by Norma Koehne
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The voice of joy and the voice of gladness … ‘Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his mercy endures forever’ (Jeremiah 33:11).
In the middle of this passage, we have a picture of utter desolation. The Babylonians have destroyed the cities of Judah. Wind blows across empty places with no sign of life. The image that immediately comes to mind is areas of Australia that have suffered from years of drought, the terrible emptiness of the land with no vegetation and no animals. But God will restore the desolate places, and the howling of the wind will be replaced by songs of joy. As Isaiah says, ‘No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hepzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married’ (Isaiah 62:4). This image of being married is repeated here as we hear the songs of joy from ‘the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride’ (Isaiah 62:11).
Earlier in the week, we had the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus restored the happiness of the bride and groom by performing his first miracle. But even more powerful is the image of Christ as the bridegroom and the church his bride.
Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25–27).
Christ loves his church – not our church, as we often imagine but a multitude of believers brought to faith by the Holy Spirit in the washing and words of baptism and are cleansed daily by these waters as they repent and are forgiven and presented ‘spotless before the throne’.
Lord, you have been good to us as you have shown your enduring mercy through your saving death and brought us into your family through our baptism. You have taken us from desolation to joy, and we thank and praise you for your enduring love. Amen.