Reading through the Bible together
The ram’s horn trumpet (the yōbēl) sounds again! Not warning this time (58:1), but accompanied with words that bring rejoicing for God’s people. They are spoken by the Servant-Messiah filled with the Spirit of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, He proclaims the “year of the Lord’s favor” (2) or the Year of Jubilee. Every fiftieth year of the Jewish calendar was considered a “sacred fast” of rejoicing because it brought freedom, restoration and release for those who had been disaffected for whatever reason. The arrival of “the Year of the Lord’s Favor” (2) meant the ushering in of grace and release.
But these words are not for Israel alone. The Servant-Messiah is, in fact, announcing the Jubilee of Jubilees. About 700 years before the Incarnation, Isaiah told the world that the Messiah would be born on earth and although He was fully God (8:8,10; 9:6), He would submit His will in full obedience to the Sovereign Father and Spirit in Heaven (50:4-9). He would suffer and die and rise again (Isa 52:13-53:12). Only then could the kingdom of grace be ushered in – the time of release for all mankind. Jesus read this passage at the beginning of his public ministry (Luke 4:17-19) saying that Isaiah’s words were being fulfilled before their very eyes. This should have been wonderful news for His hearers; instead they tried to kill Him for blasphemy.
The Servant-Messiah reveals the weapons of Love God uses to reclaim the world from the grip of the cruel enemy (Isa 59:16ff): preaching good news, binding up broken hearts, setting captives free, comforting those who grieve, reviving the spirit of those who are discouraged and fearful, restoring a sense of self-worth for those long abused. This is the “Gospel of Instead” that is, instead of the double portion of punishment (40:2) we deserve, He exchanges our disgrace and shame with a double portion of everlasting joy (61:7).
They become repairers, menders and restorers of broken lives both literally and spiritually. The love of God revealed in their lives draws the hearts of people back to the ancient paths of true worship and restores confidence in God and His laws (v.4). They become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, ministers of our God (v. 6). They become His bride, beautifully arrayed in the robe of righteousness, the garments of salvation He, their bridegroom, provides (v.10).
God’s saving work for mankind has, is, and always will be a work of grace working through the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord revealed in all its glory and fullness in the Mission of the Servant-Messiah. For Israel the words of the Servant-Messiah meant that their release from exile, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, their restoration to nationhood, would be made possible only by the presence and operation of the Spirit of Grace (Hag 2:5; Zech 4:6) .
The inception and building of the Christian Church would find its fulfilment in Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel and the example of God’s people who are transformed into what they can become when the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord rests upon them as it did on their Master, the Servant-Messiah. The Kingdom that is “now but not yet” is also the Kingdom of Grace.
Partners in Ministry Coordinator
Greater Sydney Conference, Australia