The Church – the collection of all faithful followers of Jesus – is pledged in marriage to the very Son of God, and one day, perhaps very soon, we will experience the fulfillment of that promise (see Revelation 21). But since it is a promise, is there anything for us to do while we are waiting?
A normal bride would be busy planning the wedding, to be sure. But in addition to all of the details of sending invitations, choosing colors, and selecting venues, she would be doing her best to make herself beautiful for her husband to be (and all those witnessing her at the wedding). It’s not uncommon for a bride to go on a diet, spend time at the gym, try to find just the right hairstyle, find a person skilled to help her with her makeup, and of course be sure to have the perfect dress, along with shoes and jewelry to complete the look.
How can the church make Herself beautiful? I think that Isaiah 62 gives us some ideas. In an extended metaphor, the prophet is speaking from God’s perspective about Jerusalem. But what is Jerusalem in this metaphor? We see in Revelation 21 that the new Jerusalem represents the Church. And in Isaiah 62, especially verses 4 and 5, we see Jerusalem being promised as a bride to God. We can therefore use this passage in Isaiah to help us understand what the Lord wants to happen leading up to the great wedding.
In verses 1-3, we read “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. 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. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (ESV).
Then in verses 6-7, we read, “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth” (ESV).
In these verses (and not forgetting what the prophet declared of himself in verse 1) we see that there will be those called by God to pray and intercede that all of these transformations in the Church will take place to prepare the Bride. Rather than having a lukewarm love, the Church will have a passionate love, one that causes the nations of the world to wake up and take notice.
Verses 4 and 5 say, “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. 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” (ESV).
What I get out of all of these verses together is that what the Bride is to grow in is purity, devotion to God, and love for people. The devotion part is from the fact that God is rejoicing over His Bride, and a man rejoices over his bride because not only does he love her, but she loves him – she is devoted to him. And I conclude that they must grow in the love of people because the nations respond to these changes in the Church by many coming to salvation. The message of righteousness by itself is not a message that is always well received by the world, since by itself it speaks of condemnation, but when coupled with love of others, unbelievers take note.
So how will the Church develop this purity, devotion to God, and love for people? The passage already answers part of this question: there will be intercessors who remind God day and night what the Bride should look like so that she is ready for the marriage feast. As a result of the prayers of these intercessors, God will arise to awaken the hearts of His people to throw off every distraction and focus with such clarity that their hearts beat with the love of a woman anxiously waiting for her wedding day.
But there is a role for pastors and teachers to teach their flocks how to live a devoted life, as well as for each person to shake themselves awake. Have you noticed that when a relationship becomes serious, oftentimes friends and family feel slighted because they no longer seem to have sufficient time in the lives of the Lovers? While this can be painful for the friends and family, this is a natural occurrence as a man and woman begin to develop hearts that beat as one. Similarly, we must begin to choose lifestyles that forsake most of the nonessentials that we might focus on the One who is Essential. This will become easier as the Lord draws us to His heart, but we also will need to respond to that drawing by turning away from worldly cares and concerns.
We are in the season of the Bride preparing herself for the Bridegroom – for the Bride preparing for her wedding day. More and more we will see – and need to choose to be part of – the focused devotion on the Lord. Summing up, this will involve the following:
1) Some being called to intercede on behalf of the Church, reminding God of the Bride He has envisioned since before Creation.
2) The Church growing in both love for people and purity in respect to how they live for the sake of God. With only growth in purity, they will appear to the world as self-righteous and smug. With only growing in love for people, they will appear as a warm but tarnished Bride. But with both developing simultaneously, their purity will come with humility as they project genuine love to all people.
3) Faithful followers of Jesus more and more will be able to help one another turn away from worldly distractions and to devote their hearts to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, allowing themselves to be bonded together with The Beloved.