Justice, Judgment & Mercy – Part 9
A Study of Isaiah 59-61
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3
After 40 days of temptation alone in the wilderness,
“Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.” Luke 4:14-15
This is the portion of Scripture that Jesus stood up in the synagogue to read on the Sabbath day. The Scriptures are read in specific order as they relate to the Jewish year of feast days, Holy Days, Sabbaths and so forth. Each Sabbath has its particular Scripture reading. So Jesus began to read and the people were very impressed with Him, until He stopped short of completing the reading, closed the book and sat down and began to say to them, “Today is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke 4:16-21
There is much that is remarkable about this event. First, it occurred in the Synagogue, in the presence of the Jewish religious leaders whose job (calling) it was to be alert for the fulfillment of the Words of the prophets. Second, when Jesus began to read the Scriptures they listened intently, until He said, “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing.” This got their attention in a different way. They tried to just dismiss Him as the son of Joseph, one of the local boys from the village. Third, when He began to reveal their heart’s attitudes to them they became enraged because He said to them that the favor of God was extended to foreigners and strangers while at the same time, the covenant people were sick and dying in poverty and want without aid from God. (See Luke 4:22-28)
Finally, when they could abide His Words no more, they rose up to cast Him out of their midst to kill Him.
“And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.” Luke 4:29-30
What makes their response to Him so remarkable is that they had heard about the miracles He was doing all over the region. That it was evident that God was with Him. Despite all this they could only see Him as a threat to their authority and therefore there was no need for restraining their wrath but eagerly sought to destroy Him.
But consider what He said to them.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
He was declaring to them that He was the One who came 1) to bring good news to the poor, 2) to heal the broken hearted, 3) to deliver the captives, 4) to restore sight tot the blind, 5) to set at liberty those who are bruised and 6) to proclaim the acceptable time of the Lord.
He came declaring Good News, healing, deliverance, recovery, liberty and most importantly that the time of God’s favor was now, meaning this is not the time of God’s judgment but of His mercy and grace extended to whosoever would believe and receive Him.
In the Isaiah passage that Jesus was reading, the next sentence after “the acceptable year of the Lord,” is “…and the day of vengeance of our God…” But he stopped short of reading that line, because He was not declaring that fulfilled that day. He came that day to declare to them the time of God’s favor. But they could not hear that because of the rage in the hearts. God’s day of judgment is coming and He will comfort those who mourn to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they will be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that HE might be glorified.
The exchanges here are profound to anyone with an ear to hear. Wrath and judgment are coming but those who hunger and wait on the Lord will be comforted and kept through it unscathed. They will be conferred a new anointing, the oil of joy for mourning. They will exchange the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise and they will receive a new identity, trees of righteousness planted, established by God, Himself.
All this God will do to glorify His name.
So, now in Nazareth on the Sabbath Day Jesus being threatened by the wrath of the Jewish leaders just passed through the midst of them and went on His way. They had no power over Him and He had no desire to retaliate against them because that was not His calling. He came, because He loved us so much, to give His life a ransom for us all.
This is the way of God’s Judgment, Justice and Mercy, motivated by love He knows the weakness of humanity and He has chosen to look beyond our faults and meet our needs.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.