Many people who made a commitment to Christ in childhood are living with no real connection to Christ. They desire the lifestyle of their peers and recognising this is inconsistent with Christ, they abandon him.  Isaiah’s message has resonance –

Wake up, wake up, O Zion!  Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem, for unclean and godless people will enter your gates no longer. (Isaiah 52:1 NLT)

The people of God are spiritually asleep. They are called to awaken and be clothed. In the New Testament we are called to clothe ourselves with Christ, putting on his character and his lifestyle. Here, there are key motives, strength, beauty and holiness. In a broken world looking for identity in sexuality and failing to find it, this is significant.

Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. (Isaiah 52:2 NLT)

Secular culture offers ‘freedom’, but the consequences of the choices made in this ‘freedom’ enslave and disgrace us. The Lord calls those enslaved to rise from their place of dishonour and sit in honour; to remove the chains of slavery created by inappropriate relationships and addictive behaviours.

For this is what the Lord says: “When I sold you into exile, I received no payment. Now I can redeem you without having to pay for you.” (Isaiah 52:3 NLT)

Those enslaved think it was their lifestyle choice. The Lord however sees their situation as the outworking of his sending them to exile. They turned their back on him. These were the consequences.

The Lord says that he will bring them back to himself. Those enslaved feel as all slaves, there is no hope, the cost is too great and they are too emotionally weak to pay it. Yet the implication is that a choice of turning back to God will put the people back into the Lord’s protection and he will rescue them from their slavery.

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. What is this?” asks the Lord. “Why are my people enslaved again? (Isaiah 52:4-5 NLT)

Egypt represents those enslaved by religion and law. Assyria and Babylon represents those enslaved by license and the consequences of immoral living. In our culture we have moved from Egypt to Assyria in a very short space of time.

Those who rule them shout in exultation. My name is blasphemed all day long. But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. Then at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them.” (Isaiah 52:5-6 NLT)

The secular world rejoices in its victory; it is justifies its depravity by drawing others into its value system and shouting down any opposition. The situation seems hopeless but at his appointed time, the Lord will reveal himself and his people, who have been lost for so long, will recognise him and know his power.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! (Isaiah 52:7 NLT)

Once the Lord has revealed himself the message can go out through those he has touched. These are the messengers who bring good news.

The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem. Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:8-9 NLT)

Those who have mourned the loss of their children to the ravages of a secular lifestyle rejoice at their return to the Lord. Those who have seen the collapse of the church rejoice that people presumed lost are restored. Things do not return to normal. Those who have gone out, come back differently and it may be a challenge for those who have longed for their return to receive them back!

The Lord has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God. (Isaiah 52:10 NLT)

All those of the secular camp will see the Lord exercising his power by restoring his people.  All the world, whether those of faith, agnosticism or atheism will see the Lord’s victory. This will be a testimony to all of the Lord’s holy power; the power to take people from rubbish lifestyles back to his holiness.

Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean. Get out of there and purify yourselves, you who carry home the sacred objects of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11 NLT)

Captives always presume that when the day of freedom comes they will be ready and willing to get out. This cry says otherwise. Just as it was a challenge for those in Babylonian captivity to return, so it will be for the captives of today. The price of purity is lifted up, activities and relationships to be left behind.

The people carry home the sacred objects of the Lord. In Ezra’s time they literally carried the objects from the temple that had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Who knows what it will mean when these people return to God.

You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind. (Isaiah 52:12 NLT)

One of the great concerns for someone returning is fear. Our slave masters have held us through constantly telling us the terrible consequences if we leave them. Yet the Lord will be protection for his returning people. He will cover for the consequences of their return.