Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is The Acceptable Year About To End?

"The Spirit of the LORD [is] upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to [the] poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to [the] captives And recovery of sight to [the] blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
Luke 4:18-19 NKJV

We talked briefly last week, and often in the past, about the suffering and persecution we often feel comes our way as believers in Jesus Christ. I'm sure no one would argue about how uncomfortable and troubling it is to suffer for our faith, and I'm equally sure most of us at one time or another have asked the question “why doesn't God do something about it”? Well if it helps, I want to make it clear today that God intends to “do something” and if the events occurring in the world today are any indication, that time is almost upon us.

The passage from Luke reveals to us the occasion where Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah, in the synagogue at Nazareth where He was from. If we look at the passage Jesus read from Isaiah, we see that He did something very interesting. Compare for yourself the two passages; what Isaiah wrote and what Jesus read.

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
Isaiah 61:1-2 NKJV

I want to share with you a short commentary by Ray Stedman about these passages and what it meant when Jesus chose not to finish reading the complete passage from Isaiah.

Luke's gospel records that Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth on one occasion, as was his custom, and asked for the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled it until he found the place where these words are written. Turning to this very spot, he read this passage about the Spirit coming upon him, anointing him, and that he was called to preach the gospel, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, etc. He stopped reading in the middle of a sentence, after the comma following the words, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he closed the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, sat down, and said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing."
Note carefully where he stopped reading. He did not go on to read, "and the day of vengeance of our God," because when he first came he introduced "the day of God's favor," the day when God withholds his judgment.
This is the answer to the question people are asking, "Why doesn't God do something?" The answer is, because he is giving people everywhere a chance! When he starts judging, he will judge the whole world -- everybody in it, without exception. Only those who have already bowed to his will will escape the penalty of that judgment. Then he will begin "the day of vengeance of our God," the phrase Jesus did not read that day in the synagogue. This comma has been called "the longest comma in history." "The year of the Lord's favor" now covers almost two thousand years of time, but it will be followed by "the day of vengeance of our God."
Notice the contrast between "the year of his grace," and "the day of vengeance." God does not like vengeance. He does not delight in judgment. Isaiah calls it "his strange work." But it must be done eventually, though it will be kept as brief as possible. This is what prophecy records as "the time of the end."

So in answer to the question about why God doesn't do something about our suffering, it seems perfectly clear that we are told that He will, but at a time of His choosing. The Hebrew word for “year” used here is shaneh which refers not to a calendar year but rather describing a period of time. So the only way we will know when the “year of the Lord” is over will be when the “day of vengeance” begins. If you are curious about God's day of vengeance you can read all about this period of time in Joel chapter two and chapters six through nineteen of the book of Revelation. Yet when I read this passage in Isaiah I can't help but be curious about the “acceptable year” and wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye?

When I step back and look at the passage in it's entirety, I am struck by the thought that Jesus says He was sent by God to proclaim both the “acceptable year” and “the day of vengeance”. Naturally then, I can't help but wonder just how, since the day of the Lord has not yet arrived, will Jesus “proclaim” the coming “day of vengeance”?

In the Hebrew, the word for proclaim is qara' which translated means “to call, cry, utter a loud sound”. That being the case, are any of you beginning to think what I'm thinking? Is there any event on the horizon that you know of where we might hear Jesus “qara' “? There certainly is, and Paul describes it for us in his letter to the church at Thessalonica.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV

This is why I love studying the Bible so much. It so often seems like a puzzle where we strive to find out just where the different pieces fit in order to see what the complete picture shows us. It certainly appears to me that not only did Jesus use the occasion in Nazareth to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy, but also to tell us that we will hear from Him again when it is time for the Church to depart, and He can “comfort all who mourn”. Is the acceptable year about to end? Consider the words of the prophet Joel;

Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:
Joel 2:1 NKJV

If you are hurting or suffering today take heart.  I truly believe we are about to be comforted in ways we could never imagine.

Keep watching.