ISAIAH 61= COMFORT AND JOY!
Bible Background: This is one of the ‘servant poems’ of 2nd Isaiah, commissioning God’s servant to be a bearer of good news. Christians will think of Jesus when we read these words. In fact, Jesus’ applied these words to himself and his ministry in his inaugural sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4). But these words also apply to the prophet in 540 BC and to all of us baptized servants of the living God!
Digging Deeper: 1. Again, the scriptural context is: some of the exiles have come home in hopes of rebuilding Jerusalem, and their culture, and the practice of their Jewish faith; and-it hasn’t gone so well. In fact, it’s hard and discouraging work! The servant is appointed to declare the promise of God’s comfort! The “oil of gladness” replaces “mourning”. A festive “garland” replaces “ashes”, symbolic of grief. The people get a “mantle of praise” instead of a “faint spirit”. God’s presence and promises transform lives!
2. In v. 4 the declaration is “They shall rebuild!” God declares that this important work will go on and succeed. Think of those who seek to rebuild cities after a hurricane, or after a riot, or after a devastating economic depression. Why do it? What does it take? What part do faith and courage play?
3. In v. 8 there’s a sudden shift of speaker from the prophet/servant, to God: “I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing…” A big theme in this part of Isaiah is social justice (see Is. 58–59). Social justice is not separate from God’s good news. It is part of it. It’s how the well-being of God’s people is improved. It’s how wrongs are righted. It’s how sin and selfishness give way to reconciliation and community. The prophet makes clear that if you desire to know God’s blessings, then work for justice!
4. In v. 10, the speaker again is the prophet/servant who now declares “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord!” It sounds like being called to be a bearer of God’s good news to hurting people, is a very good way to experience first-hand the joy of the Lord. Is this easy work? Of course not. Is it fulfilling work? Absolutely!
Who do you know, either in person or as a public figure, who has tackled tough problems of society and has dedicated their lives to God’s purposes? How have they found meaning and reward in that? What kind of difference have their efforts made in the lives of God’s people? Where ought we be working for justice and wholeness in these times? Start with praying: “Here I am, Lord, send me!”
5. I (Pastor) saw a license plate Thursday, ISA 5810. Read Isaiah 58:10!