Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent: Day 13

Today we continue reading through some of Isaiah's prophecies of the Messiah by looking at chapter 61. As we mentioned a few days ago, chapter 61 is part of the "comfort section" of Isaiah in which Isaiah prophesies to the Jews in exile the deliverance that God will bring from Babylon and ultimately in the Messiah. In Isaiah 61:1-3 we read about the redemption the Messiah, Jesus, would bring:
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
With this particular prophecy, Jesus Himself says in Lk. 4:16-21 that He fulfills it:
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This prophecy reminds us of the grace that God has given us in Christ Jesus. In Christ we have comfort instead of mourning, a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, gladness instead of sorrow, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, and we have become oaks of righteousness. Whose righteousness? Certainly not our own for Jesus earned it and we received it by faith (Ro. 1:17; 4:11; Php. 3:9).

This is what Christmas declares to us. It declares the grace of God, the year of the Lord's favor for the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captives of sin. What is grace? Grace is not just God not giving us what we deserve—punishment for our sins—but God giving us the glorious opposite of what we deserve—peace with Him for our rebellion, Jesus' righteousness for our sinfulness, adoption into His family for our alienation by our sin, and eternal life with Him for our fate of eternal punishment in hell. Grace is not just unmerited favor, as if we were simply neutral people, but demerited favor. We get the glorious opposite of what we deserve. And, in this prophecy we see that in Christmas we celebrate God sending His Son and anointing Him for the task of freeing the captives to sin so that we could have this grace and be called "oaks of righteousness" in Jesus.

By His Grace,

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