Overwhelmed with joy
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 – Year B
“Overwhelmed with joy”
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (NIV)
10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.
Zion’s New Name
62 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Here we sit this morning. Maybe we are still a little ‘shell shocked’ with all the busyness of the past few days. There’s still the tree to take down and maybe even some food left over to be finally cleaned up. We have presents to put away and resume ‘normality’ – whatever that may be for you.
In the life of the Church we’ve also had a fulfilling time. There has been three Christmas Eve services across our Parish and two Christmas Day services. These special services have as always brought with them an influx of additional people that simply swell our Churches. We may now be looking around the congregation this morning and wondering – “what’s happened?”
Where is everyone who came to celebrate the birth of Jesus and what’s happened to that joy that was so apparent and almost tangible over the Christmas days? Surely we cannot slide back into the same routine that has been our lot for 2008 so quickly and 2009 is not yet even here!
This is where Isaiah speaks to us today. His words should burn deeply into our mind and permanently remind us that our status before God is not dependant on how we feel. Our significance before God is due solely to Christ’s redemptive acts on our behalf – and we celebrated its beginning just three days ago.
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
Is that how you are feeling today? Can you say that you are filled with joy in God – right now, right here, right today? Do you feel overwhelmed with joy in the Lord your God?
“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!” Does that mean we are all going to have fun then? You know, I really do wish that this was the case. I really wish that people would see going to Church as a ‘fun’ activity. Unfortunately that is not the experience of many people.
I wish people enjoyed going to Church more. For me, I would love to hear that people have been anxiously waiting (like a child eagerly anticipates Christmas Day) for Sunday to arrive so that they could spend time in God’s house and with their brothers and sisters in Christ. I truly wish the study of the Bible was a thrilling and exciting experience for all of us and again that we daily looked forward to hearing what God was saying through Holy Scripture. This is how it should be and I believe that God intended that it should be this way.
Let’s see if we can understand this passage a little better by getting inside the head of a first century person and understand more of this bridegroom and bride metaphor.
The first major step in a Jewish marriage was betrothal. Betrothal involved the establishment of a marriage covenant.
By Jesus’ time it was usual for such a covenant to be established as the result of the prospective bridegroom taking the initiative or using a deputy, to conduct the negotiations. The prospective bridegroom (or his deputy) would travel from his father's house to the home of the prospective bride (in most cases this was in the same village).
There he would negotiate with the father of the young woman (or his deputy) to determine the price that he must pay to purchase his bride. This was because after marriage the woman’s service to her family was lost and therefore compensation was required. Once the bridegroom paid the agreed price, the marriage covenant was thereby established, and the young man and woman were regarded to be husband and wife.
From that moment on the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified, set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced.
After the marriage covenant had been established, the groom would leave the home of the bride and return to his father's house. There he would remain separate from his bride for a period of twelve months. This period of separation afforded the bride time to gather items together in a similar way that women of today may prepare a ‘glory box’ to take to their marriage home and also to prepare for married life. The groom occupied himself with the preparation of living accommodations in his father's house to which he could bring his bride.
At the end of the period of separation the groom would come to take his bride to live with him. The taking of the bride usually took place at night. The groom, best man and other male escorts would leave the father of the groom’s house and conduct a torch light procession to the home of the bride. Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the exact time of his coming. As a result the groom’s arrival would be preceded by a shout. This shout would forewarn the bride to be prepared for the coming of the groom.
After the groom received his bride together with her female attendants, the enlarged wedding party would leave the bride’s home to journey to the groom’s father’s house. Upon arrival there the wedding party would find that the wedding guests had already assembled.
Shortly after arrival the bride and groom would be escorted by the other members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber. Prior to entering the chamber the bride remained veiled so that no one could see her face. While the groomsmen and bridesmaids would wait outside, the bride and groom would enter the bridal chamber alone. There in the privacy of that place they would enter into physical union for the first time, thereby consummating the marriage that had been covenanted earlier.
After the marriage was consummated, the groom would announce the consummation to the other members of the wedding party waiting outside the chamber. These people would pass on the news of the marital union to the wedding guests. Upon receiving this good news the wedding guests would feast and make merry for the next seven days.
Think of the joy that is to be found between a young couple in love. They have so much life in front of them, they have so much to discover about one another, they have so much to learn about and from one another. This is the anticipated joy that is being spoken about by Isaiah.
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
This is the picture of joy that is being presented to us today. A bridegroom or a bride on their wedding day. They are overwhelmed with joy now that this day that they have waited and planned for has arrived. This is what it is like for the people of God who await with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ return.
Surely this is how God wants us to feel about what He has done for us. Christmas day is a celebration of the coming of Jesus for each one of us. The Christmas joy that we have with family and friends is a foretaste of the ‘heavenly banquet’ to come.
We now have a clearer picture of the wedding context and societal understanding that Isaiah was writing into. But how does this affect us today and how can it help me find joy in my relationship with God, my attendance at Church and my witness to others?
Your relationship with God is directly proportional to the desire you have in your life for a relationship with Him. The depth of desire you have in your life for a relationship with God is the determining factor in your spiritual growth. If you are content with where you are at present – then the status quo will remain. If you believe that God has more of His grace, mercy and love that He wishes to share with you, then that alone should be sufficient motivation for you to wish to grow in Him. Maybe it’s a case of lethargy? There has not been a sufficient need in your life (to date) that has spurred you to really seek the face of God and put your relationship with Him onto a new footing.
In four days time we enter a new calendar year. This is the last Sunday of 2008. Joy is what God wishes for all of His people. God wants you to have the very best in life – if you want it (I call it living life in the sweet spot). There are going to be some people in our Parish very excited about now because they made a commitment late last year to follow one of our Bible reading programmes and to read through the whole Bible over twelve months. They only have a few days to go and they will have read all of God’s Word. It’s taken time, it’s taken commitment but now I’ll bet they are feeling overwhelmed with joy as they have grown in Christ, learnt more of God’s will for their life and discovered greater treasures in Scripture.
God desires the very best for each of us as we are His unique creation. We are simply overwhelmed with joy when we live our life as God would have us live. That’s living life in your ‘sweet spot’.
X The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. X
 Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)
 Matthew 25:6 (NIV)
 Matthew 25:10 (NIV) Matthew 22:11 (NIV)
 John 3:29 (NIV)
 Adapted by JOK from http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/jewish_marriage_customs.htm
 Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)