by Dr Kirsten Due
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The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1a).
Read Isaiah 61:1–9
We all know what it is like to long for good news. But is Isaiah 61 only about God bringing a happy word to somewhat depressed people? Is the message of Isaiah a political one about how good societies function to help the disadvantaged? There is nothing wrong with these things, but the gospel is far more.
Isaiah 61 involves us very personally. Isaiah is not describing the life of a prisoner in Alcatraz, a person in poverty, or a grieving widow. But he is drawing on powerful imagery to describe a whole people cut off from fellowship with God because of their sin. His aim is to bring a people alienated from God by sin back to himself by the defeat of that sin. ‘That is, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them’, but cancelling them (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The people Isaiah was speaking to didn’t feel poor or needy or imprisoned as they sat under their tent flaps, admiring the view, knowing that they had a holiday on the horizon and an Audi in the garage (or a good barley crop and some prize-winning grapes). But feelings can be deceptive. God said to them, ‘There’s something you’re not aware of and I’m sending my son, the Anointed One, to fix you’.
‘There’s nothing wrong with us!’, they protested.
God disagreed. If he were speaking to people like that today he may have pointed out Revelation 3:17, ‘You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (NIV).’
Then as you begin to get annoyed, he says, ‘Come now, let us settle the matter, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ (Isaiah 1:18).
The people couldn’t argue with God, and neither can we. He was (is) so concerned about our state of alienation towards him that he promised to stop at nothing to restore us to the joy of knowing him. Yet it is not primarily for our glory – but for his. When he restores us, and the world sees that radical transformation, they praise God! We don’t need to worry about backsliding and stuffing it up again because it is God’s faithfulness in Christ that has accomplished it and God does not change.
Dear Father, you have adorned us in garments of righteousness and cleansed us from sin. We live eternally in your fatherly embrace. Your gift of righteousness means that we, who once hated you, reflect your righteous image to a suffering world. Your transformation extends from the top of our heads to the tip of our toes and from our outside ‘clothing’ to the inner grief in our hearts. You pierce right through to our innermost need. Thank you. Amen
Dr Kirsten Due lives in Darwin with her husband, Noel, who is currently serving in the Top End Lutheran Parish. She has a postgraduate degree in psychology and is a doctor of medicine, currently engaged in remote area work in the Top End. She has written a book of children’s gospel stories (Bearen Bear and the Bunbury Tales) with a commendation by Andrew McDonough.