Isaiah 61:3 “…and provide for those who grieve in Zion–
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
Jesus explicitly claimed the first part of this chapter as His commission, speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth. (Luke 4:16-21) It follows that the rest of the chapter applies to Him as well, and that is good news indeed. This tells us that indeed “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) This fits perfectly with what He said just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) What strikes me at the moment is that to receive all these good things the Lord has for us, we have to relinquish the old things. That might seem like a no-brainer, but we can be oddly stubborn at times. We get used to our ways and don’t want to change. Negative things can become our identity, and letting go of them can feel like losing our identity, and that is scary indeed. Once again, as in virtually every area of life, we need faith. We need faith that the good things are possible, that God has provided them, and that He wants to give them to us, even though we don’t deserve them. That last part is important. If we think we are entitled to the good stuff we won’t appreciate it properly, and it will quickly slip out of our hands. The world today is a mess, because we are a mess. We have to acknowledge that in order to let go of the mess and move on into all that God has planned and prepared for us. That’s what repentance is all about. Repentance is letting go of what we have been, as well as what we have been doing, to move into what God has planned and desires for us – and that includes all the wonderful things in this verse.
I am in the middle of a practicum in this right now. With my wife in the hospital for over a month now, I feel like I am drying up, like a plant that isn’t watered. When we have recently had readings like Isaiah 55:1, inviting us to come and drink, that’s pretty ironic. I need to keep growing, to double down on my dependence on God and my obedience to Him. I recognize that this is very gentle training for when we will be separated by death, but that very awareness also frightens me. I need to be aware that this is temporary, just as death itself is temporary for the believer. I’ve got to let go of my emotional dependence on her, not rejecting her in any way but confirming my dependence on God alone. That isn’t easy! She has indeed been “a helper suitable for me” for over 53 years, and the connection is very real. Even so, my dependence needs to be on God alone. I am to rejoice in my wife and be fully appreciative of her, but at the same time know that my foundation is Christ alone.
Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. Help me apply it, grow into it, so that all of Your plans for me, and for Cathy, may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!