In Isaiah 62:5, God speaks to the City of Jerusalem,
As a young man marries a maiden, (the Hebrew Word is Beulah) so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
In essence those words are saying that when people marry the land, marry the city, God rejoices over it. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this phrase… marry the land. I was in Modesto, California with two local pastors, Paul Grabil and Mitch Smith. God was doing a good work in Modesto and Harvest Evangelism was putting on a city-reaching school. In one session… someone talked about being married to the land. Later that evening the three of us found that those words had resonated in each of our hearts — married to the land. That phrase helped begin a partnership with them and a handful of other pastors and congregations.
This is a phrase that has shaped my theology. We all need a better theology of place. God calls us to marry the land. This is a part of his joy. What does it mean to be married to the land?
It’s not some sort of call back to an agrarian society, an Amish revival, or going organic. It doesn’t mean you can never leave Happy Valley. It simply means that it is God’s decision where we live and when we live there and when He plants us in a place…we need to fall in love with the place and the people..
What does it look like when the people of God marry the land? We unite together rather than compete against each other. Constant competition doesn’t bring vitality to a marriage — it can make an occasional board game more fun — but the goal is unity of heart. One of my greatest joys and greatest struggles has been the movement of congregational unity in the Centre Region. We laugh together in our successes and pray together in our difficulties. I love the fact that we can do all that and still be different…and even have differences. We can do all that because God has put a passion in our hrts to unite together rather than compete against each other.
Secondly when we marry the land, we will seek to Bless and serve People. Isn’t that part of the call of marriage? It’s the call to be a blessing to your wife or husband. Bless them with our words and bless them with our deeds. Quit complaining to God about the people that God is pursuing in love. To be married to the land means that we will shed more tears in private prayer than we speak angry words in public.
Finally being married to the land means… Don’t Be Quick to Quit. One of the great blessings here in State College is that the spiritual leaders that God has drawn here have stayed here… I’ve been here 16 years and I’m still one of the rookies. Each pastor has had opportunities to go somewhere else, more money, bigger church, less stress, more excitement, you name it. Man I’ll tell you there have been times when I couldn’t imagine anything better than leaving Happy Valley. Just like there are times when my wife can’t imagine anything better than not being married to me. But you persevere because of the hope, the burn in your heart, the friendships.
Last week, I spoke at Discovery Road Church. The pastor Jorn asked me to speak on my greatest passion…that one sermon you would preach if God said you could only preach one sermon. Isaiah 62 was my choice. If you want to listen to the talk go to Points of Passion 2.