A Retelling of Isaiah 61
A poor, brokenhearted, taken captive, and imprisoned people have returned back home to Israel after exile in Babylon. The place they call home isn't what it used to be. The temple walls have been shattered. The temple itself torn down. Spiritual realities were very much physical realities and physical realities were very much spiritual realities.
These people, they were poor as they found themselves having to start over. Many were brokenhearted at all that had been lost including loved ones back in captivity. These people who had been taken captive, were forced to deny their heritage, to deny who they were as a people. But God had not given up on them. Death and despair is never the end of the story when God is in it.
On their heels, God sends a prophet. The prophet Isaiah to proclaim a message of hope. A prophet who proclaims good news for the poor. That it's not always going to be this way. Proclamations of healing for the broken hearted, that God will make things right again. Liberty for the captive, that they wont have to live under the oppressive thumb of others any longer. Freedom for the prisoner, that no longer will you be held against your will in the darkness, that you'll be able to see the light of day. And forgiveness that leads to restoration not only in a spiritual sense, but also a physical sense, it was on its way.
Ruins would be rebuilt. Lives reestablished. It would be these same words that Jesus would echo in a synagogue in Nazareth as his mission in this world. A resurrection mission. A creation to new creation mission. A life to new life mission. The story of God is one where God takes all that has been broken and makes it whole again. God takes the spiritual and physical realities of death and breathes new life into us once more. And in the words of Isaiah for a people who suffered in exile, and for us as we make it through this world, we'll no longer wear grief on our head anymore, but a crown of beauty as God makes everything new again.
- Isaiah 61 Commentary | Precept Austin
- Narrative Lectionary Commentary on Isaiah 61
- Rashi Commentary on Isaiah 61
Storyline Commentary on Isaiah 61
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting A poor, brokenhearted, taken captive, and imprisoned people have been returned back home to Israel after exile in Babylon.
- The Israelites - returned home after a harsh captivity.
- An anointed preacher - given a message of good news for the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, liberty for captives, freedom for prisoners
- The Lord - who commissions this message of hope into existence.
The Tension The Israelites have returned home, but home isn't what it used to be. They carry mental and physical anguish of what they endured in exile and now have returned to a home in rubbles.
The Resolution Good news, healing, liberty, and freedom are promised to the people on behalf of God through this anointed one.
The Through Line From the ashes, God will give a crown of beauty to his people.
Reflections on Isaiah 61
Why has this story endured? For the Christian, this story has endured because Jesus proclaimed and reclaimed these words in Nazareth. These words speak to the deep core truth inside of all of us, that all of the brokenness we see in the world and in ourselves can't be the end all. We've all seen glimpses of hope and have hoped for something better when we've encountered brokenness in our world. Messages of hope like this one always stand the test of time.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? Brokenness, despair, and poverty have always been with us in many shapes and sizes. Our hope in Jesus is that he is the anointed one who brings good news to the poor, heals the brokenhearted, who liberates us from captivity, and who frees us from prison.
How does this story help us love God? God desires life for us, not death. God want's a crown of beauty on heads, not ashes. God wants eternal joy for us instead of shame and disgrace.
How does this story help us love others? What God wants for me, God wants for others too. Isaiah 61 is an image of resurrection and restoration that God wants for the people. To love our neighbor means wanting these same things for them that we want for ourselves.