Two starkly contrasting realities open up before us here: the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance (v. 2), and both arise from the truth on which the previous chapter ended. Things will not go on as they are forever. One day God will bring them to a sudden end. The intervening period, however long or short, is a time of opportunity. But it is not taken lightly, for terrible judgment awaits those who carelessly let it pass. Full treatment of the day of vengeance, however, is held over until 63:1-6; chapter 61 concentrates on the time of favor, and above all on the Person who ushers it in.
It begins with Him in verses 1-6. No-one introduces Him; He speaks for Himself, demanding our attention quite unselfconsciously and without arrogance, but with tremendous authority (v. 1). He is someone of quite extraordinary importance. We have me Him before, of course in chapters 42:1 and 11:1. He is both the Servant of chapters 40-55 and Messiah of chapters 1-35, for this is what we must notice – these are one and the same person. Here is the great theological breakthrough of Isaiah’s vision and the heart of his gospel. The Messiah must suffer and rise again. Only then can the year of the Lord’s favor be ushered in.
Good news for the poor (61:1-6): The Servant-Messiah speaks as an anointed preacher, and the burden of His preaching in the year of the Lord’s favor (v. 2). This is most certainly referring to the Year of Jubilee as described in the Law of Moses. The preaching of the Servant-Messiah is like the blast of the ram’s horn which ushered in the Year of Jubilee; it proclaims the arrival of a time of grace, a time of release. Members of the restored community, like many before them, may have wondered at these words, since the full identity of the Preacher was yet to be revealed. Nevertheless, they would have found much here to encourage them in their particular situation. But the fulfillment that came with Jesus has given it far richer meaning for us today. The “year of the Lord’s favor” which He inaugurated is still in force, and will continue to be so right through until His coming again. Throughout this whole period the good news which is preached is the Christian gospel. The poor to whom the message is preached are not just those who grieve in Zion (v. 3), but the poor in spirit everywhere. The comfort they receive is not just release from exile, but release from condemnation through the forgiveness Jesus has won for them. Through God’s grace they become mighty oaks displaying the Lord’s splendor (v. 3), priests of the Lord engaged in His service (v. 6a), and the eventual inheritors of all things (v. 6b). The rebuilding of Jerusalem’s ruins after the exile was a significant work, made possible by the presence and operation of the Spirit. But the building of the church through the Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel is a work that surpasses it by far.
Grace and justice (61:7-9): The key word we read here in verse 7 is “instead.” This is grace at work, and the grace of God is a most powerful agent of change. God’s grace we see here is not something distributed at a whim. It is the expression of a relationship in which there is discipline, but also healing and renewal. The double portion of blessing in this passage answers to the double portion of hard service in 40:2, and it is the ministry of the Servant which is the bridge between the two. Grace rests on atonement as its foundation. It is free, but not cheap. That is why Isaiah can move so naturally from grace in verse 7 to justice in verse 8; there is ultimately no conflict between them. His grace in binding up the broken-hearted and setting the captives free is just as much an expression of His justice as His punishing their oppressors. For the truth is that He hates robbery and iniquity (v. 8), and all that He does reflects that in one way or another. The final demonstration of this will be a new, everlasting covenant which He will make with His people, in which every promise He ever made will be fulfilled and the whole world will wonder at His grace so powerfully displayed in them (vv. 8b-9).
A song of thanksgiving (61:10-11): Praise and thanksgiving are the natural response to grace, especially grace that has been personally received and experienced. Here a single voice rings out: I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God (v. 10), but the blessing for which he gives thanks is not a new one; it is the common blessing of verse 3 reduced to their essence: he has been clothed with salvation and arrayed…in a robe of righteousness (v. 10b). He has been given a righteousness that is not his own, and he is assured that the same Lord who has set him right will one day set the whole world right: the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations (v. 11). The speaker is none other than Isaiah himself. His own guilt has been taken away and his sin pardoned (6:7). He himself has already tasted the blessings of the age to come, and as the herald of that age it is entirely appropriate that he should be the one to lead the rest of us in praising God for his glorious grace. It is the theme song of the redeemed in every age.
Isaiah 61:1-11 Reflection Questions:
Where in the gospels does Jesus preach about the “poor in spirit”?
Where in the gospels does Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth?
Journal on a time when God’s grace has been personally received and experienced by you.
How often do you praise and thank God for the grace He bestows upon you?
“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” Luke 9:28-29
Dear Faithful Seed Sowers:
SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Happy Spring to all! We’ve all endured a long winter; it’s great to have the HOPE that Spring brings.
Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at a few, different “P” words: PRESENCE – PROMISES- POWER – & POSSIBILITIES. Today we will look at our final “P” word: PURPOSE! I pray for you all each day. I always welcome any prayer concern. One of my daily prayers is that you will learn what your purpose is on this earth. I hope this SEED OF FAITH helps with that.
It’s time for an early “so what?” How would our lives change if we lived in The Presence, The Promises, The Power, and The Possibilities of our amazing God? This is the question that will lead us to find our PURPOSE.
1. “What is God’s purpose for my life?”
2. “What is my purpose here on earth?”
3. “Does my purpose change with the seasons of my life?”
Seriously, stop for a moment and be quiet. Do you know your purpose for your life? Is your purpose the same as it’s always been or has it changed with the seasons of your life? Our Scripture for today is Luke 9:28-36. In this passage we read about the Transfiguration of Christ. Another question to ask: How is my life transformed by the transfiguration? (Have you ever noticed how many questions are asked in the Bible? Have you ever noticed how many questions Jesus is asked? Have you ever noticed how many questions Jesus asks? Get your notebook out because it’s a lot!)
Today we are in the Gospel of Luke with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Think about this for a moment. Put yourself into this story. Peter, John, James and Jesus have gone to the mountain to pray. Suddenly there are two more people with them: Moses, who has experience with God on a mountaintop, and Elijah, who also has some mountaintop experience. The three of these men are standing together, discussing Jesus’ departure. I love to put myself into the stories of the Bible. What were these three saying? Maybe Moses and Elijah were preparing Jesus for the imminent, upcoming reality check of the valley below. Perhaps Moses was reminding Jesus of what happened to him during his mountaintop experiences. Maybe he was saying, “All I know is that I had stone tablets from God and I returned to my people worship and a golden cow!” Maybe Elijah was reminding Jesus of how God came through in a powerful way for him up on Mt. Carmel. “God slayed all those false prophets, Jesus, and then Jezebel threatened to kill me.” What do you think these three holy men were discussing? I often wonder. Maybe they were preparing Jesus for the final days in Jerusalem: a betrayal, an arrest, a trial, a crucifixion, a resurrection.
In our story, we are told that as soon as Jesus, Peter, James and John traveled down the mountain, a large crowd descended upon them. We are presented with the story of the father and his demon-possessed son. Last week, we looked at this passage and we learned that all things are possible for those who believe.
Jesus has just experienced a powerful, mountain-top experience (have you been there?) only to come crashing back into the valley of real life. I think our Gospel-writing friend, Dr. Luke, is trying to tell us a secret through his story: GET READY TO GET SMASHED, CRASHED, and BASHED after your exhilarating GOD MOMENT on the MOUNTAIN TOP!
I have been on many spiritual retreats. I have had powerful God moments of mountain highs. It seems they all have one thing in common: I usually come crashing back down into the valley of the reality. It’s plenty of fun to spend time on the mountaintop. We have members who allow my wife and I to spend time in their mountain cabin any time we want. It’s exhilarating to spend a week up in the fresh air. It’s amazing to see the 100′ tall pine trees sway in the breeze. Each time we go, I marvel at God’s creation and I am refueled and refilled with all of the “P’s” we’ve been studying: PRESENCE – PROMISES- POWER – & POSSIBILITIES. I come down from our weekends, and our spiritual retreats, and I am reminded over and over: “You may have been changed this weekend, Dave, but remember: the world has not.” Toby Mac sent out a post this week that read, “The God on the mountain is still the God in the valley.”
In our reading from Luke, we hear that Jesus’ face was changed, his clothes became white like lightning. Luke says Jesus was transformed. Mark and Matthew use a different verb to describe the scene. They both wrote that Jesus was transfigured right before Peter, James and John. The Greek word they used for “transfigured” or “changed” is “metamorphoo.” This is the exact word from where we get the word “metamorphosis.” What our Gospel writers are trying to convey to us is that as Jesus was praying on that mountaintop his face was changed, transfigured and transformed right in front of Peter, James and John’s very eyes. Metamorphoo. Just like when the caterpillar crawls into the crysalis and at some point–a total reconfiguration of that caterpillar is configured into a butterfly? Yes. Exactly like that. Jesus was metamorphoo-ed. Transfigured.
In 2000 I met for lunch with a man I had spent a weekend with through Marriage Encounter. My wife and I were on team as a presenting clergy couple. The man and his wife were blessed by the marriage encounter experience. After the weekend, he invited me to lunch because he had a question he wanted to ask me. I arrived late from a memorial service. When we settled in to our lunch, the man asked me the question he had been pondering: What is it that brings me my greatest joy in ministry? I looked at him and, without missing a beat, I told him that my greatest joy is seeing someone’s life transformed by the love of Christ. The man smiled at me and said that he has met with many pastors and has asked them the same question. Why did they go into full-time ministry? He told me he had pastors who just looked at him and say, “I don’t know. I haven’t ever stopped to think what give me my greatest joy.” Some of the pastors told him that studying, reading, preaching, and teaching gave them their greatest joy. My friend responded that I was the only pastor who had answered so quickly and so confidently about my passion and joy. (My friend is now almost 85. He’s been asking questions about life for many years. My friend is also an orthopedic surgeon.) I still to this day will give you the same answer: Transformation!
TRANSFORMATION! I have news for you. Jesus isn’t the only person who was changed that day on the mountain top. I’m pretty sure Peter, James and John were METAMORPHOOED, too. I’m pretty sure that their mountaintop experience with Jesus is what changed them and gave them the courage to face the battles in the valley below. I’m also sure that our own personal encounters with God have METAMORPHOOED us, too.
Our purpose in life, no matter what season we are in, is for us to allow the love and grace of Jesus Christ to transform us.
Transformation. Like the caterpillar crawling into the chrysalis…there is that moment that no one can pinpoint to…when that caterpillar is TRANSFORMED…metamorphooed….transfigured…into a brand new creation…a butterfly. This is our purpose: to let the grace of Christ change us into the person of God that we’ve been called to become.
The 5 P’s:
Presence — “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Promises — “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
Power — “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength ….” Ephesians 1:18-19
Possibilities — “Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24
Purpose — “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, (transfigured -transformed) and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Luke 9:29, 35
I leave you today with a few questions that only you can answer. What is it that gives your life purpose? Is it time for you to go away to a mountaintop? (Your mountaintops can be anywhere–on a retreat, at the beach, at church.) Maybe it’s just time for you to take a day and be alone with God. Drive out to that park, or church, or lake. Bring your bible. Pray. What is it that I call my life’s purpose? What do these 5 “P’s” have to do with my life? Do I feel God’s presence within me? Do I trust in God’s promises? Do I acknowledge that God has all the power I need for my life? Am I open to all of the possibilities God has for me? Is my purpose changing? Am I entering a new season?
Living the Christian life is the most exciting thing I know. Every day I pray for you. I pray that God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and with the reality of the resurrected Christ, will guide you to live the most purposeful life you dream of.
Seed you Sunday!
God loves you with an everlasting love and outrageous grace and so do I,