Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
As a generality, Isaiah is one of those books I have trouble with. In fact, it is often a point of worry for me because most pastors seem to be professionals on Isaiah. My ability to understand it has gotten better over the years, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t opened it up like he did with the Law and other parts of the Bible. Today’s article is an exception!
I was feeling very down due to my schedule and my own sinful nature. I had both started cutting back on Biblically-positive activities and developed some Biblically-negative (read: sinful) habits. The devil jumped on this and heaped guilt onto me and got me stuck in a downward spiral. But then, during my daily Bible reading, I read Isaiah 61 and it felt like the Lord was speaking directly to my soul. He announced,
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And released from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of beauty
Instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness
Instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
Instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord
For the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:1-3).
I needed some good news. When you’re down, the prophets aren’t always the most comforting part of Scripture to be reading in, but on that day Isaiah had good news. He (the Lord) was here to bind my broken heart. He was here to free me from the devil’s captivity. The Lord would replace my self-abasement with gladness and change my guilt to praise. Yeah, this is a message that I really needed.
The Lord continued,
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
And restore the places long devastated;
They will renew the ruined cities
That have been devastated for generations.
Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
Foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
You will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast (Isaiah 61:4-6).
We can take this to mean that the Lord will help to rebuild your life after you backslide. As I read this I thought back to when the Israelites were rebuilding the Temple after their period of exile had ended. The new Temple was…..ok? It wasn’t very impressive when compared to the original. As they set the foundations of it, Ezra 3:12-13 describes the response,
But many of the old priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Even God made note of the New Temple’s inadequacies, saying to the people in Haggai 2:3, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” But God had two messages for the people that day. First, he continued,
“But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord. “Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty (Haggai 2:4).
Even if what we bring to the table is pithy and small, the Lord is with us as we follow him. But the Lord continued into his second message to the people, “’The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9). That is to say, “I know things look like crap right now; but they will get better; because I am God, and I am with you always.” You know, when one is down, that’s just the sort of message they need. The Lord will give you the help you need to grow and your name will be restored and elevated (if there was any loss); if God can do it with some building he can do it for you- a living Temple of the Holy Spirit.
In Isaiah, God kept going,
Instead of their shame
My people will receive a double portion,
And instead of disgrace
They will rejoice in their inheritance;
And so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
And everlasting joy will be theirs.
“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
And make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
And their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
That they are a people the Lord has blessed” (Isaiah 61:7-9).
God hates sin, but Jesus was our sin offering. John wrote,
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).
Therefore, with Christ in our corner, we are able to receive Jesus’ reward in our lives. The Lord taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). This passage isn’t just about food and clothes though. Rather, the whole of heaven is at our disposal as we lean on the Lord. So it seems that we don’t get what we deserve, instead we get what Jesus Christ earned for us.
Isaiah 61:10-11 finishes up with the following,
I delight greatly in the Lord;
My soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
And arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
And a garden causes seeds to grow,
So the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise
Spring up before all nations.
Right away there was a mini-fulfillment of the prophecy; as by that point my guilt had been replaced by praise, just like in the above verses. But the message here is good news; Even though we are scum, the Lord covers us in his righteousness. Keep in mind that we did nothing to deserve it. We can see this in action in Zechariah’s vision of Joshua (son of Jehozadak, from above). Zechariah wrote, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him” (Zechariah 3:1). We’ve all been there as we make mistakes in our walk with Christ. But God rebuked the devil and what followed is one of the most beautiful parts of Scripture in the whole Bible,
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then He said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (Zechariah 3:3-4).
What we can learn from this is that it’s not on you to get things straight with God. That’s on him, and all you need to do is have faith in Christ to get the ball moving. The Lord will cover you and help you to change your ways and your situation.
I needed this message on the day I read it. Maybe you need it today. Have a good one, my friend.