What are you Wearing?

(2) To proclaim the year of YHWH’s favor,
The day of our God’s vengeance,
to comfort those who mourn,
(3) Amongst those who mourn in Zion,
to replace ashes with garlands,
mourner’s tears with oil of joy,
a faded spirit with a cloak of praise,
to call them righteous trees,
planted by YHWH to glorify himself. — Isaiah 61:2-3

It seems I’m not going to get out of Isaiah 61 very easily. I think we have all sung about the day of God’s favor. The language used here is of the year of jubilee, when debts were erased and land returned to families, while the entire nation took a time of rest.

It’s hard for us to imagine the Israelites in exile reading this material. They were at least weeks of travel from home, in a foreign land. Their homeland and all of their farms and property had been destroyed and had been that way for years. Then someone comes along and announces “the year of YHWH’s favor.”

I know of some people who see the church today in spiritual exile, spiritually wearing ashes on her head, spiritless (one word that could be used for “faded spirit” is “colorless”), sorrowful, anything but glorious. Now I see lots of good points, lots of points of light to look at. But if you’re seeing all this failure and falling short, let me ask you something.

Are you going to look down, be gloomy, mourn, and maybe even whine? Or are you going to look up and be the bearer of good news, the impetus of new life, the instrument of transformation for your church and community?

Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of this scripture in Luke 4:21. You don’t have to wait for the day of God’s favor. Liberation has been proclaimed. The good news is out there. Now what are you going to do about it?

It’s interesting how many of us seem to think that we’re going to transform the world by mourning. There are times to sigh and cry for the abominations in the land (Ezekiel 9:4), but after that there is a time for action (Ezekiel 9:5ff), and there is also a time to proclaim victory. Note also that Ezekiel 9 provides another point that matches Isaiah 61: The proclamation of release and favor also involves the proclamation of vengeance.

Think of this as a hostage crisis. Armed men are holding God’s children hostage. They’ve rigged the building with explosives. They’re pointing machine guns at them. What is the day of release? Well, for God’s children, it removes them from danger and releases them. For the terrorists, it’s a day of vengeance. We try to separate them, but release and vengeance generally go together. But the vengeance is God’s and the proclamation of liberty and release is ours.

This morning, will you put on faded garments of a broken spirit, or will it be garments of praise? Will you allow yourself to be planted by God as a righteous tree for his glory?

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