PROMISES OF RESTORATION + ISAIAH 61
Bible Background: The book of Isaiah is the most important book of prophecy in the Old Testament, and the one most quoted in the New Testament. The book is the work of at least 3 authors over a period from before, during, and after the time of Exile (approx. 740-530 BC). This piece is from “Third Isaiah”, and offers powerful promises about the new things God is doing.
Digging Deeper: 1. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…the Lord has anointed me…to bring good news to the oppressed…” We never know the identity of God’s chosen servant in Isaiah: Is s/he a present servant? A future messiah? Is the whole nation God’s servant? But we do know that Jesus quotes this passage (Luke 4) when he begins his public ministry. What kind of Spirit do we get in Baptism? How does God use us? Who does God send us to? What does “good news” look like to oppressed or brokenhearted people? What does it look like to you?
2. This passage speaks of a complete change of status: from prison to release; from brokenhearted to comforted; from shamed to honored; from devastation to rebuilding. God is the power behind these transformations. But God’s servants are the agents of transformation! What are some of the ways that peoples’ lives are transformed today? How are Christians and the Church helping that happen? How is government policy, science, technology, and even business part of that? (Remember how Dr. Friberg told us last month of how Malaria deaths have been cut in half in the last 10 years? And how polio is on the verge of being eliminated?)
3. “You shall be called priests of the Lord… ministers of our God!” Martin Luther was big on “the priesthood of all believers”, where he meant: we not only represent Christ to our neighbor, but we get to love and forgive and serve as Christ did. We have professional pastors in the Church! But each and every one of us has the privilege and duty of representing Christ authentically, and serving as he served!
4. “For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing!” Social justice isn’t an invention of protestors and public defenders. It’s God’s idea! It’s God’s expectation! What does that require of us-as church, and as Christians-in our time?
5. “All shall acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed!” (This was in contrast to their previous ‘shame’ as being a conquered people.) Do we remember that we are blessed to be a blessing? How do our lives give testimony to what God has done and is doing? In what ways do we give God honor and credit when we share about how things are going in our lives?