Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bible Study Brief: Isaiah 61

Wednesday, March 16

Isaiah 61:1-4, 9-11  

We come again to the latter section of Isaiah, sometimes called “Third Isaiah”, probably about 150 years later than the beginning of the book. The promise of what God will do for the nation in exile will be carried out by this “apostle”, one sent by God to the people. The promise is rich, and just what they are hoping for: a reversal of fortune, and undoing of the harm done to God’s people. Imagine playing a scene backwards, when all that has been broken or blown up gets reassembled, good as new.

Christians reading this section will be reminded of Jesus reading this very passage aloud in the synagogue, and claiming himself to be this One whom God has sent (Luke 4:16-21). This does not mean that Isaiah was predicting Jesus, but that God made a promise which we know through Isaiah, and God fulfilled that promise in Jesus.

As we’ve observed throughout this series, most of the verbs have God for the subject. The people are hopeless—they (we?) keep messing up, getting in trouble, separating ourselves from God. God alone has the power to repair these breaks, to rescue us in time of trouble (a better translation than “vengeance” in verse 2), to restore the divine relationship. In this time of spring and new life, it is easy to imagine what this new thing will look like—as surely as the earth puts forth new shoots, so will God cause righteousness and praise to spring up, not only among the faithful, but before ALL the nations.

A next step for us as people of faith is to live in God’s ways, which are described here. God has the power to do all these things, but it does not mean we have no power. Filled with the Spirit as this servant is, we too can bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty, release, and the year of the Lord’s favor, and comfort those who mourn. These are divine tasks, but being made in the image of God, we too can accomplish God’s work in these ways. What might this promise look like in our world today, in our communities, neighborhoods, and families?  

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