The people of Judah are grieving even though God has returned them to Zion from exile in Babylon. God comforts them through the prophet Isaiah by saying that he will continue to heal them and equip them to fulfil his plans to bless all nations: he going to make them safe and sound. Christians too can find themselves “grieving in Zion”, losing their joy when confronted by their own sin, its effects or their inability to obey God. However God brings hope and joy by promising to continue his work in our lives after we come to faith in him, this continued work is called sanctification.
- The first part of sanctification is “mortification” whereby God puts sin to death in us and heals us of its effects. God gradually heals our broken human nature, restoring us to Adam’s likeness. He pieces back together our broken hearts, frees us from the dark prison of sin so we can understand and obey God’s law, and he sets us free from captivity of pride. Even though we may despair at the sin we find in ourselves we can have hope that God will gradually heal us.
- Christ promises us that he will not only “clothe us with salvation” but also “array us in righteousness.” This is the other side of sanctification, called “vivification”. By it God gradually transfigures our healed human nature making us more like Jesus; as he rebuilds the temple of our hearts his glory comes to rest in us more and more. In an image that invokes coronation, Isaiah tells us that God crowns us with beauty, pours the oil of gladness over us and clothes us with praise. These symbolically refer to the work of the Spirit in us: peace, love and joy and all of his fruit in our lives. No matter how impossible the goal of Christ-like love seems, we can be confident that it is God’s will to make us like him and that he has the power to do so.
- In contrast to justification, sanctification is gradual and involves effort on our part. God does it this way so that our will is transformed and we are made sons of God rather than simply obedient servants. As we fight sin and strive for righteousness our hearts are changed so that we love what God loves and hate what he hates, we are filled with wisdom and understanding and made more and more free in Christ. Our joy is then made complete as God works his purposes through our freedom and rewards us as sons for doing his will.
- Salvation is a series of impossible things and yet God does them, this should fill us with hope when confronted with impossible situations. Hope starts of as an act of the will – perseverance in the face of difficulty, humility in the face of God’s inscrutable providence – but eventually it becomes a habit. We cease to be plagued by anxiety, despair and fear when confronted with difficulty, instead we are filled with joy, knowing that he is the God of all hope.