The Year of the Lord’s Favour
Read Isaiah 61:1-3
In Isaiah, we encounter the mysterious figure of the “servant of the Lord”. Our passage today is one such passage. He is prophesied to accomplish many things for God. He is the one who will bring God’s justice to God. He will be calling all the nations back to God. He is the only one who’s truly obedient to God and he is described as the suffering servant or man of sorrows in Isaiah 52-53. Different interpretations have been put forward as to the identity of this “servant”. Some have said that this servant refers to the nation of Israel itself.
In Isaiah 61:1-3, there are some remarkable things being said of this servant. He is being anointed by the Spirit of the Lord and sent to proclaim good news to the poor. In other words, this servant has been sent to proclaim the gospel to the poor, for the word “gospel” means good news. What kind of good news is being referred to here? It is the binding up of the brokenhearted, proclamation of freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Not only that, the servant is to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, day of vengeance of God, comfort for all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion.
Those are amazing things for the servant to accomplish. Deeper reflection upon this passage also makes us realise that only God himself is able to do some of these things. How is it possible that this servant is able to proclaim freedom for the captives? Only captors can do that or the authorities who free the captives are able to do that. How is it possible that this servant is able to bestow on people a crown of beauty, and be called oaks of righteousness for the display of God’s splendour? Only God can do that.
Read Luke 4:14-21
It should not be a surprise to us Christians then to read Jesus reading this very passage in Isaiah 61 in the synagogue. What’s even more surprising for those who were in the synagogue listening to Jesus is the fact that Jesus can say, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (v21) Jesus himself recognised that this prophecy in Isaiah 61 is talking about him. So, while the servant of the Lord could have referred to the nation of Israel once upon a time, ultimately it refers to Jesus himself.
In Luke 3:21-22, when Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit descended on him, anointed by God himself – just as the prophecy states. He goes around different towns proclaiming the good news to the poor and freedom for the prisoners. However, it is only in reading Jesus’ teaching that we come to realise that the prophecy is talking about freedom from sin for the prisoners. There is one curious detail about Jesus’ reading of Isaiah’s prophecy – he leaves out proclaiming “the day of vengeance of our God” (cf. Isa 61:2). Why is that?
That is because the day of vengeance of our God will only occur when Christ comes back again in the future. Until then, it is “the year of the Lord’s favour” where prisoners are freed, the blind can see and the oppressed are released. That “year” began with the coming of Christ and continues on to today until he comes back again. And as we live in the Lord’s favour, let us “proclaim good news to the poor”, for they need it.
- Thank God for the freedom that you have from the oppression of sin and death
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you strength and courage to proclaim freedom and sight to those around us, particularly during this Christmas season