Today, 6.1 million women in the United States have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that means nearly 10 percent of all women struggle with infertility. In Old Testament times, the barren wife had few social or cultural protections. Her husband could divorce her for failing to produce children, and she would have no sons or daughters to take care of her in old age. Infertility was viewed as a source of shame.
In today’s passage, Isaiah portrays the nation of Israel as a “barren woman” (54:1). Considering the shame attributed to being barren, the opening commands are unusual: “Sing . . . burst into song, shout for joy” (v. 1). Why should someone who is disgraced shout for joy?
Despite this woman’s infertility, the passage contains a promise of great hope. She will not only be able to bear children but also will need to “enlarge” her tent to accommodate all of her descendants (vv. 2–3). What she has experienced as shame and humiliation will be transformed into abundance by a loving God (v. 4).
God refers to Himself as her “Maker,” “husband,” and “Redeemer” (v. 5). Each of these roles is protective and intimate. God has chosen her for Himself. He has created her and saved her, elevating her to a place of great honor and worth.
As we study God’s love, we must be struck by the awareness that we are the unlikely recipients of this bounty. God loves us. Through Him, we experience both “deep compassion” (v. 7) and “everlasting kindness” (v. 8). Isaiah refers to the example of Noah. Although God may be angry at sin, He promises “unfailing love” to His people (v. 10). The imagery at the end of this passage reinforces that idea. God will love us no matter what, even when the mountains shake and the hills are removed.