A reflection on Isaiah 62:1-5 and Psalm 36:5-10 for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, January 16, 2022.
For 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.
The 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.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
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 builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
Isaiah 62:1-5 (NRSVA)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgements are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your salvation to the upright of heart!
Psalm 36:5-10 (NRSVA)
Perhaps there is tendency for the term ‘love’ to be overused. The word is annexed when referring to ice-cream, a favourite novel, a partner, and – of course – of God.
The Psalm above is a celebration of the love of God.
The term translated ‘steadfast love’ throughout this prayer is, in Hebrew, hesed. It is much bigger – and more grounded – than our word love. Hesed is less an emotion than a concrete action. Perhaps we might say that it points to what God does with God’s love. It has been translated with a variety of English terms including ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’, ‘grace’, and ‘faithfulness’.
The message is that Hesed is not fleeting, meaningless love – but a grounded and ‘steadfast’ love. As our psalmist insists, it can be compared to ‘mighty mountains’ and the ‘great deep’. It is a place of ‘refuge’ and ‘abundance’. When one is thirsty, it is a ‘river’ and a ‘fountain’. God’s ‘hesed’ is a place for us to delight!
‘Delight’ is, however, not only a response to God’s abundant provision. It is also a response of God toward us.
Isaiah makes this abundantly clear. In this God-naming of Israel we have the evocative title ‘My Delight is in Her’. This is in deliberate contrast to titles that perhaps seem more fitting – at least by the nations that surround: ‘Forsaken’. ‘Desolate’.
Yet it is God’s naming of Israel – not the name-calling of their mocking neighbours – that is of real significance. The images used point Israel to a grounded and acted-upon love. God will give God-self in – of all things – marriage to Israel.
God will ‘delight’ in her.
Hesed is a wonderful concept – especially when it refers to God’s stance toward us. ’Delight’, however, reminds us that God finds joy in acting out of the love he has for the universe.
And you are a part of that universe. God delights in you!
Which aspect of God’s love do you need more in this season: ‘Hesed’ or ‘Delight’?