The Year of the Lord’s Favor
Luke 4:18–19 - 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.
Jesus was feeling strong; he had recently inaugurated the start of his official ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan River and then, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he journeyed into the Judean wilderness for a 40-day fast from food as a preparatory step to the start of his ministry. While in the wilderness he was met by his adversary, Satan, who tempted him three times to take a shortcut to the fulfillment of that ministry. After successfully defending himself against the devil by the use of Scripture, he returned to the region of Galilee, to his hometown of Nazareth, and there, “in the power of the Spirit,” he went into the Jewish synagogue for a Sabbath day’s worship. Luke tells us in his gospel that Jesus was honored with the Scripture reading for that particular service, and having been handed the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, he read from the text that is our devotional text for today (Luke quotes Jesus reading from Isaiah 61:1–2).
The text you read for today is the Messiah’s mission statement. As always, the prophecy from Isaiah had a context and fulfillment of its own in Isaiah’s day—most likely the impending freedom that Israel would one day experience from the oppression of the Babylonians—but it is clearly the words of the messianic servant, whom Isaiah has quoted before in his prophecy. In other words, this is a messianic passage, or a passage of Old Testament Scripture that points to the person and work of the promised Messiah. Jesus himself recognized this fact, for Luke tells us that when he had finished his reading for that Sabbath day, he handed the scroll of Isaiah back to the synagogue attendant and sat down, with all the eyes of the congregation fixed upon him. He then said to them, much to their chagrin, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” His hometown crowd did not respond well to his proclamation that the day of the Messiah had arrived. They rewarded his honesty by driving him out of town to a nearby cliff with the intention of throwing him off. Luke tells us, however, that Jesus simply walked through the crowd and on his way. Jesus would lay down his life for the sin of the world, but in God’s timing, not the timing of a few furious townspeople.
We are now living in the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus was not speaking of a calendar year, but a season—an age, if you will—when the gospel message of salvation through Christ alone will be proclaimed to all who will listen. His quote from Isaiah has as its backdrop the Jewish year of Jubilee, when all debts were canceled, slaves set free, and properties returned to their original owners. It was a year of celebration. Jesus, however, announces an age of proclamation. As the apostle Paul would say later, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, today is the day of salvation!” The time will come, and is now coming, when the proclamation will cease and the judgment begins. Jesus left off the tail end of Isaiah’s thought in the passage he read, which reads in full: “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…” He left it off because that was not to come in his day, but in a future day. In his day, and in our day, all enjoy the Lord’s favor, Jew and Gentile alike.
We have spoken enough over the past few days in this devotional about sin and judgment; let’s enjoy the Lord’s favor for a day. Jesus came to set captives free, to bind up the brokenhearted, to give sight to the physically and spiritually blind. We could all use some of that, right? What has you in bondage today? In what area of your life do you need your eyes opened to reality? How might Jesus soothe your heart on this day? If you know Christ, God has favored you in this season. If you happen to be reading this devotional and you do not know peace with God, then know that the desire of his heart is to favor you, to open your eyes to the reality of life everlasting and hope for today and tomorrow. This is the reason that Jesus came. Isaiah showed us the early shadow; Jesus proclaims to us the present reality.
Father, favor me with your presence today. Open my eyes so that I can see through a heart of faith. Make your light shine into my darkness. Give me the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Bind up my heart and make it yours, and use me today as a living example of the favor of God.