10 February 2012

Isaiah 61:1-9

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me." (v. 1)


This passage must be one of the most famous parts of Isaiah. It has inspired people throughout history to discover their vocation and to step into the next phase of their lives - not least of all, Jesus himself. This passage forms the basis of Jesus' appearance in the synagogue where he speaks publicly about his ministry and the coming of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:14-21). 

It can be difficult for us to disassociate Isaiah from the way that Jesus has interpreted this passage, and perhaps we should not even try. 

At a basic level, we are given the opportunity to see how Scripture can speak into this world, and can reveal the truth that brings us to life and transforms us as we incarnate the word of God. It begs the question: How are we enabling Scripture to narrate our lives, to help us to discover our vocation and to transform us into graced human beings? 

At a deeper level, we can become deeply aware of the important links between the despair in Isaiah, and the prophetic fulfilment that we find through Jesus - the person pointed to in Isaiah 59 - as God gets involved in the world in Godself through God's son. 

This is a beautiful passage which demonstrates that the great era of grace has dawned. 

This era of God's grace is marked in a number of ways. With God's rule and grace at central place (and for Christians, with Jesus as the embodiment and incarnation of this), the kingdom brings forth good news to the poor, announces freedom (physically and metaphorically) to those who are held captive, light for those in darkness, comfort for those who are broken, and joy to those who are experiencing the struggles of life. 

This is a promise for the Israelites and is fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The challenge remains for contemporary readers to continue to proclaim God's favour and to find ways of living in the power of the Spirit of the sovereign God, which continues to incarnate the era of God's grace.

To Ponder

How does God display God's own splendour through you and around you?

"The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon [you]" (v. 1 (NIV)). What are you being anointed/called to do?

How are you going to incarnate God's era of grace, today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".