Isaiah 61:1

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners.” – Isaiah 61:1   

In Chapter 60, Isaiah speaks of the blessings that will come to the city of God that it’s people will enjoy. Now in Chapter 61 he will speak of the one who will bring these blessings. Putting it another way, after having described the city with the light reflecting from it, he now speaks of the light itself. There is a part of this focus verse that helps us understand who the light is. Note the words in our focus verse, ‘The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me’.  Specifically the word, ‘me’.

Now, in the Luke’s gospel, Jesus speaks these words in the synagogue. He had arrived in Nazareth where He grew up and because it was the Sabbath, He went to the synagogue. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Luke 4:17-20. There was probably more that was said by Him, but these are the words Luke chose to write in his gospel due to its importance. But the main point is what He was promising.

Now, there is no indication in Isaiah 61 regarding who the ‘me’ was referring to, but the key factor to be noted is that it is God who empowers and directs this person through the Spirit. Thus the Anointed One is doing tasks assigned by God (for he was sent by God), and the power of the Spirit will guarantee that he will successfully accomplish the will of God. And this list given by God is detailed. And what is this list? In our focus verse, the prophet announced the good news of God’s restoration for the people of Israel: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

We may not see here in our focus verse who the ‘me’ is but seven centuries later, Jesus Christ began His public ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth by opening up the scroll of Isaiah and applying this passage to Himself. And how does He do this? After reading Isaiah 61:1-2, He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and began His message by saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21b.  In essence He was saying, I am the person here spoken of; and at this present time the Spirit of God is upon me; I am anointed with the Holy Ghost, and now preach glad tidings to you as well as and all the good things here mentioned. Also, all the endings proposed in this Scripture has its full accomplishment which has been read unto you; that you have heard this day. And the Jews themselves acknowledge, that these words are spoken of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ, our Messiah, brought the good news of salvation to the poor, the needy, and the spiritually barren, that is, all who were corrupted by sin. Before salvation, sin separated us from God. Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we would all be eternally lost. But Jesus came to set us free from the fear and power of death. The corruption of sin that had left us spiritually crushed was overcome by the work of Christ on Calvary. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice opens the way for us to experience His glorious resurrection life. Accepting His salvation is our greatest spiritual need, and that is why it is such good news: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5. We were all brokenhearted, helpless, and separated from God before we received Christ’s gift of salvation. But now we have peace with God because of the Messiah who came to provide us with the peace that God offered to us. And as a final point, we know He is the light for Jesus says He is. “Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Psalm 23:5

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Psalm 23:5   

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.”- Psalm 23:5

This verse is a picture of God’s provision for His people in difficult times.  A good man has enemies.  There is no question of that, just like Jesus had enemies.  Yet here, what we see is David declaring peace in the midst of his enemies.  This is something that is totally different than how we see things.  Let us look at this a moment.  Normally, when a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight.  He quickly swallows it so that it will get him through the battle until he can have a more complete meal. 

However, notice the wording here.  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. Psalm 23:5a.  David is saying that just as a servant lays out the table with a fancy cloth and then puts the feast on this table as in a time of peace, so does He present a table for David where his enemies see it.  Nothing is hurried or rushed, and there is no confusion.  There is nothing to disturb the meal, even though the enemy is at the gate and sees everything.  God prepares a table for us and we as God’s children can sit and eat as if everything were in perfect peace.  And what a peace He gives us, that even in the midst of the most trying times and circumstances.  Isaiah puts it this way, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4.  When we trust God completely, and our minds are focused on Him and not our trials, then He will keep us in perfect peace.  It does not matter what is going on or if we are troubled by our enemies, for He will take care of us.  God will provide our needs in ways we could never imagine.  We have no reason to fear, for God is always with us and will protect us.   And He will bless us in situations that seem impossible for any good to come from it.

The last part of this psalm is, “You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5b.  There are several meanings to the anointing of the head with oil, however, the one that makes the most sense to me is the idea of the oil of gladness as shown in Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3.  Because of the goodness of our God, even in difficult times, He will anoint us with the oil of gladness.  Because of this, we will not mourn during this time, but trust God that He has this.  And the peace of God and His incredible provisions will not just fill our cup but will overflow due to the overabundance of His goodness.  And again, our enemies will see this and be amazed at what they see. 

This chapter shows the amazing provisions He provides us, especially during difficult times when our enemies are within view and are watching us.  We have nothing to fear when we put our trust in the Lord our God, for even at times when things look the worst, He will bring us through.  Always remember this, God is greater than our problems and will work on our behalf to take care of us.  Trust Him in all things, for remember what Moses said, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Luke 4:18-19

Verse of the Day – Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue and was handed the scroll of Isaiah where he specifically looked for this verse so he could read about himself. Here, in this moment, Jesus summed up the result of his putting on flesh and coming down to earth. He told Nicodemus in John 3:17 that his purpose was to save the world and not to condemn it, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV) but here he is telling the people in Nazareth what the result would be and what that would look like.

It should be noted the word for world in the Greek is Kosmos which means the entirety of sentient life.

I love the nuance used here and revealed in the NLT vs other translations. Jesus isn’t just making an empty campaign promise, that under his rule he wants X and Y to happen. But instead a direct result of his presence here on earth will lead to captives being released, the blind seeing, and the oppressed to be set free. In the Greek the word for “captives” literally means people who have been captured in contrast to that “the oppressed” being spoke of are people who have been broken, shattered, and shivering as a result of being crushed by the cruelty of their oppressors.

God makes five promises that apply in different ways to the spiritual self and the physical self:

1st: When you’ve been reduced to a lowly state, when you’re spiritually and physically bankrupt, begging for help, God has good news for you. Jesus uses the word, Euangelizo, which to the original audience would have been associated as a message from the Ceasars letting the people know that that the Ceasar had brought peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity to his new empire. Jesus is providing hope to people who may have lost it.

2nd: Whether you’re a captive to your sin or a literal captive for whatever reason. You will be released. Jesus doesn’t state when it will happen, or that it has already happened, he promises that you will be released from it. I think this works a lot like the season aspect that I wrote about earlier.

3rd: I can’t help but be reminded of the lyrics of Amazing Grace, “I once was blind, but now I see.” when I think about spiritual blindness and of course, there’s the physical healing and restoration of sight that God is able to do and still does today!

4th: I love how Jesus is constantly reminding us that there are people under an oppression that isn’t captivity. This type of oppression is more insidious, in my opinion, because it has a pretense of freedom. Jesus is telling us however, that no matter what you go through, no matter what has been done to you, no matter what has happened to break your spirits, there is hope. This is definitely a But God situation. Jesus is here to proclaim that Jonah 2:6 is still relevant to us today, “I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!” (NLT)

5th: is the statement that because of Jesus’s arrival here on earth, the time of the Lord’s favor is available to us. We don’t have to do anything to receive this. If you’re a Christian, Jesus has already arrived and we don’t have to or send any gifts to preachers on TV to attain the favor of the Lord. And we will probably never fully understand the many ways in which this favor manifests itself but we can trust that it exists.

There’s so much more to unpack from this verse and there have been numerous books written about it. But for now, just remember what Jesus said when he closed up the scroll: “The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

– Christiaan