“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me. To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted….To comfort all who mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” Isaiah 61:1-3
Jesus opened his ministry in Nazareth by reading the above lines. In Jewish synagogues, each Sabbath, there is a Haftarah (weekly portions of scripture to be read). It is a set calendar, which has readings from the Law (Torah, i.e, Genesis-Deuteronomy) and the Prophets. Some say even the Writings (Psalms) were read. Even today in the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist Churches there are 2-3 readings, (OT lesson, Gospel reading, and a Letter portion). A Psalm is also read by way of a responsive reading. Such wide use of the Bible is satisfying compared to the one verse expositions
That Sunday, Jesus was asked to read the Prophets. And Isaiah 61 was the portion allotted to him. For brevity’s sake the Gospel writers quoted 2-3 verses perhaps, because each Haftarah (portion) in a Synagogue is usually 10-15 verses long. I find it remarkable, that he was allotted to read this portion. That’s why the Bible says, the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is from the Lord (Prov 16:33). He read those words and said, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. In other words, I am the Messiah and this is what I have come to accomplish. The locals turned sceptics and you can read the rest of the story in Luke 4:14-30
Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor- he came to forgive our sins and give us a fresh start. The poetic words used by Isaiah here are very powerful. The prophet paints the picture of a man who life is burnt to ashes – everything’s lost, in mourning, heavy hearted and in great pain, and Christ comes and lifts him up. The Father sent Jesus to give such people second chances and new beginnings. Blind Bartemius was a beggar who begged on the road to Jericho, Jesus gave him eyesight and he became a totally new man. The paralytic could not even walk and was carried by 4 people, when Jesus forgave his sins and said walk, he took up his bed and walked home. Glory to Jesus.
Beauty for ashes: I don’t know in what situation you are – what are the ashes of your life. It could be a broken family situation, a divorce, a death or a financial mess or a mid-career shipwreck. Sometimes we find ourselves in these situations because of our own mistakes, or others could have let you down too or even industry situations too. Whatever the reasons, Jesus says him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). A broken and a contrite heart, he will not despise. God has some solace, a lightening of your load of woe and reworking of things for you. As C.S.Lewis explained the Will of God is like a dynamic software program, you feed the inputs, our losses, our mistakes and the current messes in which we are, and God gives you a New scenario, a New beginning and New options etc. Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, Behold I am doing a New thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it. I am making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18,19.
Instead of shame you will have double honor (v7): Isaiah tells us, when the Messiah begins to touch your life, it will make a U turn. There will be respect where there was shame and loss. Earlier useless candidates in the Kingdom will become very useful etc. God will take cast out weeds and replant them into useful fruit bearing trees.
God will use these believers to Repair waste cities (v4). These broken bricks will be reused to rebuild families, Churches, companies and neighborhoods. As Paul told us, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of power may be of God and not of us. (2 Cor 4:7)
One day the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, go to the potters house and I will speak to you there. So the prophet went into the potters house and saw the potters wheel at work. Vessels that were not very pliable or stubborn were getting marred. The potter then reworked the lump and made it into a new useful vessel again. (Jer 18). The Lord then says to Jeremiah, Can I not do with you Israel as the potter does? (Jer 18:6)
Have thine own way Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mould me and make me, after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still. – Adelaide Pollard (1906)
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