Day 11. Twelve Days to Christmas
Please do read Isaiah 61:1 – 11; Isaiah 63:1-6
In this passage from Isaiah 61 through to Isaiah 63, we have two contrasting certainties. They can be found in Isaiah 61:2. The two certainties are “the year of Yahweh’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God”. There will be the year of favour and the day of vengeance. The year of honour, as we shall see has already started. We don’t know when it will end, but we know that it will. The day of vengeance will be in the future sometime. Again we don’t know when that will be either. But we know it will all happen quickly, suddenly and without warning (Isaiah 60:22). Therefore people need to be ready and alert! The time of when it will occur is not known, but it is known who will end it – Almighty God.
Messiah’s Good News
The Servant Messiah speaks without being introduced this time, and is the preacher in the year of the Lord’s favour. This preaching is probably a referral to the rams horn that ushers in the Year of Jubilee as established in the Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 25:8-55). The Servant Messiah’s preaching will usher in a time of grace, justice and freedom – just as the ram’s horn introduced the Year of Jubilee. The phrase to “proclaim liberty” is used in both the year of Jubilee and in this the year of the Lord’s favour. This proclaimed year of the Lord’s favour starts when the Messiah comes the first time and will cease when He returns again. The word year, is not a fixed period of time as we know it, but is rather symbolic of an extended period of time. This Servant Messiah is anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. This Good News was to be preached to the humble, the poor and poor in spirit – the Good News is news of freedom, liberty, grace and justice! The comfort they will receive should the offer be taken up, is one of being released from condemnation for sin through the Messiah’s offer of forgiveness – that is grace! Because of this grace, three things will be occur for these people who have accept the offer, here referred to in Isaiah 61:3 as “trees of righteousness” : they will display or reflect the Lord God’s glory and splendour; they will be priests of the Lord God service; and will inherit all things!
Messiah’s Grace & Justice
What is the outcome and result of grace? We see it in Isaiah 61:7-9. Almighty God’s grace, available only through the Messiah, will bring bountiful blessing, ecstatic joy and a rich inheritance instead of shame, dishonour and exile. Grace may well be free but it is not cheap. What was the price? The relationship bridge to God that is the Messiah, is only through the Messiah’s suffering atonement as described in Isaiah 53. Isaiah moves to justice quite naturally therefore, for grace and justice are like twins – they go together naturally. Justice is grace in action just as much as it is the judging of those in sin (Isaiah 61:8). Liberating people from sin freely (grace) is as much a part of justice as punishing those who reject the gracious offer of pardon and continue to live sinful lives. Grace and justice are also available, because God is always full of grace and justice and this is seen in the new covenant He makes with those who have heard this Good News proclaimed by the Messiah and responded by taking up His free offer.
This Good News of the twins Grace and Justice brings an offering of thanksgiving and praise (Isaiah 61:10-11)! Clothed with salvation from and through God’s Messiah, robed with the righteousness of God’s Messiah! And because God has done it for this one man, He will ensure that all those who respond from all nations will also be like that in a responsive praise and Godly righteousness.
We have been warned in Isaiah 61:2 that not only will the Messiah usher in the year of the Lord’s favour, but He will also bring vengeance with him. People today don’t like the word vengeance because it conjures up images of maliciousness and vindictiveness. This vengeance is wrought by Almighty God as punishment for people’s personal sin against Him. His anger is a righteous anger and a wrath borne of holiness. His judgment will be final and also universal – every people of every nation of all time. In particular, however, those who would persecute, mock, abhor and reject those who have taken up God’s free offer of grace through the coming Messiah.
How is Jesus this Messiah?
In Luke 4:16-20 at the beginning of His public ministry at a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quotes this passage from Isaiah 61. This tells us that the year of the Lord’s favour has commenced. But note from the passage in Luke, that he doesn’t quote the full scripture. He stops in the middle of reading a sentence, just as soon as He says “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”, rolls the scroll back up. Why does he do that? It can only be because while now until He returns, is the year of the Lord’s favour, the day of judgement and vengeance will wait until that day in the future – when those who are His followers will enter the City of God and those who rejected Him will have vengeance wrought against them.
Jesus went around, as we know, proclaiming the same Good News Isaiah writes about (Matthew 9:35, Luke 8:1). Jesus proclaimed in his words and his life about God’s love, grace and justice. When he healed the sick, forgave sins, gave compassion on the poor, spoke and ate with the outcasts, Jesus Christ embodied this message of grace, justice and freedom. When, as we saw on a previous day, death on the cross was the act of atonement required by God in order to punish the sins of the world, Jesus Christ did not shirk back from doing that.
As for the day of vengeance, nobody talked about hell and God’s judgement more than Jesus. But God is always reaching out, coaxing people to accept His free offer of grace, if people will only humble themselves and ask for it. God’s offer of freedom is still available in this the year of the Lord’s favour. But one day, the day of judgement will come and then it will be too late. That is why Jesus commanded with some urgency that His followers would tell all nations of this Good News, Isaiah wrote about. A Good News of salvation, grace, justice and freedom.
Jesus, reinforcing what Isaiah ahs said, tells us that the day of vengeance is for those who reject the Good News he preaches and lives (Matthew 10v14-15). God’s Day of Judgment is coming said Jesus (Matthew 12:36). What’s more, Jesus said in John 5:22-23 “For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who doesn’t honour the Son doesn’t honour the Father who sent him.” Jesus claims here to openly be the Messiah, the long awaited for chosen One! An even more overt statement by Jesus on judgment can be found in John 9:39, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” Jesus tells us that the punishment will be both physical (Matthew 5v29-30), and in the soul (Matthew 10v28). This vengeance will consist of everlasting fire and punishment (Matthew 25v41-46) and will be Constant and outer darkness (Matthew 8v12). In other words, those rejecting the Messiah Jesus Christ, will face a lonely, impersonal God-less void. All this will happen when Jesus comes again, not as a baby like last time, but in glorious splendour.
But for all those who accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and have grasped hold of the Good News message of grace, justice and liberty, there will be another place. According to Jesus, this heavenly city of God is only for those who are righteous (Matthew 5v20). In doing so, he concurs with Isaiah. This righteousness is not their own, but the robe righteousness declared upon them through the Messiah.
This heavenly city of God, Jesus proclaims to us is a place of ecstatic Joy (Luke 15v7-10), total peace (Luke 16v19-25) and a reward (Matthew 5v11-12) – all themes we have heard in these books of Isaiah and Zechariah.
There is one more study to come. As this is released on Christmas day, you may wonder why. My reason for doing so, was that yes we celebrate Jesus Christ coming to earth as a baby. Yes, His incarnation whereby God took on human flesh in the human form of Jesus Christ is important. That iw when the year of the Lord’s favour commenced. But that is only half the story, because this Jesus Christ is coming back again in splendorous glory, in order to gather all those who have responded obediently to the Good News of God’s grace, justice and freedom. For those, the heavenly city of God awaits. But for those who reject Him now, He will reject them and the day of vengeance proclaimed in Isaiah will be a terrible day. That is why even as it is now the year of the Lord’s favour; it is not too late to respond obediently to God’s free grace. It is also not too late for you, if you are already counted as one of the Lord’s followers to tell others of this free offer and the rewards of acceptance and consequences of rejection.