Read Isaiah 61:1-11 (we've put it here for you).
The passage speaks to me of an anointing to bring comfort in difficult situations and places
I love this passage in Isaiah. It is one of my favourites in the Bible, so definitely a favourite from Isaiah. The passage speaks to me of an anointing to bring comfort in difficult situations and places and of transformation for the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. These words can so easily roll off our tongue, but what do we really mean? Isaiah is written to a people who in exile from Jerusalem. They have been dominated by the Babylonian powers. They have permission to return to their land, but not under their own King, so they were a people who were not imprisoned physically but certainly felt oppressed.
These first 4 verses speak of transformation of the situation of the people. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon the writer to bring transformation, a message of hope. The message here is that people's situations can be changed, they can be set free from the things that bind them: the situations and experiences which hold them back and keep them oppressed.
I was not allowed to speak openly about my faith and I used to feel frustrated by this
In my twenties, I trained and then worked as a social worker. I was not allowed to speak openly about my faith unless asked directly by the family who I was working with, and I used to feel frustrated by this. One evening when I was talking about this in my small group, they offered to pray for me and someone spoke the words of Isaiah over me in prayer, praying God would anoint me. I spent days reading and rereading this passage, asking God to show me how this could be possible without words. Then one day I realised it says the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me. That same spirit, the Holy Spirit, is upon each one of us and goes with us as we minister in those places, situations and with people who are not free: who know pain, suffering and oppression. Every time I met a family, another worker or left a home, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would remain and begin a transforming work within that household. I began to see the Spirit at work in the lives of those people as I made my prayer. Not always instantly, but gradually I was often aware of subtle changes happening. I learned not to look for the instant, rather to look for that subtle transformation which comes over time as people work through their difficulties and pain. I learned we can be the Good News without words by being a conduit for the Holy Spirit.
This passage tells me to carry Jesus wherever I go, pray for those I meet and expect transformation through the power of prayer.
Two months ago, twenty years on, I was ordained a Deacon in the Church of England. I still pray that same prayer as I meet those in the parish. I am now able to speak openly about my faith - in fact I'm expected to, it's my job!! But I still pray the Holy Spirit will be present and remain in people’s lives, working to bring an understanding to people of the amazing difference that Jesus makes in our lives, that the Holy Spirit will bring freedom to those captive by situations and by themselves. This passage tells me to carry Jesus wherever I go, pray for those I meet and expect transformation through the power of prayer. AND IT WORKS!
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 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.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
6 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.
7 Because their shame was double,
and dishonour was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.