Isaiah 61

Isaiah 61
by Pastor Mark Hudson

                Is 61 quite easily divides into two sections.  1-4 and 5-11.  You may notice your Bible will provide extra space where the editors see natural or textual divisions.  The first verse should be familiar since our Lord Jesus Christ read this in Luke 4 in a synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown.  He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and whether or not He choose the passage or that was the passage for the day, He simply read it, gave it back to the attendant and sat down (one sat to teach).  “And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” 

          Jesus reads Is 61:1-2a. Jesus does not include “and the day of vengeance of our God”  Jesus’ ministry is to seek and to save the lost.  You find this same comforting, saving, healing, building up message in this chapter of Isaiah.  No wonder our Lord loved the book of Isaiah so much.

          Those who mourn over their sins are given a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, etc.  God is comforting those who turn to Him.  As He promised, He will bless those humble, broken-hearted people who know and confess their sin and turn to Him.

          God promises those who pursue righteousness that others will serve them.  We need to be careful about this language.  If we take this literally, we can easily look down on those who labor or foreigners.  But these words promise a reversal of their fortunes.  “. . . they shall have everlasting joy.”  What a glorious promise to anyone who loves the Lord.

          One of the reasons, the Lord Jesus loved the prophets also is because of v. 8.  God cares very deeply about justice.  For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong” v. 8.  We find other verses like this, “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit” Ex 23:6.  Later in Deut 16:19,”You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.  In the same book 24:17, “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, and the widow.”  In Ps. 9:7, “he (God) has established his throne for justice.”  Ps. 82:3, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of afflicted and the destitute.”  Ps. 140:12, “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.”

          Justice and the poor, the widow, or downtrodden are often grouped together.  Those of us who enjoy many of the benefits of our labor as well as the benefits of our parent’s hard work and discipline as well as the benefits of wonderful teachers, coaches, bosses, etc. in our lives need to remember the poor, afflicted, and destitute.  God loves justice. 

          While I loved living in China, I hated not being able to read about the world from different perspectives.  Now, I am so thankful for the freedom to read liberal news and viewpoints I do not share so I can be fair in how I think about the world.  I read news that I agree with as well.  But I go out of my way to listen to voices that differ from me.

          I have not been treated unfairly in my life.  I do not understand that perspective.  I have had great teachers, bosses, coaches, pastors, professors, friends, and on and on.  I ought to be a better person.  So I should be kind and compassionate to those who are abused, to the poor, the lonely, or those who are suffering.

          If the Lord hates robbery and wrong, I need to do all I can to not steal from others, time from my boss, my best effort from the Lord,  or my faithfulness and tenderness to my spouse.  Am I a robber?  Would my children say I rob them?  Do I think the wrong is funny?  Am I committed to following Christ from the heart or am I really longing for my own way?

          In verse 10, we read of someone who is happy in God, rejoicing and exalting in God.  That is very different that just attending church.  It is not the same as being conservative.  To say my soul exult in my God is a whole-hearted, soul embracing love of God.  You, as an individual, must all out love God.  You cannot be lukewarm, stale, or so-so with God. 

          I hope you are stirring yourself up to be satisfied in God.  No one knows that except God and possibly you.  But you could be deceiving yourself.  Only God knows. I know your pastors want to press this with you and exhort you to love God.  We do not want you to approach Bible reading as a ritual.  God loves you so very much.  As you can see in this chapter He wants to give, give, give.  Make sure you are loving Him.

          Lord, I want to be as close to you as I can possibly be.  I want to love You with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Pour out Your Spirit to root out my sin and defeat my rebellion.  Put Your finger on my sin.  I welcome Your intrusion into my life because all You want to do is give and bless and enrich.  My sinful mind, at times, thinks You take, curse, and diminish.  How could I think those thoughts about You?  You have been nothing but kind, gracious, and forgiving.  Begin now to do a deep work in my life so I can live with You forever.  In Christ, Amen.