Saturday, December 14, 2013

Solus Christus: Oaks of Righteousness

I know yesterday I said we would look at some of the prophecies about the Messiah that are in other books of the Old Testament besides Isaiah, but there is a prophecy in Isaiah which aptly follows yesterday’s subject: our righteousness coming from the Shoot of the stump (dead humanity). Unlike yesterday’s prophecy from Isaiah, however, today’s Scripture comes from the last section of Isaiah. Most of that last section of Isaiah (chapters 40-66) is made up of prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Chapters 40-66 of Isaiah are often called the “comfort section” because this final section contains prophecies concerning God’s purpose of peace (ch. 40-48), His Prince of peace (ch. 49-55), and His program of peace (ch. 56-66), which would all be fulfilled in Jesus. In Is. 61:1-3 we read about the redemption that 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. 
And, lest anyone try to convince you that this prophecy was not about Jesus, 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 there is none righteous (cf. Ro. 3:10). Jesus earned it, and we have received it by faith alone (cf. Ro. 1:17; 4:11; Php 3:9). That’s why this prophecy follows yesterday’s mediation so well. Jesus is the Shoot from the stump of Jesse who has become our righteousness. That righteous Shoot has changed dead stumps like us into living oaks of righteousness. Indeed, the Church is a forest full of oaks of righteousness that all come from the righteous Shoot that was born in stable in Bethlehem—our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is what Advent and Christmas declare to us. They declare the grace of God; the year of the Lord’s favor for the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captives of sin. What is this 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 simply unmerited favor, as if we were just neutral people, but it is demerited favor. We get in Christ the glorious opposite of what we deserve in ourselves. 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.

Today let Advent remind you that you are a living oak of righteousness but not because of anything you did. You’re an oak of righteousness only because the Shoot from the stump of Jesse became your righteousness and gave you new life. Remember you are righteous before God because Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and took the punishment you deserved. Remember that since you are righteous before God in Christ, you can’t do anything to make God love you any more or any less. Bask in that free, unconditional love, and ask God to use that gospel truth to change more and more into likeness of Jesus so that you can die unto sin and live unto righteous.

By His Grace,

No comments: