Summary: Isaiah teaches us that the Messiah’s worldwide mission is to preach good news, to replace shame with honor, to make an everlasting covenant, and to bring great joy.
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent.
Our Scripture reading in this Advent season brings us to Isaiah 61:1-11. In this text we read about God’s worldwide mission. This text teaches us what God’s Anointed One will do when God comes down. And it also teaches us what we will do when God comes down. Isaiah wants to inspire in us such admiration for God’s Anointed One that we gladly give ourselves to his cause.
Let us read Isaiah 61:1-11:
1The 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;
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3to 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.
4They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
foreigners shall be your plowmen
6but you shall be called the priests of the Lord;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
7Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall
possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
8For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul 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 like a priest
with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it
to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:1-11)
The essence of Christianity is joy. God’s message to the world was summarized by the angel at the birth of Jesus: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
That’s significant, because, life is tough. When I was young I found happiness in sports. But, of course, that didn’t last. To get more happiness, I had to find new ways to make myself happy. I turned to alcohol. Others turned to drugs, or sex, or whatever.
But it wasn’t until I turned to God that I found true happiness and peace and fulfillment—and joy. I found what the angel announced 2,000 years earlier—“good news of great joy.”
My life was completely transformed by the good news of great joy. I was never the same person again.
In this world, that’s huge. When real people living real lives in this world demonstrate real joy, it’s living proof that God saves sinners. Pastor and commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the powerful impact of joyful Christians:
"As we face the modern world with all its trouble and turmoil and with all its difficulties and sadness, nothing is more important than that we who call ourselves Christian, and who claim the Name of Christ, should be representing our faith in such a way before others as to give them the impression that here is the solution, and here is the answer. In a world where everything has gone so sadly astray, we should be standing out as men and women apart, people characterized by a fundamental joy and certainty in spite of conditions, in spite of adversity."
One of the marks of the early Christians was their joy in God as they lived in a hard world.
According to one archaeologist, the apartment buildings of ancient Rome were so shoddily built that “the city was constantly filled with the noise of buildings collapsing or being torn down to prevent it; and the tenants of an [apartment] lived in constant expectation of its coming down on their heads.”