Wednesday 31 December 2014

Bible Book:
Isaiah

“For as the earth brings forth its shoots and as a garden causes what is sown to spring up, so the LORD GOD will cause righteousness and praise to blossom before all the nations.” (v. 11)

Isaiah 61:1-11 Wednesday 31 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 96:11-13


Background

To Christian ears, the opening of Isaiah 61 is familiar as thepassage that Jesus was given to read in the synagogue at Nazareth(Luke 4:16-22) and so it is difficult for us tohear them without thinking of the ministry of Jesus as the momentof their fulfilment. The context of Isaiah may have been about thereturn from exile; the one who is anointed by the Spirit is theprophet himself who is proclaiming a new future for a people whosehomeland lies desolate. The prophecy promises a series ofreversals: good news for the oppressed, freedom for captives, theoil of gladness for the ashes of mourning.

This new future is to be lived to the glory of God. The peoplehave a special role to play as "the oaks of righteousness" (v. 3);theirs is to be a priesthood (verse 6) that will be lived alongsidethose from other nations as signs of the glorious things that Godhas done. When the Lord speaks in verses 8 and 9 it is to remindthe people that this glorious future has to be based onjustice.

The final part of the chapter is an hymn of praise. Themetaphors are of riches, celebration, and abundance as the poetconveys their wonder at the glorious new age which has now beeninaugurated: the imagery of the provision that God makes for thepeople picks up the promise of the first verses. The chapter beginswith a picture of ruins to be rebuilt; it ends with an image of newlife and growth.


To Ponder

  • This chapter hints at the calling of God's people to livealongside 'foreigners' as a sign of God's justice and hope. One ofthe major political questions at the moment is about immigration.In what ways might this passage inform that debate?
  • As we have seen, Jesus understood himself to be the fulfilmentof this prophecy so the Church has a message of 'good news to thepoor'. What are the practical ways in which your church lives thatout? Or might be able to live that out?


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