Day 1 of 7

Reconciliation


Isaiah 61:1-6

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

1The 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,

2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.

4They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

5Strangers will shepherd your flocks;

foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6And you will be called priests of the Lord,

you will be named ministers of our God.

You will feed on the wealth of nations,

and in their riches you will boast.

Pray:

God, open our eyes to the ways we have been estranged from you; reveal to us your intentions, and renew us to our true mission in the world.

Reflect:

This passage harkens back to Leviticus 25 (jubilee), and extends to Luke 4:18-19 where this prophetic vision is embodied in the life, ministry, and witness of Jesus. However, verses 1-4 are not merely an anticipatory announcement about Jesus. Rather, they highlight the real concerns of a exilic community in distress, and uplift a transformative response that is empowered by God’s Spirit. Israel, at this time, was under Babylonian rule.

In the Old Testament, the good news was commonly understood as a military victory, but the good news of this passage is distinguished because it is to “the poor.” The good news proclaimed here is not militaristic in nature, it is an atypical good news, involving victory over an oppressor. Furthermore, the good news being proclaimed also refers to the salvation Yahweh brings. These verses speak of God’s salvation on two levels. On the first level, they describe how God literlally enacts freedom for the exilic captives, liberating the exiles from their servitude—allowing them to return home. On the second level, they speak of God freeing them (and us) from the bondage of sin.

The series of “insteads” in verse 3 points to a radical transformation of communal attitude and condition, made possible by God’s liberatory proclamation and enactment of jubilee. Additionally, the series of “theys” in verses three and four refer to those who receive the gospel of jubilee and are restored by it. This remnant of the faithful is renewed to the fullness of life and joy that God intends for us all, and their restoration emboldens them to live in a manner that communally produces fruit.

Walter Brueggemann concludes “the outcome of the actions that produce an ‘instead’ is that ‘they’ will have energy, vision, and resolve. They will be ‘oaks,’ an image of sturdiness, durability, and resilience.” The use of oaks here, is connected to Isaiah 1:30, where pre-exilic Israel fails to serve in this communal capacity, and Scripture says “You [Israel] will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water.” When Isaiah 1:30 is paired with Isaiah 61:4- 6, we see the radical restoration of Israel, and this restoration—lead by the remnant who received the gospel of jubilee—gives Israel the capacity to engage in Christ-centered community development; rebuilding, restoring, and repairing Jerusalem’s ruins.

Therefore, when Israel returns to God, by embracing and practicing jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor commences. Israel is, thereby, reconciled to God, neighbor, and its mission in the world. Brueggemann writes, “thus in the end, the gospel powered by the spirit is a restoration of a viable economic community in a reorganized city, the redemption of public life.”

Respond:

How is the church being called to practice jubilee today? How are we involved in setting captives free in our communities, both physically and spiritually? How might our embrace of these teachings—like Israel before us—be connected to our restoration, and ability to be reconciled to our original missional purpose in the world?