“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor…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…” – Isaiah 61:1, 3-4
God has a pattern for transforming broken people and broken places. It is revealed simply in Isaiah 61. The pattern has two parts. First, God moves into the lives of broken people. He did this most clearly through the sending of Jesus. Scriptures tell us that Jesus was God’s anointed One to bring redemption and healing; to comfort those who mourn and bind up the brokenhearted. Through the ministry of Jesus, broken people are renewed and restored. That’s the first part of the pattern. The second part is that the broken people who are now transformed people become themselves transformers; God uses them to restore their broken communities. Think of what Isaiah 61 tells us about the people whom God meets, heals and transforms. It says that they will be “oaks of righteousness” who will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.
We have the opportunity to participate in this pattern as we minister among the poor. We are the body of Christ, and God calls us to move into the lives of the poor, believing that His power can transform them into “oaks of righteousness” whom He can use to advance His kingdom in the “places long devastated.”
Now a drug addict or homeless person may not appear to be an “oak of righteousness” (or even a seedling of righteousness!) Perhaps that’s why secularists who work among the poor have limited goals for the beneficiaries of their services. Secularists are happy if their programs help a homeless man to get sober, get a job, secure an apartment, and become a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. Christians, through their ministries, want the same homeless man to do all that and to become a servant of others – perhaps walking the streets and ministering among the homeless as one who has been there and, by God’s grace, made it out. In our labors among the broken and destitute, we envision people whom God can transform into leaders who advance His kingdom in marvelous ways.
For Further Thought…
1. Take a moment to remember what God has done in your own life and how He is using you to be an oak of righteousness in your church, family or workplace.
2. Have you ever struggled with seeing the good in a particular person or thinking that a certain person would not amount to anything? How can you see them as God sees them – created in the image of God and full of potential?
3. As your team leaves in a few days, what do you think will happen to the community when you are gone? Ask your Team Coordinator and FH staff what programs continue after the team leaves the community.
4. This passage reminds us that it is God’s job to transform people. Our responsibility is to love and serve the needy, but only God can work change and renewal in their hearts. It is freeing to remember this, for there will be times in our service and mercy ministries when we do everything “right,” and yet the beneficiary does not change. God does not want us to carry a false burden of guilt at those times; rather, He desires that we commit the person to His care, asking Him to do the work of inward renewal that only He can do. Commit to pray for those who are and will be oaks of righteousness in the community.