A reflection on Isaiah 61:1-4 & 8-11, and Psalm 126 for the Sunday, December 13, 2020.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations…
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
Isaiah 61:1-4 & 8-11 (NRSVA)
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
Psalm 126 (NRSVA)
Our Isaiah reading is good news.
What if the God of the universe was not one to seek the welfare of the ‘oppressed’ and ‘broken-hearted’? What if God showed not interest in ‘liberty’ and ‘release to the prisoner’? What if God stood by passively watching our ‘mourning’?
We have here a picture of God as one who desires to intervene. A God who is planting. A God who is building.
Sometimes we need to hear that God is a God of ‘justice’. We forget too easily – as we look around at a broken world – that God is moved by the ‘robbery’ we are surrounded by. This is a God of ‘recompense’ and blessing. A God worthy of inspiring our rejoicing. A giving God who clothes us – and the earth – richly in ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’.
It does not surprise me that Jesus took this prophecy as his own in Luke 4. As that gospel unfolds we are offered a narrative of the incarnation that pursues release for us all.
In fact, I hear echoes of Psalm 126 as Luke’s gospel builds its picture of Jesus. There is a party atmosphere surrounding him and his disciples. The lame are walking. The blind are seeing. The deaf are hearing.
And despite the prophecies of this incarnation – it is all so surprising as to cause a spontaneous laughter and rejoicing.
And it all starts – not with us – but with the imagination and promise of the God who insists on faithfully ‘coming’
How does your picture of God and God’s purposes relate to Isaiah’s understanding of God? Where are the parallels? Where are the differences?
What have you seen of God that makes you spontaneously laugh?
Where are you still ’weeping’ and ‘sowing‘? Does this Psalm give you hope that this is not a permanent state?