Sunday, July 14, 2013

Being Single Does Not Mean my Maker is my Husband

“For your Maker is your husband –
                the Lord Almighty is His name –
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
                He is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5)

I’ve had the first part of this verse quoted to me many times as a single person. And it bothers me every time. I usually keep my mouth shut when someone says it because it’s not worth getting into it.

But, a blog post about it has been forming in my mind for a while. I seem to be hearing it more and more often the longer I’m single. Both from married people and from other singles.

I guess I get why people say it or why people hold onto it. Life as a single person, especially in a marriage- and family-focused church, can get lonely sometimes – especially if you want to get married and have a family of your own. I get that. I’ve been in that place often in my life.

But I think in our desire to provide comfort for singles who want to be married and have a family, we’ve made a big mistake in how we use this verse – or rather how we use a small part of this verse. In our search, we’ve thrown out the first and most basic rule of interpreting and understanding the Bible . . . CONTEXT.

We’ve taken the first six words of Isaiah 54:5 and tried to make them stand alone.

Forgetting that these words make up less than 20% of the words in Isaiah 54:5.

And definitely not looking at the entirety of Isaiah 54, or the book of Isaiah, or the whole of Scripture.

Just a bit about the context of this phrase from this verse of Scripture:

·         Scripture, as a whole, is God’s love letter to His bride – the church as a whole.

·         The book of Isaiah was written to the nation of Israel as an entire people, not as individuals.

·         Isaiah was calling the nation of Israel back to God. Yes, that involved an individual decision, but nowhere in the book does Isaiah, or God through His prophet, say anything about the rewards and good things he was presenting as being given to individuals. They were all for the nation as a whole.

Now to the verse itself: All scholars I have read on this verse speak of this as being something corporate, not individual.

“The idea is, that Yahweh would substantiate to his people the relation of a husband; that he who had made them, who had originated all their laws and institutions, and moulded them as a people, would now take his church under his protection and care.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1847-85, public domain)

“In chapter 54 the people of God are represented under the double figure, which the Book of Revelation has made us familiar, of Bride and City. To imagine a Nation or a Land as the spouse of her God is a habit natural to the religious instinct at all times.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1887-1896, public domain)

These are two of the many scholars I read while studying this verse that say the meaning of this verse is God being the husband of the nation of Israel , not individuals. We also know from the New Testament that the church is the Bride of Christ, not the individual believer.

Ignoring the context is dangerous. There have been some pretty strange beliefs in history that have come from doing so. But, ignoring the context is exactly what we do with Isaiah 54:5 all the time.

In this case, we’re not directly stating anything that will lead people away from the truth of the gospel, but, as someone who has heard this verse quoted all too often in response to expressed desires for marriage and kids, we’re definitely failing at what we’re trying to do with this verse.

It’s not providing comfort or hope to anyone. It’s putting down a legitimate desire they have. It’s essentially telling them that their God-given desire is sinful. I don’t believe this is done on purpose, but that is what is done.

By taking this verse out of context, the desires of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as belittled and down-played and called sinful. It really doesn`t feel very good for that to be the response you get – whether it comes from a married brother or sister in Christ or from a single brother or sister in Christ.

So, this all boils down to a simple request – Stop quoting this verse out of context to me when I say something about wanting to get married and have a family of my own.  Instead of belittling and calling my desire sinful, let me know it`s valid. I don`t need you to quote Scripture at me. I just need you to listen and care. When I express that desire, I`m not looking for an answer, I`m looking for someone who will care and listen.

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