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Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,   and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,  until her vindication shines out like the dawn,   and her salvation like a burning torch.  2The nations shall see your vindication,   and all the kings your glory;  and you shall be called by a new name   that the mouth of the Lord will give.  3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  4You 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.  5For as a young man marries a young woman,   so shall your builder marry you,  and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,   so shall your God rejoice over you.

Here is the note that introduces this passage from our worship publication “Sundays and Seasons: ”The people’s return to Judah after the exile was marred by economic and political troubles. Nevertheless, the prophet declares, Jerusalem and Judah will be restored. God will rejoice over Jerusalem as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, and the people are called to the celebration.”

As I have mentioned before, the Old Testament book of Isaiah can be divided into three sections – Pre-Exile, Exile and Post-Exile. Pre-Exile (chapters 1-39) clarify the sad state of affairs of Israel that has brought them to this point of dread and defeat. They have turned their backs to God, worshipped other gods, and become a divided and broken nation. Yes, there are glimmers of hope for the future, but first there will be a time of punishment and pain. Exile (chapters 40-55), the people of God find themselves in Babylon, far away from the Promised Land. They mourn and cry out to God to deliver them. Once again, there are glimmers of hope. Post Exile (chapters 56-66), the Israelites make their way back to the land they once inhabited, filled with hope. They are also given a charge and a promise.

Today’s lesson focuses on the relationship between God and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is more than just a city. It is THE location of faith and hope. It is the place where God dwells. It is the place you go to get close to God.

Throughout the Old Testament, we hear of the kings who ruled. The good kings were considered good if they did two things – worship one God (Yahweh) and worship that one God in the right place (Jerusalem).

Jerusalem is a fascinating city, with its winding streets and diverse cultures and rich history. The Old City is divided into four sections, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. For all of these, Jerusalem is the center of faith and history.

To hear these words of the prophet in the lesson today lifts up the prominent spot this city holds for those returning from exile in Babylon. This is home. This is where God meets us. This is where we reside, in the home with the bride and bridegroom together once again.

As we come to know who Jesus is in this season of Epiphany, we will see how the relationship shifts from a PLACE to a PERSON. God’s relationship with the world is wrapped up in the one who is the Savior of the World, who comes to us, because God so loves the world…

While Jerusalem is a fascinating place (if you ever get a chance to go, I encourage you to do it!), even more fascinating is God’s great love for you and me. That is the relationship that matters. It is made complete in the gift of God’s only Son, our Savior and Lord. For this we offer our worship and praise.

Let us pray: O God, we thank you for your great love. May this relationship be strengthened today in all we say and do. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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