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God’s grace is both a gift and a power. It is a gift in that no one can earn favorable treatment from God. He gives freely it to us out of love.
God’s grace can also refer to his power which accomplishes his purposes in human’s lives.
Isaiah 61.4-11 tells the story of God’s grace as a gift that will powerfully change the fortunes of his people. This gift must be received in order for it to be effective.
Ancient Ruins Repaired
The devastation that the Hebrews experienced at the hands of Assyria and Babylon are a picture of the ruin that is experienced with war, violence, disease, and hunger.
God’s promise to Israel is that their ruined cities will be rebuilt by God.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61.4)
Modern Jerusalem provides a glimmer of what is yet to come for the repaired city. The best is yet to come for Jerusalem as God continues to fulfill his purposes in the world.
While we look forward to God’s work with Jerusalem, we can use this verse to cooperate with God for our city.
It takes God’s initiative and power to transform cities. Saying that, we have a response to his grace.
This verse emphasizes our response when it repeats “They shall” three times. God’s work is necessary, but he expects our cooperation.
What would happen if we prayed for God’s grace for our cities, and then did everything within our power to help repair the ruined cities of our world?
There is no question that Jewish people have suffered tremendously for centuries. Isaiah prophesied a day when God will vindicate his people.
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
But you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory. (Isaiah 61.5-6)
When God sets things right, nations who have oppressed Hebrew people will become their servants. Israel will enjoy the wealth of the nations and their rightful place on earth.
Instead of using their power to dominate other people, Israel will use their newly found might to be priests and ministers of God.
A priest stands between God and other people as a mediator. With one hand the priest reaches out to God on behalf of the people. With the other hand, the priest reaches out to people and leads them to God.
Their power will not result in an abuse of power, but they will serve God and other humans.
What would happen if we viewed whatever power that God has given to us as a commission to assist more meaningful relationships between God and humans through loving service?
A Double Portion
As the first born child of God, Israel is worthy of a double portion.
I hope you will listen to the interview that I conducted with Rudy Ross on this passage. Rudy has an enlightening response to these verses. The interview is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Isaiah speaks about Israel’s double portion of blessing from God.
Because their shame was double,
and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. (Isaiah 61.7-9)
In verse 8 God applies his standards to his own behavior. He hates robbery and wrongdoing. He loves justice.
As a result, God will never cheat his people. The double portion of blessing for Israel is a reflection of God’s love and justice.
When the world sees what God has done, they will view Hebrew people as blessed by God.
The rest of the world will not be left out of God’s blessing. God’s plan from the very beginning was to include all of humanity in his love. “For God so loved the world that he gave . . .” is true for all.
Garment of Salvation
How do you describe God’s love? The cross of Jesus Christ is the most profound description.
A far lesser, but still accurate picture of God’s love is that of a husband for his wife.
God’s people will be clothed by their bridegroom with garments of salvation and robes of righteousness.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61.10-11)
As joyous as is the picture of a rebuilt city, nations coming to God’s people, and the clothing of righteousness, the greatest gift of all is a relationship with God himself.
Every image in these verses points to the best gift of God’s grace, an intimate relationship with God that is quite real and personal.
All we can say to these verses is, “Praise God!”
About This Blog
Please join Rudy Ross and me on YouTube (Bob Spradling channel) for a discussion of these verses. Rudy has several valuable insights to share.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.