Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whose Robes Are They?

My morning Bible reading in Isaiah 59 was behind a previous post drawing attention to the armor of God in Ephesians 6 being the same that Jesus wears.  Continuing on through chapter 62 (or more precisely 63:6), I noted that the section details God’s eschatological plan and how it is based solely on His promises according to His character: the Lord acts because of who He is, not because of who we are.

In the middle of the exhortation, there is an apparent break in thought:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lᴏʀᴅ;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord Gᴏᴅ will cause righteousness and praise
    to sprout up before all the nations.  (Isa 61:10-11)
These verses describe a response to God’s grace—righteousness and salvation growing within and adorning, but after my current reading of these chapters, I asked the same question as the Ethiopian eunuch:
About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?  (Acts 8:34)
In like manner as the armor mentioned previously, is this actually God the Son speaking to the Father?  Except for a point of view in the text that turns from direct address to a response (and afterward returns to direct address), there are no clear markers.  Should we not rather consider this primarily to be a glimpse of the inner communication within the Godhead?  This approach would maintain the continuity of the passage as coming from God alone.  Tertullian takes up the same theme as he describes Christ as a bridegroom:
I hold also that it is my Christ who is meant by the bridegroom, of whom the psalm says: “He is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His return is back to the end of it again” [Psa 19:5-6].  By the mouth of Isaiah He also says exultingly of the Father: “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord; for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation and with the tunic of joy, as a bridegroom. He has put a miter round about my head, as a bride” [Isa 61:10].
Against Marcion, IV.11

Guercino - Return of the Prodigal
The passage can secondarily apply to us as those to whom benefits fall as sons and heirs.  Firstly, in the parable of the marriage feast (Matt 22:1-14), Jesus mentions the freely-provided wedding garments.  Those who accepted the garment were welcome to participate in the kingdom of heaven, while the one entering without the garment was cast out.  Secondly, we are given a picture of the Church as the Bride of the Lamb:
“Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
(Rev 19:7-8)
The Bride is clothed with the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Rom 3:21-22; Phil 3:9) and is of the same “stuff” as that borne by the Lord Jesus (2 Pet 1:1).  It is His righteousness that is displayed before the nations in worship, disciple-making, and occupying oneself in good works.  He who is our righteous (1 Cor 1:30) clothes us in a way that displays the glory of Almighty God inspiring praise worthy of the Lord of all.

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