Isaiah 61 The Message (MSG)
Announce Freedom to All Captives
61 1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.
This verse is beautiful in so many ways. The first thing I love is the image of God’s spirit on me, anointing me. I imagine that it would feel like a blanket straight out of the dryer. Or like the sweet syrupy taste of tea as it slowly warms up your throat on a chilly day. You get the picture? Total peace is in that first verse. But it goes on to say that because I am, you are, we are anointed in this way we are to be that warm blanket or soothing tea to others. “God sent me to announce the year of his grace”. To show people what they haven’t seen or heard before.
And what about bouquets instead of ashes? That’s poetry. Pure poetry. Imagine all the dead parts of your life: divorce, a terminal illness, poverty, depression, whatever it is and imagine it as physical ashes in your hands. It’s not contained an urn. That’s not big enough. Right? Every time something dies it’s just another empty sandbag in your open hands. It’s overwhelming in it’s magnitude and grief and you close your eyes because you’re tired of looking at dead things. But to God. They aren’t dead. To him death is a temporary circumstance—because life is eternal. So what if you opened your eyes again and somehow there were flowers where there was once decay? Your joy would be visceral. Deep in your gut you would have butterflies, and maybe be so overcome that you would shout, or burst out laughing, or cry. The joy is what God wants to give you.
And His joy? Well it goes on forever.