Last week, I wrote about how God created this world with freedom in mind. This week, I’ll delve more deeply into how His perfect, agape love demands freedom.
In the book of Isaiah, we see a deep portrayal of the character of God. In this part of Israel’s history, God begins calling His people back to Him, hoping they won’t follow a future king into the kind of rebellion there is no coming back from, though God knows they inevitably will.
Let’s read an excerpt from one of Isaiah’s prophecies:
Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives birth to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
To open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Isaiah 42:5-9 (ESV)
I love the honor Isaiah starts with here. He has the privilege of opening up for what God has to say, and he chooses to open this prophecy with the fullness of how God created our universe, from the broad expanse of the heavens to the intricate inner workings of the human: not just body but spirit as well.
Read again what the Lord has to say here. Listen closely to the kind of love He offers. God knows that each and every other thing we idolize holds us captive without us realizing it. He knows that every other thing we worship demands more and more from us until we have nothing left to our names but empty shells. God knows He is the only one who sets us free, who gives us more than we can hold or ever offer back, and He refuses to allow false gods to take His glory, and rightly so.
In this passage, God reminds us that He is the one and only God who opens blocked-off hearts to feel again and sets those hearts free from soul-bondage. Our Lord is the only one who does that; why would we ever choose another?
Do you know what makes this even more beautiful? The Lord is talking about Jesus here. A lot of Isaiah’s prophecies speak about the Messiah to come…before Israel has even lost its standing with God. The Lord saw the sin to come and knew that animal sacrifices could only ever go so far. He knew we needed
something someone, a better sacrifice. Before God ever created us, He knew that in order to save us, He would have to give Himself up as a sacrifice – an eternal being that was perfect and could never die would need to do just that. When the Lord speaks of a covenant that opens the eyes of the blind and sets prisoners free, he is speaking about the person of Jesus and all He would do as He walked this earth!
Can you imagine 12-year-old Jesus asking the priests in the temple about the prophecies of old? Can you imagine the sheer weight of Promise laid onto His shoulders as they spoke about all Isaiah foretold? Can you imagine with me, for a minute, being this 100% God and 100% human person, still a child, living and breathing on this earth, hearing this passage truly for the first time and knowing it’s about you?
“…I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness…”
What a mighty calling.
God came down from His high throne in Heaven to become one of us, so that He could become the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Animal sacrifices and peace offerings could only go so far, but this one would stick. This Sacrifice would end it all, the striving, the trying and failing, the never-being-good-enough-to-get-to-God….because He came down here to get to us.
What a mighty thing to think,
that we’ve been called to be the very same thing
to the sick people who have not yet found this Doctor.
Love does not just demand that we be free. It also demands that we set each other free.
Earlier this year, I was told about Isaiah 58, the chapter on fasting. This chapter of the Bible revolutionized the way I view fasting. Did you know it actually has nothing to do with “me” or even my own relationship with God? We are meant to fast our food in order to give it to people who have none. We are meant to fast clothing in order to give it to those who have none. We are meant to fast our bad words in order to encourage the hurting souls who have no good ones. I’m sensing a trend here…
When I asked God what I should be fasting during that season, I felt led to the following passage:
“…If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour out yourself for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
Isaiah 58:9b-10 (ESV)
That first phrase of this passage embodies love: “take away the yoke from your midst.”
That thought can get a bit convoluted in our minds. It took me months of asking God what that meant before I realized…the answer here is forgiveness. If our hands are full of grudges, there is no room for His goodness. If our souls are full of resentment, there is no room for that perfect, agape love of His.
I haven’t kept it a secret that I was bullied as a child. I forgave the children who did most of that bullying last year; you can find that story here. In May or June of this year, I was actually approached by one of those children. This now-woman, who was not my worst bully by far, wound up apologizing for treating me the way she had so long ago. I could tell she’d held it against herself for so long…since it happened in seventh grade.
It was good for me to hear that apology, but do you know what was better? Months later, as she read a letter of forgiveness that told her not to hold herself against the person she used to be, I got to watch tears of healing roll down her cheeks.
Taking away the yoke from our midst, releasing people from the prisons they’ve locked themselves in, means letting God remove each bit of hurt and pride and then sharing that healing in our souls with the people who need it most. Oftentimes, the people who hurt us the worst are the ones who are hurting in the worst ways themselves.
Take away the anger and declare peace in your heart.
Strip away the resentment and share forgiveness with each other.
Wipe clean the slate of shame and replace it with freedom.
Let us help each other in releasing each human being from the prisons we hold ourselves in. As prisoners, we can’t get out alone, but together and with God, we can lift the gate doors off their hinges and break free.
We cannot do this alone.
But together, we can.