Encouragement from Isaiah 61
December 10, 2020
"What is God's will for my life?" That's a question we often ask, but we're usually looking for an answer smaller than what God wants to give. God doesn't just have intentions for our choices and decisions about what to do. He cares most deeply about what we become—and what pleases him is to transform us into women and men who will bring glory to him through the radiant beauty of the righteousness he produces in our lives. #Isaiah #growgroups #willofGod #glory #holiness #transformation
“What is God’s will for my life?” That’s a question that we often ask, and perhaps even more so in seasons of transition, confusion, and uncertainty. Usually when we are asking about God’s will, we are seeking guidance about the practical choices and decisions that we need to make in life. We want to know what path will honor God, which he’ll be pleased to bless. We want to know what choice is the wisest, what we would obviously choose for ourselves if we knew what God knows and wanted what God wants. All of these concerns are appropriate and good, but it isn’t the only way—and maybe not even the most important way—to think about seeking God’s will for our lives. So many of the questions about God’s will that we fixate on center around what we do. But as God thinks about his will for our lives, he more often expresses passionate intentions about what we will become. And this is where we so often sell things short. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, quoting from Isaiah 64, “What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived—God has prepared these things for those who love him” (CSB). The will of God isn’t for us to muddle through life, trying to not throw away our shot at whatever small bit of fame, fortune, or fun fancies our dreams. He has something really and truly glorious that he is preparing for us. His will for us is to make us into something more glorious in Christ than it is even possible for us to imagine until we’re transformed into the kinds of glorious men and women who can’t imagine anything else. That’s the vision that is described in Isaiah 61, in the passage of Scripture that the Lord Jesus himself preached in his first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth. God chose this text to lay out clearly the ultimate aims of Jesus’s mission among his people—in other words, this passage helps to define God’s will for the lives of all those who are in Christ. The most familiar words are the opening lines, the same ones quoted in Luke 4:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… (Isaiah 61:1–2a).
Jesus comes as the Christ, the Messiah, the LORD’s anointed one, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, on a divinely appointed rescue mission: the poor are given dignity and hope; the brokenhearted are given comfort, strength, and support; the enslaved and imprisoned are liberated, set free. And all this, the Messiah makes clear, is because it is God’s good pleasure to be abundant in mercy and grace, to magnify himself in salvation. But is that the end? Sometimes we think as if it is. But as Isaiah continues to unfold what it means to live in the year of the LORD’s favor, when he forever, joyfully sets things right, we see that he does much more than set us free and send us on our way to make the most of our newfound freedom. He rescues and redeems us—but he also restores and renews us. But that doesn’t even get at all of it. He takes what would be a source of weakness or sadness and makes out of it a thing of gladness and strength. He makes us newer, more alive than we have ever been or could ever become on our own. He will make us perfectly alive, perfectly new, perfectly glorious—a perfect and pleasing reflection of his holy glory—and that forever. Here’s what the Messiah revealed to Isaiah that he would do:
…to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 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 61:2c–4)
Christ is able to take what has been devastated seemingly forever and rebuild and restore. He is able to make us an “oak of righteousness,” a living monument that will glorify the triumph of his love and grace. Christ doesn’t just want to take away our sin and shame; he wants to clothe us with the delightful beauty of his holiness. How does God want us to respond to this expectation of a God-glorifying, soul-satisfying future as we trust the Lord? What is God’s will for us?
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul 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 like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:10–11)
As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). God’s will for your life is to make you dazzling, resplendent in the beauty of his holiness, like a bride preparing for her wedding. He wills for your life to one day to be filled with the joy of every anticipation consummated in Christ, exultant, rejoicing. And while it is God’s will for you prepare yourself for that day, it’s also his will that you rest trustingly that he will be the one to bring it about. Just as it is the Lord’s power in sending the rain that will make the earth to sprout and produce fruit, so it is his Word that goes out that will cause the transformation of his people in righteousness to bring him increasing praise throughout all the nations of the earth as they hear this gospel of the reign of the Lord Jesus and as they see it displayed in the righteous lives of his people. Like I said, this is a glory beyond what we can picture or imagine if it weren’t revealed to us in God’s Word. And Isaiah doesn’t just unfold our future as followers of Jesus in this present world. He also paints for us what things will be like when not only will we be made completely and forever new, but the heavens and the earth will be made new, too. That’s what we’ll see in our Grow Groups as we study Isaiah 65 this Sunday. So on Zoom or in the room, we’ll see you there.