Monday, 20 May 2019

Isaiah 61 a manifesto

As far as I can understand it the newly formed Brexit party does not have a manifesto. There is a single idea, followed by a statement that we will all find out later what we have voted for.

More than 2500 years ago we discover that the prophet Isaiah had a much better approach and if I may say, a much better style. Chapter 61 is a well known poem sometimes said to be the fifth Servant Song and is quite stunning in some of its imagery. It was of course quoted by Jesus himself and we read that in the Gospel of Luke chapter 4.

“He went to the synagogue on the sabbath day as was his custom. He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written :

“The spirit of the Lord is upon  me
Because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and the recovery of sight to the blind
To let the oppressed go free
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Note that this is deliberate, Jesus searched for this passage, looked for it found it and so proclaimed that He was the anointed one. “Today,” he says the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The full passage of isaiah 61 as we heard it divides into four sections: the first identifies the servant - and to a degree it refers to Isaiah also who is but a pale shadow of Christ.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. It is clear to us, post resurrection, who Isaiah is talking about.  And then the manifesto:

To bring good news to the oppressed - that israel would be delivered from the Babylonian exile, from sin and be restored.
To bind up the broken hearted - to mend the hearts of those so broken by life that they despair of even having hope
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour - note that there is a year of favour but only a day of vengeance - the good will last much longer.
To comfort those who mourn - not simply those who have lost loved ones but those who believe their sins have doomed them.

These are the bullet points the things listed on the front page of the leaflet that dropped through your letterbox, and then turning over come the benefits and practical consequences of the coming of the Messiah.

They shall build up the ancient ruins, the city shall be rebuilt, no longer slaves their flocks and their vines shall be tended by others so freeing the Israelites to be priests once more and the coming of the anointed one inaugurates a new and everlasting covenant.

So rightly this is celebrated in the fourth section in a marvelous hymn of praise, which begins “i will greatly rejoice in the Lord” and follows with line upon line of metaphor and pictures:

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 jewels.

Now that is a manifesto - and in verse.


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