(Today’s post is longer than normal – it is my sermon notes from yesterday’s service – it would have been my mum’s birthday last Saturday so that is why my thoughts went to Isaiah 61.)
I don’t know if it is safe to bring these out or not – Jenny loves plasters with a passion. Every little wound requires one, but she won’t leave them alone – she keeps peeling them off and sticking them to other things before reapplying, complaining it doesn’t stick anymore and asking for another. While as adults most of us have passed the phase of falling and cutting ourselves, like kids we also require plasters. Most of us walk around looking good and healthy but inwardly we are wounded and hurt. Many of us manage to conceal our wounds and put on a brave face, but the truth be told, we are all broken and wounded in some way. The good news is that Jesus Himself says that He came for people just like us. In the book of Isaiah we get many glimpses in to what the promises Messiah would be like – we see the famous Suffering Servant passages that we so often read at Christmas time. But the passage I want us to look at this morning is one that Jesus quoted from in His first recorded public sermon.
Isaiah 61.1-8 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
God is concerned with more than just our eternal salvation – Jesus came to right every effect of sin, not just to get us into heaven. Some of the effects of sin will not be removed until we get to heaven but He is concerned with the whole person – physical, mental and spiritual. In Luke 4: 14-21 Jesus directly quoted from this passage – He said: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. If we every wanted to know Jesus’ mission statement and action plan this is the passage He directed people towards. Even when John the Baptist was in prisoned he sent word to Jesus asking is it you: Jesus referred him to what he was doing for the broken: Matthew 11: 2-6 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
You see God who created us whole people – physical, mental and spiritual cares how sin has effected us as whole people – we are wholly broken.
- Jesus’s mandate – He is with the broken people
Jesus said that the first aspect of His rescue plan for a broken world was to preach good news to the poor.
- Good news to the poor
This is the good news that although sin has separated us from God there is a way to restore that relationship again. It is the good news that God has not abandoned us; it is the good news that He was sending Jesus to bear the punishment for our sins. It is the good news that God has remembered us and that things will not always be this way – broken and damaged. Just like when Israel ended up in oppress slavery God has not forgotten us: Exodus 3: 7-8 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Isaiah was speaking to a divided Israel – the Northern Kingdom had already been destroyed and the nation was in turmoil. Things would not always be like this. Jesus says to each of us things will not always be like this – God has not abandoned you.
- Bind up the broken hearted
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted – I love this next verse – what a beautiful picture of God’s grace and love towards us. This word to bind in Hebrew is the picture of swaddling or putting a compress. We are not told the cause of the broken heart here – more importantly we are not told who was to blame for the broken heart here also. Sometimes we are broken hearted when we don’t get our own way. Sometimes we are broken hearted when something bad happens that we have no control over. Sometime we are broken hearted because of a wrong choice or sin we have done ourselves. God does not specify that He will only bind the broken hearts of those who are broken with good innocent no fault of their own reason. If you are broken hearted this morning – because of a broken relationship, because of a wrong choice, because of a lost dream – God cares and God offers to bind your heart – that doesn’t take away the pain magically. If you have every had a wound you will know that binding it can be uncomfortable and is certainly not a miracle overnight cure, but with time it does get better. In God’s hand your broken heart can be healed.
- Freedom for captives
to proclaim freedom for the captives
The next part of Jesus’ mission or mandate was to proclaim freedom for captives. There are many things in life that take people captive – sin, wrong thoughts, unforgiveness, abuse. Jesus can to let us know that there is freedom. I find it interesting that that it does not say here to bring freedom to the captives, but to proclaim freedom. I think that a lot of our captivity is self inflicted – we are held captive by our own actions and thoughts and we need not be. With God’s help we are not powerless. It as if He has opened the prison door but we must actually take the steps to walk out. Just like that old illustration of the donkey that is tied to a post for years – he can only walk in a big circle around his post. When he is untied he continues to keep in that same circle not realizing that he is free. Jesus proclaims that you can have freedom from whatever holds you captive – will you step into it?
- Release from darkness for prisoners
release from darkness for the prisoners
A prisoner is assumed to have been guilty of something.
Max Lucado, tells the story of Maria and her daughter Christina. Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent living at home in a life of poverty she dreamt of a better life in the city. One morning she ran away, breaking her mother’s heart. Her mother knew what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, so Maria quickly packed to go find her daughter. On her way to the bus stop, she went to a drugstore to get one last thing—pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the money she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she got on the next bus to Rio de Janeiro. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. At each place she left her picture–taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, or fastened to a corner phone booth. On the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before Maria’s money and pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The tired mother cried as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. A few weeks later, Christina was coming down the stairs in a seedy hotel. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. And yet the little village seemed too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back Maria had written this: “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” And Christina went home. It is the same with God – no matter what had landed you in spiritual or mental prison there is a way out. Yes there is consequences, but there is also freedom.
- Proclaim – year of Lord’s favour & Day of vengeance
Interesting Jesus only went as far as the words ‘To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ – he did not go as far as the Day of Vengeance. The year of the Lord’s favour is a time of special blessing and bounty – that is what we have in Jesus. God’s grace and love poured out abundantly. I think Jesus only went that far as it is not time for the Day of vengeance yet – the time of judgement and reckoning. It is coming but it was not fulfilled when Jesus came as a man, it is for another time. But yet it is reality – our situation will not always be as it is now. There is a time coming, a time for heaven and the permanent presence of God with us. There will also be a time of judgement – Jesus proclaimed to the world things will not always be like this. Sin will not always have the upper hand.
- Comfort those who mourn
Again God acknowledges the whole person here – we mourn for many reasons – usually because of loss. Loss of a loved one, loss of a dream, loss of hope. God acknowledged your grief. It is not swept under the carpet, it is important. Isaiah 53: 3-4 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. God cares about the things that wound us and cause us sorrow
- Provide for those who grieve in Zion
to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
God is in the business of transformation. Not that this minimizes your loss in anyway, but it shows us that we need not stay as we are – down in the dumps, full of despair. Many people in a grief situation struggle to climb their way out – it feels like things will never get any better that you will never smile again. In God’s hands your grief can be transformed into something beautiful.
2. The broken will be restored
What I have found about this passage that is so comforting is – there are so many ways that we can be broken – by our own doing, by tragic accidents, by the sin of others – yet God cares. It is not just our eternal salvation. I have mentioned before a preacher I heard who said if it is only about our eternal salvation then we should keep a gun in the counselling room: Do you accept Christ? Boom! Then go be with Him. Yet God is concerned about every aspect of our lives. Jesus said the greatest commandment is: Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” That is love God with your whole person. How amazing that an awesome God would be concerned we every aspect of our lives. He says that He will restore – that things do not have to be like this.
3. The broken will become restorers
Another thing I love about this passage is God takes broken people, restores them and then uses them to help more broken people.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. 7 Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
- They will be God’s presence and ministers to others who are broken
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
God does not comfort us [just] to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters. God wants us to experience his comfort and his perfect peace through each other, and to pass it on.
- There former state will not be a source of shame
No matter what was the cause of your brokenness when God heals, binds hearts and releases people you are also released from any shame. So often we hand onto the shame of mistakes we have made and sins we have committed. But in God’s rescue of us there is no shame anymore.
- They will have every lasting joy.
Everlasting joy – what a transformation from the broken people at the beginning of these verses. This joy is contagious and spreads to others.