This is the first verse in The Isaiah Project that’s made me cry.
And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach” (Isaiah 4:1).
In a nation decimated by sin and war, these women begged to belong to one of the few men left standing.
I sometimes feel myself stretching out my hands to cling along with them. I hear myself crying out their longings and fears:
I don’t care what I have to do, or who I have to be, or what I have to give up. Just give me today’s best name; call me today’s right thing. Let me belong and make me worthy.
These women begged to be called wife to cover their shame and insecurity. Today, we ask for every name.
Wife, boss, mother, leader, friend. Smart, healthy, creative, ordered, beautiful.
But their true reproach (and ours) didn’t take root here in chapter four, verse one. It hasn’t sprung up because they don’t belong to a man, or to a milestone, or to any other standard we might imagine. Their true reproach grows and spreads and covers them because they didn’t belong to their God.
For they have brought evil on themselves…
…your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths…
…because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet… (Isaiah 3:9-10,16).
They bought into their own prideful hype. They listened to the world’s teachers instead of the Truth. They embraced seduction and the superficial over substance.
Judgment has come upon them because they have been spiritual flirts and prostitutes, giving their best and their beauty away and asking for no lasting results — nothing real or eternal in return.
And here in chapter four, though it seems like they’re taking the honorable road — asking for a husband and conforming to society’s rules — they’re still up to the exact same thing:
We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name…
You don’t even have to feed me or clothe me or even love me, they say, just give me the title. You don’t have to make things better or affect real change in my heart, just make me look good to the world.
I’ll pay for my outer life by selling off my inner one.
We often demand the same superficial coating from these names we long to be called. We are willing to trade the eternal for the temporary — asking to be called strong or ordered or lovely or wanted on the outside without making deep and lasting demands for our eternal, inward life. We’re willing to trade peace of mind for anger with God when our life doesn’t look like we thought. We exchange a restful heart for tireless self-loathing if we don’t get the names we want.
Far worse, we might be trading all God wants us to do and be and have because we think we need a certain name — a different identity — to get there.
Christ warns us against profiting the whole world and losing our own souls — not just for hell, but for here (Mark 8:35-37). That’s because the farther our outside names and our inside life grow apart, the more sick at heart we become. We lose sight of our ourselves and our God when we wander and beg for other names, instead of resting in the ones we have already been promised in Christ:
You shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her…
You have a new name from the mouth of the Lord. Go today, and live as you are called.