We finished with Isaiah yesterday for the time being, with chapter 54. But what a chapter! 53 is the well-known one, all about Jesus, his death and resurrection. God's 'Servant', Jesus, came to die to bear the punishment for our sins. But where does that leave us? Chapter 54 in a nutshell: with profound joy.
There are three pictures of people being turned around. The first is of a woman unable to have children. And even if not a direct issue for us personally, we all know the feeling of fruitlessness in life. The older we get, the more we're aware that life doesn't produce what it ought. (Which is one reason we're so grumpy and miserable as we get older!) It's deeply upsetting. But Jesus changes all that: with him, we at last have a life that's truly productive, fruitful. We are united again with the Maker of the universe and our purpose for living. With Jesus, our life is going somewhere; we have something to live for that won't let us down - a great future with God.
The second picture is of a woman who thinks her husband has walked away. The agony of loneliness. Another very painful picture, and one we all know in relation to God. We feel he's walked away. He's put us on this earth, and for what? But again, the picture is turned around as we grasp the truth of the previous chapter: if God sent his Son to die for us, we can know for sure that we are loved, no longer lonely. In fact, the reason God felt so distant was that we had walked away; yet our guilt is no longer even mentioned here. God loves us with a never stopping love. No more emptiness, aloneness, guilt, shame.
The third picture is of people beaten, because their city is sacked and broken. Another picture of great distress - and one we all know the feeling of in this life we live. Everything we have falls apart. All we live for comes to an end. But with Jesus, all that changes at the deepest level: their city is rebuilt with ridiculous extravagance: Sapphire, rubies, precious stones ... The death and resurrection of Jesus totally turns life around: no longer broken, but alive! Secure! Rich for ever!
Now, consider that for life-changing: if we've got life secure as that - which we have, because of Jesus - why would we live for anything else? God has given us fruitfulness, love, life, security, riches forever; why waste our lives on other things? Live all out for him. Enjoy knowing him; work at a life that pleases him; make it our life's work to tell the world about him.
Church is not a hobby. We are the people given the most wonderful turn-around by Jesus. Does he not drive our ambition, our passion in life? Should we not throw all our energy, money, choices, life into him? Because with him, life overflows. Joy drives us. As we grasp what Christ has won for us, we invest in what we can't lose; give ourselves to what can't be taken away.