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Isaiah 54:4–8

  1. Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
  2. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
  3. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
  4. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
  5. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

I’m a divorced woman. The dark road of divorce was part of God’s plan for my life. I believe in the doctrine of predestination, and boldly apply that doctrine to my own life, trusting that my loving Savior’s plan for my life is good, including the uglier parts. What I have suffered isn’t greater or so different from the trials that other Christians suffer, but it does seem to be an issue that makes Christians uncomfortable – perhaps because divorce involves betrayal and sin, often including the sin of adultery. Nevertheless, I’m writing this because God’s word has something beautiful to say about my experience as a divorced person.

Jesus Christ wed himself to his bride, the church. Christians look on earthly marriage as a reflection of this much greater reality, and they gain a better understanding of the Savior’s love for the church. Married Christians pattern their marriages after Christ, and God’s love for the church informs married folks how to live well in marriage.

In Isaiah 54 the prophet foretold of a different relationship for His people. Isaiah told the forsaken Israelites to be hopeful in the face of hopelessness. Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be forsaken in Babylon, but she need not despair because God would deliver Israel from bondage and gather her again to Himself.

I contend that Isaiah 54 addresses the experience of the divorced Christian, and the passage also instructs the divorced on how to live well despite the rejection of the spouse.

The state of divorce cannot be comfortable. Fear, shame, confusion, and grief are the experience of divorce, as described in Isaiah 54:4. The passage describes perfectly what every divorced person encounters. The message here is a promise for the future even though the present is difficult. The divorced child of God must accept the difficult realities of divorce and all the complications and grief that come along for the ride.  Verse 6 says, “For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit.” The present grief is all too real, but even in this state of rejection, God has a promise for the future and His love is steadfast.

Those powerful emotions of shame, fear, and grief (Isaiah 54:4) can sometimes leave the divorced person feeling isolated from the Christian community at a time when fellowship is most important. God’s everlasting kindness (Isaiah 54:8) is reflected in his people as they open their homes to the divorced Christian. The lives of the divorced are enriched through friendships with God’s people, and divorced folks have much to contribute to the body of Christ as well. Through fellowship the divorced Christian begins to realize the promises of Isaiah 54 here and now. I’m blessed with a loving family and dear friends, and am thankful for all that God has done through their kindness, godly counsel, and simple acts of friendship.

Verse 7 says, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.” The passage uses the words “mercy” and “kindness” to describe God’s tender love for the divorced spouse. The divorced Christian lives in hope for the future and experiences the everlasting love of the Savior, even in her present state of divorce. God is speaking words of hope to the divorced child of God.

The object of that hope is found in verse 5. “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.” My hope is found in the great gift of God himself. God is the faithful, forgiving husband, and there is fellowship with him and solace in him in this moment in time as well as in eternity.

I’m grateful that the Lord is clear in Scripture. His command is that the divorced child of God live a chaste, celibate life. This command is not optional, nor is it up to each individual to interpret for himself. In 1 Corinthians 7:10–11 the apostle Paul wrote, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” Divorce puts the forsaken spouse in a precarious and vulnerable position, but obedience protects the divorced Christian from the entanglements that sin creates. This command is not intended to punish, but rather unburden the divorced Christian. God’s commands are always for our benefit. Obedience is liberty.

But the life of the divorced Christian is about much more than celibacy. Isaiah 54 compels me to go beyond that negative (though important) restriction, and to live gratefully and joyfully for Christ today. It further compels me to have bright hope in God’s promise in verse 8, which says, In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.” This is the hope that I have set my heart on. The road is certainly narrower for a divorced Christian who endeavors to do God’s will, but a life of gratitude, peace, and purposefulness is a possibility by God’s grace.

I believe that Isaiah 54 has a broader message and a greater reality for God’s church today as well. This passage tells Christians that there may be a time when the church on earth resembles a forsaken spouse rather than a bride, but that should not shake our faith. Psalm 137:1–4 says,

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

In Psalm 137 we read about fulfillment of Isaiah’s sad prophesy in chapter 54. This is sometimes the experience of the church today as well, as the church wrestles with worldly culture, or battles against apostasy, or is shaken by discord from within. The message for the church is the same as for the divorced Christian: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.” God will gather his forsaken spouse, his bride, the church, to Himself. Until the end of time we live in that hope.

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