The Joy of Prophecy Fulfilled
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The Joy of Prophecy Fulfilled
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
There are many things in this world that provide us great joy. This time of the year is a great reminder of all things joyful. We sing all kinds of songs of joy and we spread joy to friends and family members whom we love. Then there is the joy of Christmas morning when we see kids wake up to presents underneath a Christmas tree. The joy of watching them tear up wrapping paper and are all excited about their new toys or clothes or whatever they get. There is just so much holiday cheer. However, as time passes on, I think we more often forget about what this season is really supposed to be about. This season and this day is about a prophecy in the Word of God that was fulfilled. Because of this fulfilled prophecy this should be a time to celebrate. However, there were some who were not so excited about this prophecy being fulfilled.
When Jesus went to the synagogue in his hometown, he was given the opportunity to read from the prophet Isaiah. After he finished his reading, he said that this day this prophecy has been fulfilled. Jesus Read from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the vengeance of our God…” When Jesus said that this was fulfilled people were not overjoyed to hear this. This was his hometown and they knew him as he grew up and they just knew him as Mary and Joseph’s son, as a simple peasant boy now grown up. Therefore, who was he to say that this prophecy was now fulfilled? The Pharisees who were there were also upset and accused him for teetering towards blasphemy. If one claimed to be the son of God and they were not then that would be blasphemy. The only problem was that Jesus was the son of God so it was not blasphemy. They just did not believe it when he announced it so all they saw was a peasant. The Pharisees were also not happy because Jesus was bringing about a change that threatened their comfortable position of being revered and feeling important among the people. However, the prophecy says that the Lord is Sovereign and regardless of what the people thought or wanted to think this did not change the outcome of this declaration of the Lord.
Paul writes an important benediction at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians. He says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It does not matter if there is a global pandemic and it does not matter who wins the election in 2020, we are to still rejoice and give thanks in our circumstances as this is God’s will. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” The people in Nazareth that day when Jesus read the prophecy, they were treating the prophecy with contempt. They were questioning the Authority of God and his word. They should have been overjoyed that this prophecy was finally being fulfilled and it was happening right before their eyes and in their presence. But instead of joy they turned to anger and contempt for the truth.
I learned this week that one of the best songs ever written is called the Magnificat. This word means my soul magnifies the Lord. This song is the joyful and inspiring prayer of Mary the mother of Jesus after her visit to her cousin Elizabeth. The response to her arrival there confirms for her that what the angel said is true and she is overjoyed that she would be chosen for such an important role. This is a song of joy and thanksgiving because of a prophecy being fulfilled.
“My Soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary so beautifully declares that a prophecy and a promise of the Lord has been fulfilled. Therefore, she is taking a different stance than the one that the Pharisees and the others in Nazareth decided to take. She is joyful about this news and she gives praise to the one who has given her this joy. Obviously, the ones who would not be joyful of the prophecy and the Lord’s promise being fulfilled would be the proud and the rulers of that time because this would mean that they are not in charge as much as they would like to be.
So often these days it seems apparent that many people both outside and inside the church feel threatened by the authority of the word of God. Because of that feeling there are many in authority who theorize their theology to be open to different possibilities of the meaning of scripture as to not offend those who may think or feel differently about various things that the Bible says. Instead of feeling the joy for the Lord’s authority they want to have just a little bit of authority for themselves when it comes to interpreting the scriptures. As a result, we see a watered-down theology that appeases the changes within our culture. However, I believe that all of that can change if we respond to the word of God and his authority with joy just has Mary expressed joy for his promises being fulfilled. If we follow Paul’s advice to not treat prophecies with contempt. To not treat the authority of God with contempt. We should be overjoyed when Jesus says that today in your hearing this prophecy has been fulfilled. This third week of advent represents a week of joy in our anticipation of our savior. It is my hope and prayer that we now do not treat the prophecy of his return with contempt as we wait and anticipate his coming again. May we be joyful when the prophecy is fulfilled.