walk in the word
The Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners (Isaiah 61:1, nasb).
I will never forget the first time I saw the Rockies. I was maybe eight years old, riding in the back of our family station wagon in western Canada. The snowy peaks towered over us making us seem as little as ants.
I could not have described it then, but I remember what I felt. It was the feeling of God—the sense of One who could call forth the mountains with the breath of His mouth. I’ve since been to the Alps, the Appalachians, and the Himalayas. The impact is always the same—God is so great and I am so small! And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Yes, it’s in the mountains that we feel the grip of God’s greatness.
Such are many of the views of God in Isaiah: A lofty, holy God. Sovereign King of the universe. Awesome, Almighty Lord, working wonders, worthy to be worshiped. We are gripped by His greatness and our whole world is turned upside down, forever freed from religion and meaningless ritual.
“When we bring the pain of our past to God, He answers in abundance.”
Then—BAM! Reality hits and the kids are calling or you have to get to the office. Your spiritual retreat is over. It’s time to get back to the flatlands. Can I find God there, too? Does the God of the universe make house calls? The answer is yes!
Isaiah 61 takes us close to God’s heart. In these very personal verses, we discover how the Lord comes down from the mountain to tenderly care for His people. The first thing we see about God’s heart is that it is near to the hurting. Notice the three groups of people the Lord is especially attuned to: the afflicted, the brokenhearted, and the prisoners. Those people are us!
The afflicted are the first specific people Isaiah says need help. Isaiah says that God will bring good news to those who have humble spirits. Did you know that the verse “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” is quoted three times in the Bible—Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5. God wants us to grasp this concept!
Next, Isaiah said the Lord came to help and to heal the brokenhearted. Has your heart ever been broken? Have you endured an ordeal that has left you emotionally scarred? Isaiah 61:1 says that God will “bind up” the brokenhearted like a doctor attending to a broken limb. When we bring the pain of our past to this God who comes down from the mountain—when we sincerely and consistently ask for the grace to forgive and move on—He answers in abundance. Just try Him—you won’t be disappointed.
Maybe your greatest need is not freedom from the repercussions of others’ actions but instead freedom from your own sin. Isaiah said the Lord came to set the captives free. Do you sometimes feel trapped in a cycle of “sin-confess-sin-confess”? Then you know what it’s like to be held captive. Are you tired of that old sin? God wants to break that cycle and release you from your bondage.
One word summarizes what all three of these people-groups need: healing. To those who need healing, God promises a really cool swap. Isaiah 61:2–3 says He will come “To comfort all who mourn . . . Giving them a garland instead of ashes . . . The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness.”
If you give God your ashes—your sorrow—God promises to swap it out for a garland. He promises to cover you in a mantle, or a robe, of praise.
Have you been gripped by the power that brings this kind of healing? Have you seen the Lord melt away the pain that once consumed you? Or does it still hang like some dark cloud over your life, always threatening a downpour of sadness? If the answer to that last question is yes, admit it to Him right now.
Lastly, when we exchange our sorrow for His joy, we will be called “oaks of righteousness”—strong, steady, faithful, and deeply rooted in the soil of God’s Word. God wants that to be true of your life, but it has nothing to do with your righteousness and everything to do with His. You don’t have to stand up straighter or try to act more godly, as if we could measure up anyway. We’re talking about His righteousness alone here. That’s the power of Christ at work in your life.
Lord, You bring good news to the afflicted, You bind up the brokenhearted, and You set captives free. I trust Your Word and I trust You with my brokenness. Would You take my pain and heal me? Would You exchange my ashes for beauty and my mourning for joy? Please let me grow into an oak of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Thank You that in Christ Jesus I have every hope that You will do this. It’s in Jesus’ mighty name I ask these things of You. Amen.
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