In the book of Isaiah, we read the astounding words from the prophet Isaiah, who God chose to deliver hope and warnings. In times of despair and gloominess, the prophet Isaiah tells Israel to sing. What does singing do for you? Are you happier when you sing? How do you feel after singing a song out loud by yourself?
“Sing, O’ barren woman, you who never bore a child…”Isaiah 54:1
Specifically, Isaiah 54 talks about the future glory of Zion. Here, we read about all that God has in store for Israel despite their barren lifestyle. God is trying to wake up Israel from their despair and restlessness by bringing them back into relationship with Him. God is calling out to Israel like a woman who has no child. Yet, this is a comforting message from Isaiah. God wraps us up like a warm blanket with the assurance that there is something better; there is hope. God has not abandoned Israel like a childless woman may have felt.
Barrenness does not necessarily mean without child. I can be emotionally barren. Or, a land can be barren. In the Oxford dictionary, the word barren means 1) too poor to produce any vegetation. The second definition is: 2) infertile, waste, desolate, uncultivated. It is also a reminder to move on, because I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to stay stuck in our barrens, whether that means being unemployed, struggling with infertility, or anything else that keeps me from moving forward. Moving on can be difficult, but what is there to lose? But God brings discernment through the Word, the active Word of God.
I digress. Look at this verse in Scripture as a metaphor of a woman who is waiting to have a child – Israel – who has lost their way – they are barren. Not only are they waiting for the promise of a new King, but they are losing hope and turning away from the one true God.
Have you ever felt like you had nothing to live for? In the time of Isaiah, when women could not bear a child, it was a disgrace to her and her family. Today, that’s simply not the case. In fact, there are a lot of people who choose to marry and not have children, or not to marry at all. But in Isaiah’s day and age, women were expected by the culture to do one thing in order to feel fulfilled: have lots of babies.
But a little further down, we read in Isaiah:
“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.”Isaiah 54:15
Have you ever felt like an enemy was out to get you? Or an old friend who backstabbed you? Or maybe you felt like everyone was talking about you when you walked into the room and it went quiet (please tell me this is not just me!). In any case, God wants to make clear that when bad things happen to you, it is NOT from Him. God does not do evil. God cannot tempt us to do something bad because God is only good. As for the fear and anxiety we feel, where does that come from? Here’s a little story about needing to trust that God is good regardless of feeling terrified.
When I moved in with a stranger, I needed to know I was going to be okay.
In 2011, I became a new believer in Christ, and for the first time I had peace in my life. Unfortunately, I was living alone in a studio apartment that I could not afford and working 3 jobs, including a night shift at a bar 45 minutes away. At the time, I was set to live with a friend of my sister’s, but knew that I would be setting myself up for failure. I prayed that God would somehow let me out of this situation. Yet ethically, I felt it was only right to stick with what I had said I would do, and move in with her regardless of how I would be effected. Yet, I wanted to live with someone who was older, wiser, and a fellow Christian. As a twenty-four going on twenty-five year old, there were not many people I knew who lived a life that did not include bar hopping, partying, and drugs during their free time.
One day as I opened my Facebook, a message from the girl I was to move in with said, “Hey Nicole, I actually found a third potential roommate who is interested in moving in. Are you still planning on living here?” She was essentially asking if the girl could take my place! I was thrilled to reply that she go ahead without me! This was just one of the many times I knew God heard my prayers, and as a new believer, the fact that the Creator of the Universe listens to me??? Huge deal.
Sometime afterwards, I saw in a church bulletin that a woman was looking for a roommate. I decided to call her, and we talked on the phone for over an hour about our love and devotion to Christ. She said my fire for God is what led her to trust me to move in with her.
Although I was terrified (as I’m sure she was, too) to move in with someone I hardly knew, it was Isaiah 54 that spoke to me about my trusting my new roommie. Trust is a huge factor in any relationship, and it was this chapter where I knew God was giving me a look into her life – it seemed as though every verse was talking directly about her. In fact, I told her this by saying,
“There’s a chapter about you in the Bible!!”
Gracefully and patiently, she taught (as a teacher would only do) me how this chapter was not only for her and about her, but that God is generous and does not favor people. This chapter is a promise not only for an entire nation, but for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. God gave me discernment, which led me to talk to her about deep matters, and before, I could never do that with people I just met and still have a good relationship 10 years later. Despite being almost 30 years apart in age, we both took a risk to live together based on our love for Jesus Christ, and are best friends to this day. This relationship has continued to lead me to trust God with my relationships.
Sing, woman, sing.