Good News For the Poor

ashes burning

My heart burned within me as I read Isaiah 61:1-3.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim 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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes [dignity — valued, respected, worthy],
the oil of joy
instead of mourning [honor],
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair [heaviness].
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor [glory].

It took me a while to realize why my heart was burning. Weeks, actually. At first, I was simply moved by the stunning imagery of Isaiah 61. Then, I began to wonder, Was God giving me a guide for my personal calling as a counselor? 

In due time, I realized my heart burned because of something so much more beautifully profound than just me and my calling.

Imagine You’re Right There

I want you to imagine you are a Jewish woman in Ancient Near East (ANE) Israel, at a festival of lament. Your heart is heavy. You are overwhelmed with sadness. And it gets you thinking about things. Do I really have hope beyond this life? Will a Messiah actually come? 

Suddenly, a young 30-something Rabbi comes towards you with pure love in His eyes and places a crown on your head where ashes were trickling down your head. He says, “Come, receive this joy. I’m taking your mourning!” At once, he throws a royal garb over you, “Come, it’s time to praise! I’m taking your heaviness! You only must repent and believe.” 

What a contrast, right? This is Isaiah 61:3. Death to life. Dark to light. Hope against all hope. And this – this is the gospel.

Prophecy Filled – Not As Some Might Imagine

But this isn’t exactly what happened when the Anointed One fulfilled this prophecy in Luke 4:16-30. 

When Jesus went to his hometown Nazareth on the Sabbath day he stood up and read from the scroll Isaiah 61:1-3. After reading, He rolled up the scroll, gave it back, and sat down. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Jesus as he said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Everyone marveled and one asked one another, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Jesus explained that no prophet is acceptable in his hometown and shared about the Syrian widow in Elijah, who God took care of in the famine — pointing out he understood he’d be rejected (as we now know, for our sake), and was boldly declaring this truth: the gospel is for everyone – Jew and Gentile, insider and outsider – because the gospel is good news for sinners

And, let’s just say it didn’t go over so well… (ahem: attempted murder by driving Jesus off a cliff). 

For the ANE Jew, the good news was scandalous news. What do you mean everyone’s in?! We’ve been waiting for so long! We’re your chosen ones! We’re special! A suffering, sacrificial Lamb?! We want a powerful leader who will take over Rome for us! 

Can you hear the entitlement? The self-centeredness, fear, and unbelief? While we can gawk at the ANE Jew (the Pharisees, for example), thinking we’d never have those thoughts, let’s remember: We too are sinners who’ve undoubtedly wrestled with entitlement, self-centeredness, fear, and unbelief. 

Isaiah 61:1-3 Is Scandalous News, Indeed

Hope for the hopeless, liberty for the bound, grace for the debtor, and comfort for the mourning. For me – for you – for us. It’s forgiveness in Jesus’ righteousness in which we are saved and transformed (Ephesians 1:7-8). No sin we’ve committed – no matter how shameful – counts us out if we put our faith in Jesus’ name (1 John 3:19-24). 

And this good news doesn’t stop here. In our new identity as His sons and daughters (Galatians 4:7), we’ve been brought into the Kingdom as His sent one’s on His mission (Isaiah 61:4-11); blessed with reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and made into a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) for His glory. Our story is engrafted into His, and suddenly our lives no longer boast in the pleasure of sin, but for the praise of our Savior’s glory (Titus 2:11-12).

Friends, this is it. He is it. Jesus is the abundant life (John 10:10) we all want, we’re all longing for more of. Jesus is who you have been searching for to finally fill that longing in your heart no one or no thing has been able to meet. Jesus is who your apathetic soul is ravenous for. You don’t have to keep waiting and looking at lesser beauties to satisfy. He came (John 1:1-8)! He’s here (Matthew 28:16-20)! He’s coming back (Revelation 22:12)! 

So, trust in Jesus today: Perhaps for the first time for salvation or for the one-millionth time as His adopted son or daughter. 

Savor Him completely; until your anxieties, fears, distractions, and disordered desires grow strangely dim (Philippians 4:1-4). Revel in Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) until your soul is so consumed, you’re compelled to get moving on mission so as to live a life which declares: Come, the search is over! Drink from the well (John 4:14) of eternal life and be satisfied! This good news – this Jesus – is for you, for me, for every sinner who believes in His saving grace (Romans 10:9). 

May our hearts burn within us for His glory, all the more.

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