prayer.
Finally, as we’ve seen again and again in Isaiah, this chapter has a clear missionary thrust. We should be traveling on the highway to Zion as we are inviting others to travel with us and also making the highway as smooth as possible by the clear preaching of Christ and holy living in the pattern of Christ.
Reflect and Discuss
- How does the passion of Jesus Christ for the glory of Zion, his bride, drive this whole chapter?
- How is Christ’s ministry of the word, implied in verse 1 and openly taught in Ephesians 5:26-27, essential to the perfection of his bride?
- How should Christians also share Christ’s passion for the perfection and glory of his bride? How could we live that out in our daily lives?
- How is the church’s growth in holiness attractive to the nations and their kings (vv. 2-3)?
- How does the fact that Christ delights in the church (vv. 4-5) encourage you?
- How do elders/pastors serve as “watchmen on your walls” in a local church (Acts 20:28-31)?
- How do the words “There is no rest for you” and “Do not give him rest” (vv. 6-7) challenge you to pray for the church’s growth worldwide?
- How does verse 8 help us to rely on the sovereign power of God in the work of perfecting the church?
- How do we travel on the highway to Zion (John 14:6) and also build up that highway so others can travel on it (v. 10)?
- How does the courage and faithfulness of previous generations of Christians smooth the highway for those who follow (v. 10)?