The Work of Jesus: Making Oaks of Righteousness

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 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 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.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.  Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.”

Isaiah 61:1-6

We read the first half of this passage with the image of Jesus in the temple, opening the scroll of Isaiah and proclaiming his purpose to bind and heal, release, bring favor, and bestow beauty. Jesus, the Messiah, adopted this passage as his mission statement for his three years of earthly ministry.

Then we reach that pivotal verse, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” The conduit of God’s Kingdom work has shifted from Jesus, to the people he has healed, restored, made into oaks of righteousness.

Isaiah 61.4

Now it is “they” who rebuild ancient ruins and restore devastated places. “They” who renew. Who is this “they” but the very ones Christ binds and heals.

The work of Christ is to take the poor, brokenhearted captives who wear ashes and to transform them into a display for Yahweh’s splendor.

Simplified, the Messiah redeems sinners for the Father’s glory.

The beauty of this passage is not just the wondrous works Jesus brings to undeserving sinners, but that Jesus then sends those healed people off to be “ministers of our God.” We are more than cleaned-up has-beens. We are commissioned-will-bes.

Questioning Through Mark: Mark 7:24-36

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:24-37

1. Are you attracted to Jesus? He drew others to himself like bees to honeysuckle. They came, hungry. Not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles. Maybe even especially the Gentiles. Jesus’ own people tended toward curious skepticism. What about us?

2. What does it mean to be tested by Jesus? At first glance, Jesus’ words to the Gentile woman seem harsh. But they aren’t. Jesus came first as a Jew, to the Jews, to fulfill the Messianic promise to Israel which in turn, would open up salvation for every tribe, tongue, and nation. (Remember God’s promise to Abraham that he would be blessed to be a blessing?) But Jesus’ own people rejected him. Kicked him out of Nazareth. Dismissed him, “Isn’t this Mary’s son? The carpenter?”

Jesus’s words to the Gentile woman are an invitation to express faith. Does she truly believe that He is for her and her people? Yes, she does. And what a compliment Jesus gives her, praising her for her faith.

3. Do you get Jesus? Ironically, the spiritual reality of many who followed Jesus was the same as this deaf man. They were drawn to Jesus, listened to his teaching, but remained spiritually unhearing. They didn’t get him.

What Jesus accomplished in the physical realm–opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, raising the dead–mirrors what he accomplished in the spiritual realm. His words, “Be opened,” to this deaf man are just as much a pleading for his disciples to get him as they are a command to free this deaf man from a soundless life.

Psalm 40.6

4. We are amazed by Jesus’ physical miracles, but how much more should we be amazed by his miracles of the heart? Those who saw Jesus perform miracles were astounded and said, “He has done all things well.” He has done. But did they go a step further and say, “He is all things well, good, and loving. He is Savior.” Jesus calls us not only to appreciate the works He does, but who He is. Salvation doesn’t come by admiring him. It comes through recognizing him as Lord and Savior.

 

God’s Rebuilding Work in Our Lives

“In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things.
Amos 9:11-12 

These are the words after judgment. Words of mercy and restoration. God is not a god of unwarranted anger. He is a God who rebuilds and renews. And what is the restoration of David’s line? It’s Jesus, the forever King in the line of David.

For Israel, the surprising truth of Amos’s prophecy is that when God restored them, they would become balm for their enemies. “Possessing the remnant” doesn’t imply dominance or payback. The Hebrew word for “possess” might also be translated “seek.” When James quotes Amos in Acts 15, he says, “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord…” That is a word of purpose. The purpose for Israel’s restoration is that others will seek the Lord.

Amos 9, 11 12

And so Amos’s prophecy ends with this hope: God will put Jesus on David’s throne in order to tear down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, .

How about when God restores our fallen tents? Can the broken places and ruins of our lives be used to draw others to the Lord? Yes. Even our enemies? Yes. That is the hope of God’s redemption.