The Wedding of Heaven

Isaiah 61: 10 - 62: 2 (Christmas Two – 2014)

“The Wedding of Heaven”

Have you ever seen a formal wedding held in a beautiful outdoor location, like a garden or by the seashore? They are quite the sight. That is the point. The bride and groom are celebrating the most important event of their lives. They want it beautiful. They want to be dressed in fine clothes. They want their guests to be a part of the beauty. They want everyone to notice that their special day is as heavenly as possible.

Scripture portrays the Church as Christ’s heavenly bride. Heaven is often called the wedding or marriage feast of the lamb. Jesus and his believers is the heavenly portrait of a wedding banquet with fine clothes and a lovely setting. Isaiah uses that picture. In this section Isaiah had been telling them about the Servant, Christ, was going come into the world to proclaim goods news to the broken hearted. Now he has shifted to the result of that preaching which is the visible appearance of the Church in the world.  

Verse nine leads us into to this beautiful picture: “Their descendants will be known among the nations … all who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” Those who gather around the Word of God to hear and trust in Jesus as Lord are pictured like heavenly wedding banquet being served in a beautiful garden. Today we want to notice that lovely heavenly wedding Isaiah describes the proper garments and the prosperous garden.

The Proper Garments

           The Groom’s priestly Garments of Righteousness Isaiah’s picture includes the groom: “as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest.” Jesus not only had the role of prophet, he also had the role of priest. Isaiah explains that his priestly dress was one of righteousness. In the Old Testament God designed sacred garments for the priest to wear “to give him dignity and honor” (Exodus 28: 2). The garments were to be hand crafted by skilled workers. There was a robe, an ornamental breastplate, a hand-woven tunic, a turban and a sash. The priest was dressing for God’s work. He was entering the holy places. He was offering sacrifices. He was meditating and praying on behalf of the people. He was doing the work of God that led people to see God’s ultimate sacrifice of his Anointed Son for their sins.

The Bride’s Clothes of Salvation Isaiah includes the bride: “as bride adorns herself with her jewels.” In every culture, in every age, the bride sees her special day as a day to put on her finest. Go to a wedding in any setting and you will know which one the bride is, especially because of what she is wearing. We typically think of the long white dress which originally was intended to signify the purity of an unwed gal. In Old Testament Israel that garment was often accompanied by her most expensive jewelry, perhaps a gift from her groom to signify his ability to provide for her. The bride’s new garments bring praise to her husband.

            Do you see the point? We needed proper garments. We are not born in purity. We are born in the filthiness of sin. We lacked the garment of righteousness. The Old Testament priests were sinful and had to be covered as well. They were handling holy things of God. They had to go in covered. No one else could enter without the proper clothes. When God sees us without the garments he has provided, we are detestable to him. He sees our guilt. He knows our filthy desires. Like Adam and Eve he casts us out his lovely garden and his presence.

            But in that garden he promised a redeemer. After the Fall he clothed them, not just physically but spiritually. He promised that the priestly duties would be fulfilled by One who was without sin. Christ came to earth dressed in righteousness. He did not enter the Holy Place in the Temple. Rather he took on the filth of our sin and carried it outside the city. He wore our unrighteousness and sacrificed it on the altar of the cross.

In turn he gave expensive gifts to his bride: the garment of his holiness, and the priceless jewels of sins forgiven, and in our Baptisms he gives us the wedding clothes fit to be the bride of heaven. Because of his expenses gifts, the Church brings honor and dignity to the Priestly Groom who dressed her for his presence. We have been welcomed back into the wedding garden. And God’s garden is a prosperous one.

The Prosperous Garden

The Fruits of Grace “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 the nations.” God makes his garden grow. Isaiah repeating a promise he made earlier in his book: “so is the Word that goes out from my mouth, it will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55). The prosperity of the Church depends on the good soil of God’s Word. The message of Christ is the nutritious soil and seed that causes faith in the hearts of sinners to sprout. God in his grace makes the Church look beautiful. “Their descendants will be known among the nations … all who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”

The fruits of God’s grace are automatic results of the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus. God’s people are blessed because they are recipients of his generosity. They are recipients of his Son’s body and blood and forgiveness. They are recipients of his divine protection and providence. People who gather to hear and grown in his Garden of Grace prosper according to his grace to them in Jesus. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows!” (Psalm 23: 5)

The Light of Grace “All her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation is like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness.” A bride and groom desire that their special day makes an impression. In the same way, our Bridegroom desires that his Bride shines out like the dawn. Our Sovereign LORD desires to have his righteousness and salvation shine out to others. He desires that those who have his Word and receive his spiritual gifts get noticed and bring him glory. He has spent his priceless blood on our salvation. We bear his new Name (verse 2). He wants that to be obvious to those around us.

The concepts of the worship life in the Old Testament were the most visible way God set his people apart from the ways of the world. The design of the tabernacle, and eventually the temple, was very unique. The vestments of the priests, the pieces of furniture, the functions of the stations, the sights and sounds and smells got people’s attention to the Sovereignty of God. The ceremonies hedged them all together in a unity that set them apart from the world.

The New Testament Church has gotten noticed as well. In our worship we do things that are unique. What we do here is not to be a reflection of the world. It is rather to be a reflection of God’s Sovereignty to the world. The sights and sounds of Christian Sanctuaries stand out like a blazing torch. The vestments of the pastor and the altar are not living room materials. The words and songs and sights and smells of the worship space are unique to the Gathered Church. God has produced the fruits of his grace in the garden of his righteousness. He desires that the beautiful priceless fruits are presented in a way that honors their presence.

The same is also true of our personal lives. Paul reminds us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4: 5). We bear the new Name when we leave this place and interact with world. God wants others to notice that about you in the way live, in the words you choose, in the way you appear to them. You are representing the Bridegroom of the Heavenly banquet.

On earth God promises to make his Bride, the Church shine like a beautiful wedding. He has dressed us with the proper garments of his Salvation. He has planted us into his prosperous garden of Grace. Soon he will welcome us, and all those who believe his message, into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb. Amen.