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Israel's Widowhood

Sep 15, 2010

Isaiah 54:4, 5 says,

(4) Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. (5) For your Husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.

The prophet calls Israel a widow, meaning that her Husband had died. The death of her Husband was prophesied earlier in Isaiah 53,

(4) Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. . . (9) His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.

This is one of the great chapters prophesying the death of the Messiah. The purpose of His death is given in verse 11, "My Servant will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities." In other words, He was the sacrificial "lamb" that was called to bear the iniquities of mankind and pay the full penalty for our sin, even though He Himself "had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth" (vs. 9).

Another great purpose of His death is given in verse 10, "If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring."

In other words, He would have "children," but only if He would die. In the natural, of course, this makes no sense. How can a man have children after he dies? But the prophet spoke of the sons of God, who could not be brought forth apart from being justified from sin through His death.

Isaiah then bursts into jubilation with reference to the barren one bringing forth more children than the other wife. It is a direct reference to Sarah, the barren wife of Abraham, contrasting her with Hagar. Isaiah 54 says,

(1) Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no children . . . for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman," says the Lord. (2) Enlarge the place of your tent . . . (3) For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess nations, and they will resettle the desolate cities.

Paul quotes this passage in Gal. 4:27, showing us that the "barren one" who bears many children is a reference to Sarah. In other words, it speaks of the promise given to Abraham that he would have many children. That promise, in turn, is a main feature of the Birthright itself, for the Birthright was composed of two primary mandates from the beginning:

"Let them have dominion" (Gen. 1:26)
"Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28)

This Birthright was passed down from Adam to his sons until it rested upon Isaac, the seed of Abraham and Sarah. That seed was given authority and promised great multiplication that would ultimately exceed that of the more fruitful wife in the flesh. In other words, the fleshly sons would be more numerous at first, but in the end the sons of God (Christ) would far surpass them.

This is the result of the death of the Great Servant, the Messiah. The promise of the Father was then given on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. It was the Holy Spirit, by which Christ is conceived in each of us. That holy seed has a heavenly Father and is the son of God, Christ in you. It is not the fleshly man born of Adam that is a son of God, but the spiritual man within you. That new creation man is our new identity in Christ and is the inheritor of the Birthright that will "possess nations," as Isaiah tells us.

This is the context in which we read of Israel's "widowhood." When Isaiah wrote these words, Israel had already been divorced from God and sent out of His house (ch. 37-39). Yet being divorced is not the same as being a widow. The Law had forbidden a husband to remarry his ex-wife after divorcing her (Deut. 24:4), and yet Hosea 2:20 says "I will betroth you to Me in righteousness." How could God promise to remarry Israel and yet remain true to Himself?

The answer was hidden to the rabbis, but found in Romans 7:3, "if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man."

In other words, as long as Israel's Husband, "the God of the whole earth," remained alive, He was restricted by His own Law and moral standard from remarrying his ex-wife, Israel. So He came in the Person of Jesus Christ to die. Upon dying, He was then free to marry whomsoever He would--even His ex-wife. This was because the Law recognized Him as a "new creation," a different Person in the eyes of the Law.

When He died, as prophesied in Isaiah 53, Israel became a "widow" in chapter 54. This tells us that Israel's Husband, "the God of the whole earth," was Jesus Christ. He was, in fact, the incarnation of the God who had married Israel at Mount Sinai, the God who came down as fire and gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, the God who led Israel in the wilderness for 40 years and who brought them into Canaan under Joshua.

The "wedding" of Matt. 22:2, then, is actually a remarriage. The first marriage did not turn out so well, because the Bride was fleshly. Jesus Christ (as Yahweh) married "Hagar" at Mount Sinai, and the children produced by this marriage were spiritual Ishmaelites. They were unable to receive the promised inheritance.

The second marriage, however, is with "Sarah" under a New Covenant marriage. He is marrying the New Jerusalem, not the old city. He is marrying the Isaac company, not the various forms of religious Ishmaelites. The sons of God are those who identify with the "Christ in you" that is the fulfillment of the promise, for we are becoming our next generation.

This is the New Israel, the one raised from the dead as a New Creation Man. God scattered the fleshly House of Israel after divorcing her, for she was not qualified in that condition to bring forth the sons of God. She had to be transformed from Hagar to Sarah, and this was accomplished through Jesus Christ.

In the process, He became "the God of the whole earth," rather than just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or even the God of Israel. When Hagar-Israel was cast out, she could not return apart from having a New Identity in Christ. And in that return and regathering, Isaiah says that many others will be gathered with them (Is. 56:8). The context shows them to be "foreigners who join themselves to the Lord" (vs. 6). His true Temple will be "a house of prayer for all the peoples" (vs. 7).

So the divine purpose in casting out Hagar-Israel, the fleshly wife, was first to make way for a better marriage yet to come. It was better in quality, for it was the New Jerusalem, rather than the old. It was better in scope and size, because it would include the entire earth instead of just a small portion of it. This is the marriage that John saw in Rev. 21:2,

(2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

This is also Hephzibah-Jerusalem (Isaiah 62:4). The old city, like Hagar, was cast out as unfit for marriage. The New Jerusalem is the final Bride of Christ. Yet even as in the story of Hagar and Sarah, there is a dispute over who is the true Bride and Mother of the promised seed. The stage is now set for God to justify "Sarah" by giving her the favorable verdict.


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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