Lately I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah. For those of you not super familiar with the Bible, it’s not a common study subject. It starts the section of the Bible that is primarily prophesy. Prophets were considered ‘seers’ or ‘pronouncers’ in Old Testament times. God used prophets to convey to both the His children (the Israelites) and surrounding nations what His plans were and how they were to live in light of the things revealed to them.
So when the Holy Spirit started pushing me toward Isaiah, I had my doubts. I thought I was in for a bunch of boring curses on other nations and condemnation for Israel’s sin. I was partly right- the first 27 chapters is a lot of “Woe to (fill in the blank)!”. Once I made it through, though, I found the sweetest knowledge and understanding of God’s character and His love for His children. I wouldn’t have understood that part without the 27 chapters of “Woe!”.
This week I was reading in chapter 62; where God is in the process of returning His favor to them, even though they can’t seem to stay loyal for any stretch of time. I got to verse four which reads “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah…”
And this is where I cackled with laughter. The Bible is full of funny sounding names, but for some reason, this one was particularly amusing. I legit laughed out loud. So loud that I was afraid I’d woken my husband up. I went back and looked at it again, to make sure that I read it correctly. It was still funny even after I checked my pronunciation. You say it…Heph-zi-bah.
The unexpected reaction made me stop, though, and look again. I’d obviously not heard this name before, and I was curious about it. So I went back and read the whole verse again….
“No longer will they call you Deserted, or your land be Desolate, but you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah. For the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your builder marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will God rejoice over you.”
How beautiful is that? The Lord is speaking to a nation that obviously does not have a good reputation, and He’s renaming them as something precious and beloved.
I’m going to get a little bit Webster on you, and define a couple of words.
Deserted: abandoned, forsaken, unfrequented, lonely
Desolate: Barren, laid waste; having a feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope
Have you ever felt like this? Whether it’s because of issues you’ve caused or something someone has done to you, I think we’ve all felt like this at some point.
In Israel’s case, both instances were true. Sometimes nations came in and overtook them because of sin within Israel. The Lord let them be overtaken as a punishment of sorts. He withdrew His protection. Other times, it wasn’t their fault. The armies were just bigger than they were. Either way, this nation knew what it was like to be abandoned and their land laid waste to. And in those times, they had developed a bad reputation. Just as sometimes the storms in our life can tarnish our name or integrity.
But God never fully withdrew His protection from Israel, just as He never does from those who call Him Father today. He may appear to be hiding for a little bit, but He’s never too far away. And He always draws His children back to Him.
Not only does He draw them back, but he restores their name. First, He says that instead of Deserted, we will be called Hephzibah. You can chuckle here if you like. But it’s really a sweet name. In Hebrew, it means “My delight is in her”. How beautiful! And if you’re a child of God, then this is true of you too! (If you’re curious, Romans 4 goes into great detail about how the promises to Israel apply to even non-Jewish believers.)
Just think. God doesn’t just love us enough to send His Son for our salvation. As if that’s not enough, He delights in us. You bring joy to the heart of the God of the universe! He doesn’t regret you, or wish He’d made you differently. He loves your strengths, your weaknesses, your high points, your low points, your beauties, and your flaws. God doesn’t make mistakes, that would be contradictory to His nature. He made you just the way He planned, and He doesn’t regret it. He delights in you.
The next name He gives Israel is Beulah. I bet you picture your Great Aunt Bertha’s nursing home roommate when you hear that name. But in Biblical times, it means “married”. The Bible frequently calls the church the bride of Christ, and sometimes the significance of this can be lost on us because we hear it so often in church culture. The casual approach to marriage in our world today can also dampen the heart behind this name. Marriages come and go, and can’t really be depended on today.
But think about it from God’s perspective. What does He mean when He claims His children in marriage? He thinks of marriage the way He intended it. A forever covenant with another person. A covenant that has no caveats or escape clauses. It’s a relationship that will always be there because that person loves you more than life itself. It’s safety and security and love.
The book of Hosea is a great example of this love. God commands the prophet Hosea to “marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife, this land (Israel) is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2) Hosea obeys, and the rest of the book uses Hosea’s difficult marriage to exemplify the faithfulness of God. No matter how many times his wife ran off and fell prey to the world, he maintained his marriage covenant. A true understanding of the depth of this grace, love, and devotion will make the world look less and less appealing.
Just this week, I was interacting with someone who has impossibly high standards for themselves and those around them. I felt like no matter what I did, it wouldn’t be enough, and it was starting to make wonder if I was even up for the task at all. My self-confidence was plummeting.
But then I remembered that my Father delights in me. And that even if I royally screwed up in front of this person and they decided they didn’t want to work with me anymore, I have a God who has entered into a marriage covenant with me. He will never leave me because of my deficiencies. He’ll help me through them, but He won’t run away or shame me. With that on the forefront of my mind, what this person thought of me started to mean a whole lot less.
So the next time that you feel like you don’t measure up to someone else’s standards, or feel you’ve disappointed a loved one, or you’re treated poorly- remember that you have a Heavenly Father who delights in you and is always there to catch you. Take heart and be encouraged in this fact. You matter, Hephzibah!