Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Proclaim Gospel to the Poor

Isaiah 60-63 includes one of many beautiful, stirring, compelling poems of the First Testament (as the OT is sometimes referenced). Isaiah 61 is part of a series of poems - Godpoems - that promise redemption, vindication and delight for those that are wise, righteous, full of light and praise for the LORD.

Jesus claimed this poem for himself, he used it to describe his upcoming ministry - he is the person to bring to life the promise:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness the blind,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

There are two points worth pointing out:

What did Jesus consider the Good News to be, what was he preaching, what did he proclaim?
- to proclaim the good news
- to bind up
- to proclaim freedom
- to release from darkness
- to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
- to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God
- to comfort
- to bestow a crown of beauty
- to bestow the oil of joy
- to bestow a garment of praise

For whom was this Good News? To whom did Jesus proclaim this message? Who are the poor?
...to the poor
...the broken-hearted
...the captives/addicts/enslaved/trapped
...the blind
...those who mourn and grieve
...those who despair

When John the Baptist is doubting the identity of Jesus, he sends some disciples to ask some questions, and this is the Sent One's response: Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leporsy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. (Matthew 11:4-5)

Wow! The Good News message of Isaiah and Jesus has a very physical element to its spritual message - God's shalom/peace is body and soul. The Poor are not just the economic disadvantaged, the poor are also those who have not what they need to experience/live out of God's shalom. To be poor in America is different than to be poor in Amsterdam is different than to be poor in Africa. But many poor Africans are richer than many wealthy middle-class Americans. Because accumulation of possessions, wielding of power, hoarding of money is not a sign of nonpoverty...it is often poverty itself. There is no room for God's shalom, for His righteousness when hands are so full of power and prestige.

When Jesus preaches/proclaims the Good News these days, who is listening/hearing? Who is poor these days? More Americans are disabled these days. More of us are so unhealthy, emotionally unstable and depressed, and burdened with such stress that we rely on medications to help us smile. That is also poverty. The gap between the rich and the unrich is widening, and the rich are engaging in over-publicized, flagrant acts of gross immorality, disgusting entertainment and wicked abuses of power. That is poverty. And so men and women like Joseph the Pharisee, Zaccheus the tax-collector, Mary the demon-possessed, Peter the fisherman, Bartimaeus the blind beggar all heard the good news, recognized their poverty, and believed the promises Jesus made to them.

What's your poverty look like?

Who's promises are you believing?

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