The Dramatic Transformation of the Bride by the Triumphant Bridegroom: A Wedding Homily for David and Lisa Johnson
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, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; 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.
Marriage is a parable. A drama. In that sense, we are all actors on the stage this afternoon. The fancy dresses and the beautiful smiles and the happy feelings we all feel right now will not last. This is not reality in this present life. Life—even married life—comes with a great deal more hardships and trials, suffering and pain, misunderstanding and miscommunication.
So why then make such a show of marriage? Why the flowers and the music and the friends and family and the suit coats—on a near 100-degree afternoon? Because marriage does indeed portray a reality; just one that we do not yet fully possess. Indeed the days and years of joy and contentment and love and devotion to one another that lie ahead of you are only glimpses of what is still to come.
Jesus told us in Matthew 22:30 that there is no marriage following the resurrection. That is, marriage will no longer be needed in the eternal state because it will give way to the reality that it is only meant to signify. What is that reality? We find out what it is in Ephesians 5:31-32.
Therefore “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
So marriage is a parable, intended to demonstrate to us through its symbols the realities that await the church, that is, the people of God. That’s why we find the symbolism of marriage used in several places in the Bible including the one that was read to us a moment ago. Listen to what we find there about the realities that are coming for the people of God.
A Dramatic Transformation
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 (Isa 62:1).
Zion is a Hebrew word that is used to refer to God’s chosen people in both the Old and the New Testaments. The promise is that God’s people will undergo a dramatic transformation. The comparison of their righteousness to brightness and their salvation to a burning torch indicates that though God’s people may be ignored now, the day is coming when all attention will be on them, like all eyes are glued on the bride when she comes down the aisle. For the next verse reads, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory” (Isa 62:1). Kings do not willingly behold any rank other than their own. But the glory of God’s people will be so compelling they will be forced to acknowledge it.
The third verse promises that God’s people will “be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” The comparison of the church to a crown is meant to convey the greatest beauty on earth. But why is the crown in his hand and not on his head? By placing the crown in his hand the emphasis is not on the exercise of royal power but rather on the possession of royal worth and dignity (J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993], electronic edition.). In other words, God’s people serve to magnify the glory of the one who guards them in his hand.
Think about this for a moment. It is customary (and appropriate) at a wedding for the attention to be on the bride. It is for her that everyone stands when she walks down the aisle. We did not stand for the groom’s entrance. Yet it is precisely because of this attention given to the bride that the bridgeroom’s glory is magnified. He is the one who will leave here with the bride “in his hand.” The Bible says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband” (Prov 12:4). As Lisa is a crown of beauty in the hand of David, so God’s people ultimately bring glory not to themselves but to the one who possesses them.
Now perhaps the most obvious marital symbol in this passage is found at the end of verse 2: “and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.” When God makes a significant transformation in someone, he often gives them a new name to signify the new reality of who that person is. Just as David and Lisa are about to become Mr. and Mrs. David Johnson, so God’s people will be so transformed that they, too, will be given a new name.
You can learn a lot from a name. God’s people were once known by the names Azuvah and Shemamah, “Forsaken” and “Desolate.” But now they are called Hephzi-bah and Beulah, “My Delight Is in Her” and “Married.” The meaning is obvious. Formerly these people were all alone to themselves, forsaken and desolate. What changed? Simply that the bridegroom came along and took delight in her. That’s it. That made all the difference.
The Triumphant Bridegroom
So who is this bridegroom? We find out in verse 5. “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” It is the LORD. What we see dramatized before us is the reality of what God does for his people. Yes, David, you get to represent God today! But do not confuse the parable for the reality to which it points. Lisa, David must not be your savior. Only let him represent to you—and to all of us who are God’s people—the reality of what God has done to make you his own.
And what exactly did he do? He became the triumphant bridegroom who because of the delight he had in his bride, went to great lengths to make her his own. You see, we did not yet answer one of the most important questions in our text, namely, who is it that is speaking. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.” Who is this who is speaking?
It is Someone who is quite eager to see that this dramatic transformation of the bride take place. “I will not keep silent,” he says, “until her righteousness goes forth as brightness.” No one was more eager to see Lisa come down that aisle today than David, the bridegroom. So our speaker in this passage is the Bridegroom. It is God himself.
But there is more. For our passage is a continuation of what we find in the previous chapter. And one day many years ago a Jewish carpenter walked into a synagogue in the Jewish town of Nazareth, picked up the scroll, and, having read from Isaiah 61, caused quite an uproar when he declared to be the fulfillment of that prophecy (Luke 4:16-30).
The Bridegroom is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. And those who will receive the glorious transformation are those in whom he takes delight. His bride. His church. And so the greatest message David and Lisa are portraying today is the glorious reality that awaits those who are his. Christ so loved his people that he
gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27).
These are realities. But they are not yet here. Your marriage and ours will not perfectly reflect God’s promises. Still the clarion call rings loud and clear in our drama this afternoon. Be reconciled to God through Christ. He is your only hope for the salvation that you truly long for.