THE BARREN (EXCERPT OF WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM THE LORD)
An excerpt from What I Have Learned From the Lord.
Copyright © 2012, by Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
When we think of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; of Sarah, the mother of Isaac; of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, of the wife of Manoah, the mother of Samson; we understand that God sometimes causes a woman to be barren before a special child is brought forth. I think this may be true also in other circumstances where the issue is not childbirth.
I do not know why God does this, unless He wants the child to have special attention. But it was hard on the mother in those days, because not bearing children was a disgrace.
But consider the following!
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1)
God is speaking of a miracle, isn’t He? Here was a woman who never has been in labor. Furthermore, she does not have a husband. Yet, she shall have many children.
This is so like the Lord. Most women are having one or more children. This poor soul has no husband. But God tells her to rejoice because she will have more children than married women who are fruitful.
It makes us think of Abraham, doesn’t it. He was so desperate for a child he had a son by a slave woman. The child, Ishmael, brought forth the children of the desert. They were wild people. But when God’s time came, the ancestor of Christ was born.
I wonder how many Christian people have a desire to bring forth some sort of fruit for Christ. Perhaps they have made abortive attempts to perform God’s work. Other ministers seem to prosper right out of Bible school. They start great works and are famous in their denomination. But there are others who are just as faithful who can’t seem to do much of “significance.”
I would not be surprised if what I have just written is not a fairly common situation.
I can remember the story of one faithful minister who had a small work and a few young people whom he was endeavoring to bring up in the Lord. Not far from him another minister began a work which soon had a congregation of thousands, including many young people.
Well, young people like to be among a crowd of young people so they can look for a potential husband or wife. The inevitable happened. All except one of the young people of the small church left to go where there was more fun.
When a pastor desires a large church there are some things he can do to attract people. He can hire a magician, or an entertainer, or a sports figure. He can have many social events. People will come if there is food and a party atmosphere. He should avoid preaching anything negative, such as bearing our cross after Jesus. In America, he should tell people how Jesus will make them a better person and give them a better life.
He may indeed have a church of thousands and be well received by the Christian denominations and the world as well. He is not barren, having many spiritual children.
But God did not build this congregation. The pastor, being talented, became quite successful according to the measure commonly employed: he had many people. But is God pleased? Has a work of eternal value been accomplished?
Isaiah is telling us about an unmarried women who, of course, had no children. Perhaps he was speaking about Israel. The time was increasingly dismal for Israel, as they were threatened by the Assyrians and later the Babylonians. God tells them of their suffering Messiah and of a later restoration.
Suddenly God speaks to the barren woman: “Burst into song. Shout for joy. I am going to give you an abundance of children.” This way of working, causing barrenness and then promising glory, is so like the Lord. God waits until we come to the end of ourselves. Then, when we are in a hopeless situation, God reveals His love and power.
Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (Isaiah 54:2)
Maybe the reason God begins a great work by bringing the person He is going to use to a state of barrenness is that He may be glorified. Remember when God reduced the number of men in Gideon’s army, He did so in order that it might be clear who it was that brought about victory.
One time I read where someone wrote that missionary work could proceed only according to how much money is available. I did not believe that when I read it and I still do not believe it. That is man’s thinking, not God’s thinking.
I have heard tell that a number of countries are closing their doors to the Gospel. This sounds to me like God is getting ready to move in those countries and is waiting until people have given up and gotten out of the way. How can any country close the door against the God of whose incomprehensible Glory the heavens declare?
Perhaps the doors of those countries are closed to religious man, but they certainly are not closed to God!
You might think I am being impractical or ignorant of the problems. This is not the case. Rather I have my eyes fixed on Christ who created the universe. I think the problem is we attempt to build the Kingdom of God before we hear from the Lord Jesus.
When God speaks to us to enlarge the place of our tent, then we are to do just that, not turn our eyes away from God and say there is no need to do this because we are so small.
Should we pray that God will enlarge us? Absolutely! I prayed one time, when teaching the fifth grade in Palo Alto, California, that God would enable me to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people breathe the air. This was impossible at the time.
But since then the personal computer and other electronic devices have been invented, and now it is entirely possible for me to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people breathe the air–from Lapland to the Negev to Tierra del Fuego, and all parts of Africa as well as the Amazon jungle.
There is nothing wrong with being barren. But we must never let that barrenness develop in us a spirit of smallness so that we remove our eyes from the greatness of the Christ whom we serve. Let’s throw our net out over the world, as the Lord directs, and see what we catch.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. (Isaiah 54:3)
What an incredible promise to the barren woman, Israel. Jesus told us we can ask what we will and it shall be done. That is the passage I had in mind when I asked God to enable me to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever people preach the air. It appeared absolutely impossible at the time of that prayer. It is not impossible now but very probable!
Notice that the inheritance is people. The inheritance of Christ is people, and we are co-heirs with him. People talk about mansions and other strange inheritances. They do not know their own heart. The only inheritance worth having is God, and then people.
Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. (Isaiah 54:4)
The picture is that of a woman who was rejected by her husband in her youth and had been a widow ever since. She was ashamed of her lowly condition. But God promises her that she no longer will experience disgrace and humiliation. God has decided to take up her cause, and He has something wonderful in store for her.
Perhaps you who are reading my words are in a similar situation. When you were younger you were happy and carefree. Then tragedy struck. Since then you have been a social outcast.
I notice that today in America the Christian people, who used to be honored, are little by little being set aside as those with other values are vaunting themselves. The curricula that are being developed for the elementary school children are disgusting. I listened today as a girl scout told how boys were joining the girl scouts, claiming they really were girls.
I have no doubt that many eighteen year old boys would really enjoy being considered a girl scout so they could go on the outings and live with the girls. How utterly stupid are the officials who are endorsing this as though it is some great advancement in mental health.
Since high officials in our government condone homosexuality, and abortion as well, America is on a decline morally that a hundred years ago would not have been believed possible. It is getting worse every day.
Some Christian people try to take action politically while other mourn, “How long, O Lord. How long!”
God is telling those who have ears to hear that He is at work and not to doubt. When God is through using this moral filth for His own ends, He will move. Then the righteous no longer will be humiliated and ashamed but will rejoice mightily because their Desire has come and righteousness has been restored.
God hears the cry of the righteous and will help them, to the utter dismay of the wicked.
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)
The barren woman has been a widow for many years. Therefore God has proclaimed Himself her Husband and Redeemer. I realize there are numerous women in the world who are widows. The Lord Jesus would be glad to be their Husband, if they would look to Him and accept Him as such.
Notice how God proclaims His power to the barren one. He does not present Himself as the God of Heaven but as the “God of all the earth.” He is telling her that while she does not have a human husband any longer, the Husband she has now is greater than all. The entire earth is in His power.
Sometimes we forget that God is the God of all the earth. The famous verse in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of John, that starts off, “In my Father’s house,” is often interpreted that the Father’s house is Heaven. It is not. The Father’s House is Christ, Head and Body. The Father is greater than all, and He is as much the God of the earth as He is the God of Heaven.
“The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. (Isaiah 12:6)
Now we see that her first husband did not die. He rejected her, gave her a Bill of Divorcement, and sent her away–and this when she was a young girl. It is no wonder she is distressed in spirit, scorned, humiliated, ashamed.
How often it is that an individual God is going to use in a mighty way goes through a period of suffering before the dawn comes. We think of Job, and how he came to know the Lord in a greater way. We think of Joseph, who one moment was in prison and next was a lord over Egypt.
I feel confident that there have been numerous people who were brought very low before God came on the scene. But that is the way He works. We do not start off in some grand manner. God must first, as He did with Job, cause us to see how small and helpless we actually are. Then when God raises us up we do not forget that it is God who is to be glorified, not us.
Job was restored and was given a new family. The Apostle Paul went from one suffering to the next. He did not live to see His name become a household word among Christians. Isaiah did not live to see how people thousands of years after his death would be reading his words and profiting from them.
But that is the way God works. Those who at first are highly esteemed by their fellows may shine for a season during their lifetime. Then there are others, most of whom we don’t know, who lived in obscurity but whose prayer and obedience made possible the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Their day of recognition in the earth may not have come as yet, but it shall one day, and they will have eternity to rejoice at the wealth of blessing their travail has accomplished.
Better to be brought low now and exalted later; than to begin in a burst of recognition, only to realize when we enter the spirit world at our death that Christ is not impressed and no one seems to notice us.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:7,8)
I mentioned the abandonment when writing about “In That Day.” All disciples who are pressing forward in Jesus come to their day of abandonment and Divine anger. Do not be surprised. You are in a tunnel, not a grave. You will come forth knowing the Lord better than you have previously.
The abandonment lasts but a short time, although to us it may appear unbearably long. God chastens His child, and then restores him or her with deep compassion and everlasting kindness. Do not believe for one moment that God actually has forsaken you. He is rebuking you that you may be a partaker of His holiness.
You will learn a lot about God and about yourself during the period of abandonment.
“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:9,10)
God was not pleased to have to drown so many people during the flood of Noah. He knew each of those terrified people by name. But their wickedness was such they were destroying themselves. It is interesting that Christ went and preached to those disobedient people while they languished in prison. I believe He told them about the atonement He had just made so they would have a chance to repent and be forgiven.
God was so moved by the suffering of these perhaps millions of people that He promised never to do that again, and put the rainbow in the sky as a reminder to ants and people that such destruction would not be repeated.
When we are in our time of abandonment it is so good to know that God has not forgotten His love for us. There may be tumult all around us but God’s covenant of peace will never be broken. In actuality, the abandonment and anger are proof of His love. It is when God permits people to continue in sin and disobedience that they are in real trouble.
O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. (Isaiah 54:11,12)
Now we discover that the barren woman is the new Jerusalem. God has restored her and is building her up with precious jewels, the signs of His favor. This will be true of us also, if we will remain patiently in the prisons in which we are placed. We will receive the crown of life.
Melchizedec served as the priest of God by the power of an endless life. So it will be true of us that the aches and tiredness of human life will be no more. We shall live and serve God in that same power of Melchizedec, being gloriously alive, never needing a night in which to sleep because we are being renewed constantly by the resurrection Life of Christ.
Such is the crown of life that is given to the patient saints. Though during their lifetime they have experienced every kind of fear, dread, pain, terror, remorse, weakness, frustration, that day is over. They shall reign with Christ as priests of God over the saved people of the nations of the earth.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)
All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. (Isaiah 54:13)
Here is another promise for those who remain faithful under God’s chastening hand. Their children will be taught by the Lord and have peace. Sometimes Christian parents are about ready to despair. They can take refuge in this promise, but for it to take effect they themselves must be serving the Lord faithfully and patiently.
In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. (Isaiah 54:14)
There is no question that dangerous times are approaching the United States. Our government is not seeking God and giving glory to Him. The political leaders are boasting of their own ability to solve the mounting problems confronting us.
Because of abortion and gender confusion, the hand of Divine judgment is over America. The handwriting is on the wall. We already are experiencing a certain amount of tyranny as the federal and local governments are forcing curricula on elementary-school children that expose them to some of the modern ideas about sexual and gender perversion.
Such curricula has no place in the education of children. They are an utter abomination. They are sickening. Yet they are being forced on parents who are trusting the public schools to prepare their children for life. In this way our local and federal governments are tyrannical, permitting a small group of people with a radical agenda to force their ideas on children and young people.
America is going to pay bitterly for permitting this kind of satanic perversion to take place, as Satan seeks to destroy the image of God in people.
But God says such tyranny shall be far from us and we have nothing to fear. This tells me that in the midst of such an abominable culture, if we will ask God to cause us to think as Jesus is thinking; to speak as Jesus is speaking; to act as Jesus is acting; in other words, to live by the Life of Christ; we will survive spiritually and help others to survive throughout the moral chaos we are entering.
“Terror will be far removed,” God promises the barren woman. It will not come near us. Do you remember how Jeremiah was taken care of when the Babylonians were destroying Jerusalem? One of the high-ranking Babylonian officials went to Jeremiah and protected him.
So it shall be in the future in America. If we arrive at the place where God’s judgment is poured out and all about us is desolation, each of us who is dwelling in the shadow of God, who is abiding in Christ and living by His Life, will be protected along with his or her loved ones. God always protects His faithful saints, though He may have to bring them through difficult seasons to perfect their faith in Him.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:15-17)
The passage above is one of the most powerful promises in the entire Scriptures. Every soldier of Christ learns to lean on these words. Whoever attacks us will surrender to us. When we are preaching righteous behavior, we sometimes are attacked viciously. But if we just look to the Lord instead of trying to defend ourselves, God shall fight our battles for us.
Since most of us are not attacked by weapons of war, the idea that God has control over these instruments of destruction is not directly helpful to us. But sometimes we are attacked with the tongue, with accusations. If we keep looking to Jesus, we will be able to refute the arguments used against us. There is no need for us to panic and seek frantically to justify ourselves.
When we have borne patiently and faithfully the sore trials through which we sometimes are brought, then, when people accuse us of unrighteousness, God vindicates us. We are His servants, so He defends us as we are seeking His will.
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33)
Satan always is seeking to condemn the followers of the Lord Jesus. He spreads rumors about us. But as long as we are serving Christ to the best of our knowledge, the accusations will come to nothing and we will overcome the accuser.
We may be barren now. But our time of rejoicing will come if we remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.
(“The Barren”, 3701-1)