ESSAY
No Sabbath for God
POSTED
January 21, 2016

At the end of Isaiah 61, Yahweh's Servant rejoices because the Lord clothes Him with salvation and righteousness. He decks Him like a bridegroom with a garland on His head. He wears jewels like a bride. He is a new bridegroom in a new garden of Eden, a garden of righteousness and praise springing up before all nations.

Yahweh promises a new name. Zion and Judah have been called forsaken, but now she will be called “Hephzibah,” which means “my delight is in her.” Her land has been desolated but the land will be restored and will be called “Married” rather than “Desolated.” When the Lord comes to restore His marriage covenant with Israel, she will take the Name that He gives, like Eve taking the name Adam gives her. He has left the wife of His youth, but here He promises that there will be a second wedding.

Yahweh won’t enter into this second marriage, this restored covenant, reluctantly, but exultantly, joyfully. Yahweh isn’t a Stoic in the sky. He gives His whole heart and soul to His people. He exults over His restored bride with singing and dancing. When one sinner repents, there is joy in heaven. It’s not the joy of the angels that Jesus mentions; it’s joy in the presence of the angels. It’s the joy of the Father, the Father who runs out to welcome the prodigal, the Father who kills the fatted calf, the Father who joins the dancing and singing over the return of His bride and the renewal of His marriage.

For the Lord, His Bride is a crown and a diadem – just as an excellent wife is a crown to any man, a symbol of His glory, a glorification. God is full of all glory; he is eternal King. Yet Zion is a crown of glory and beauty, and a royal diadem in His hand. His people make Him king. Without us, He doesn’t wear the crown, because we are His crown. Without Israel, Yahweh is not king. Without a restored Israel, Yahweh is not king. Yet He is king, therefore Israel will be restored.

Yahweh is not King unless He is also Bridegroom.

We don’t believe this. We can’t believe that God loves us enthusiastically, passionately. But that is nothing more than unbelief. Scripture says that this is how God loves, how God loves His people, how God loves you. The Lord rejoices over you like a bridegroom rejoicing over His bride on his wedding night. He sings and dances with joy. Believe it. The Lord will rejoice over Zion. Believe it, and be caught up in His joy.

Zion’s restoration is spoken of as the flashing of fire, like a sunrise. God’s own glory is described as a burning torch, flashing out with splendor, but here the glory is not Yahweh’s own but the righteousness and her salvation of Zion, which is her glory (v. 2). When Zion is restored, she will flash with glory, the glorious flame of Yah.

When Zion is rebuilt and returned, when Yahweh who forsakes comes back, when Zion the Forsaken is renamed “Zion in whom the Lord Delights,” then the nations will see her glory, they will see the salvation that the Lord achieves for her. The nations will see the righteousness of God displayed, His faithfulness to his bride and to His wedding vows, and they will see that Israel too is righteous.

That all happens because of the incessant speech, especially of the Servant. No speaker is named at the beginning of chapter 62. The “I” is the same speaker that was speaking at the end of chapter 61. He is the Bridegroom, and if we trace it back, He is the Servant of Yahweh who is anointed with the Spirit.

The Servant rejoices in Yahweh and exults in God. He rejoices like a bridegroom at his wedding. And this rejoicing and praise doesn’t stop. He won’t keep silent. He won’t keep quiet. He will keep praising for Zion’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake. He will keep praising until Zion and Jerusalem become a praise.

This is a kind of prayer, but it comes from the Servant, who is virtually identical with Yahweh Himself. This is Yahweh’s own speech. He won’t stop talking until His creative, powerful word accomplishes what He intends. But the Servant isn’t quite the same as Yahweh. There is intercession and response within God’s own life. The Servant praises Yahweh ceaselessly, until Yahweh acts.

The Servant who praises and praises without rest is not alone. The Lord appoints watchmen who do the same. Day and night they refuse to keep silent, they refuse to rest, until Zion enjoys a complete restoration. The watchmen are priests of the city. The word for “watch” is a word used for the priestly duty of guarding the sanctuary. These are guardians of the temple-city of Zion. They work “day and night,” like the priests who offer sacrifice day and night. Their sacrifice of prayer is a ceaseless prayer, restless petition to Yahweh to keep His promises. They are stationed on the wall as guardians and as memorialists. They are there to “cause God to remember.” They commemorate what Yahweh has done in the past, remind Him of His promises. By their ceaseless prayers and worship, they are like an eternal rainbow that reminds Yahweh of His promises to His bride Zion.

They take no rest and they don’t allow God to sleep. God creates and then enters the rest of His Sabbath. Yahweh triumphs over His enemies, builds His house, and sits on His throne. But as long as Zion is not restored, as long as the house is not rebuilt, Yahweh isn’t ready to take His rest. He isn’t ready to take the throne and the crown. The guardians of Zion allow no Sabbath to Yahweh until He has finished His work of recreation.

This is the role of the priesthood, which is us. We are to offer continuous memorials before God, day and night, and not stop until He has established Jerusalem and made her a praise in the earth. We offer memorials before God in prayer, thanks, and praise. When we sing Psalms about what He has done in the past to deliver His people, we are memorializing Him. Scripture says that our good works, our works of charity, ascend like an offering to God, a pleasing aroma to Him, and the ascent of this aroma is a reminder to Him. We memorialize Jesus every time we celebrate the Supper. We do this as the memorial of Jesus, not primarily to remind ourselves what Jesus has done, but to remind the Father of what Jesus did to realize the promises of His Father.

This is our duty as a community of priestly guardians, and if we don’t do that we are not fulfilling our role in the realization of God’s purposes in history. If we don’t pray for Jerusalem, for the building-up of God’s kingdom; if we don’t sing of His works in the past and call on Him to do it again; if we don’t memorialize Jesus in the Supper regularly, then we are letting God off the hook. No wonder Jerusalem is a shame rather than a praise in the world. No wonder the church is not built up. No wonder God seems indifferent, almost asleep. We’ve let Him rest before His work was done.

Make this commitment, which is just God's commitment to us: Give Him no Sabbath until He elevates us to share Sabbath with Him.

Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis.

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