A while back, I led a large Christian ministry in a contemplative planning retreat. We used Isaiah 61 as our core text. During the three hours of solitude in that day, I wrote the following reflections on the passage:
- In the context of this passage, each of us has been a “they” needing grace before we have been a “me” extending grace.
- It is a “they” who have experienced favor, comfort, blessing, honor, new perspectives, and deepening roots who are then called oaks of righteousness and do the rebuilding, restoring, renewing work in places, structures and persons who have long been ruined.
- An oak of righteousness, planted by the Lord, puts His splendor on display. This is a different display that merely human excitement, enthusiasm, and thrills. Splendor is quieter, stronger, less hurried and more deeply rooted than these.
Five “instead of”s
- 3a Crown of beauty ashes
- 3b Oil of gladness mourning
- 3c Garment of praise spirit of despair
- 7a Double portion shame
- 7b Joyful inheritance disgrace
- How many Christian leaders, after a number of years in ministry, look more like the “before” than the “after” above? How might we continue to be divinely attractive, glad, vigorous, overflowing and hopeful in the midst of meeting so many profound human needs?
- In terms of the kingdom, a redeemed “they” so rebuild, restore and renew the land that even aliens and foreigners come under our influence and leadership.
- An outcome of this anointed ministry is that everyone who sees this work of God can’t help but acknowledge the obvious blessing of God in the whole of their lives (9b). This speaks especially of offspring/descendants. Those who grow up and go out from us become men and women of enormous and godly influence.
- In the midst of all of these fruitful, anointed ministries, we do not lose touch with a deep, abiding delight in the Lord that saturates our souls (10a). We continue to grow in salvation righteousness, wearing it like a beautiful garment (10b).
- All of this is organic, like seeds sprouting in a garden (11). It continues to grow into something life-giving around the world.
- The crown, oil and garment images of verse 3 describe their appearance and the aroma. They would be attractive to sense of sight and smell. (Anointing oil would definitely have a pleasing aroma. I think of the ‘recipe’ for temple anointing oil that was to be holy for that use alone).
- It’s one thing to rebuild recent ruins and devastation (those of a generation or perhaps two). But what about rebuilding ruins that are ancient. What about the ruins caused by the separation of devotion and worship from intellect and scholarship that is centuries old. Might we rebuild those ruins? (4)
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