A Garden, Not A Desert

“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,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    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.”
-- Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV


One of the first things that stuck out to me when I read these verses, was the phrase “vengeance of our God”. I don’t know about you but when I hear “vengeance” and “God” together in the same sentence, a small part of me starts to get nervous imagining a wrathful god striking people down in anger and disappointment.

But that’s the exact opposite of what these verses are conveying to us.
 
If we look back in history when Isaiah is writing these verses, we see that at this point the Jewish people are still in exile. In fact, some of the people might even remember what their lives looked like before they faced exile. Filled with unimaginable fear and dread, the Jewish people are remembering the beauty and magnificence they lived in before exile. And then Isaiah begins preaching, take heart for our God makes beauty out of ashes.

Isaiah isn’t just hoping to encourage the Jewish people, he’s looking to revel God’s heart for restoration and redemption. Isaiah is saying that God sees those who are captives and facing destruction and His heart breaks for them. That God’s vengeance isn’t directed at the people but at the mistreatment His people are experiencing here on fallen earth.
 
In the gospels we hear four different accounts of Jesus feeding over five thousand people from just a handful of food. In the book of Mark, the author says that Jesus “had compassion on them” (6:34). The Son of God felt compassion for those people and multiplied the disciples’ small store of food because He didn’t want anyone to go without.

I think the fact that Jesus felt compassion for those people, and countless others throughout the gospels, is a direct reflection of God’s heart for His people as well. In the same way that Jesus provided for those five thousand people, it’s God’s desire to provide for His people and redeem what the enemy has taken or torn apart.
 
God does not see the poor and captive people of this world and turn a blind eye, it’s the poor and captive that God is seeking out. It’s His delight to comfort those who are mourning and exchange their grief and sorrow for joy and gladness. It is God’s very nature to seek restoration and redemption because He always intended for this world to be a garden, never a desert.

Author | Ansley Davenport 

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