“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3 KJV
If there is something amazing that reading the Scriptures brings to me, it is comfort, joy, peace and great expectation. When Jesus stood up in the synagogue that day and went forward to read from Isaiah 61 in the Torah, what a palpable moment that was. Thousands of years of prophecies and waiting had led up to this moment. The gathered Jews that sat in the hearing of this prophecy from Isaiah – one that they knew from memory and had heard read time after time – had no idea of what they were about to experience. Jesus Christ began a revolution that still is being felt today. This Isaiah prophecy was being fulfilled in their presence. As He left the synagogue, a group of the religious leaders who were there that day were so enraged with Him for His Messianic declaration, that they almost succeeded in crowding Him off a bank and down a steep slope as He made a quick departure. This reference covers everything that plagues our culture today. The drug abuse epidemic that we are facing right now exists because of the way our culture attempts to solve the ills that challenge us. We have the ills of poverty, the brokenhearted, those who are imprisoned literally and emotionally and intellectually, those who mourn and those who have a spirit of heaviness. Jesus Christ is the answer to heal the ills of our culture yet we have dwindling church attendance to the point that the church is becoming irrelevant and out of touch. There are three concepts mentioned in the Isaiah reference: beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. I would like to focus on the oil of joy in this chapter. Unless we embody this concept so that it lives through us, it has no effect. We symbolically pour this oil on everyone we come in contact with. Oil of joy oozes from every pore of someone who is centered in Jesus Christ and feels the joy and comfort it brings to their own lives.
One day I received a call from a former inmate who had been released. He had had a rocky imprisonment and had been waiting for charges to be dealt with that had already been cleared in a prior trial. There was extenuating circumstances, the prosecuting attorney had charged, that had just come to light and he was left in limbo not knowing what was coming next. I met him about a month before he was released. During that month we had some beautiful Thursday gatherings that worked on his heart in its anger over what was happening to him. In the last gathering, we felt a rush of the Holy Spirit as it ministered to these men, some at varying degrees of acceptance. But with this man, the Spirit washed over him with the oil of joy and release and thoroughly changed his life. When he left the cell, he called his wife to tell her what happened and she told him that all the charges had been dropped and he could come home immediately. The day he called me, he wanted to get together with me and share what the Spirit had done for him. On the evening we chose, I got to meet his dear and faithful wife and her mom, both had stuck by this man for twenty years plus. As he described the kind of old man he had been before his conversion – the new man that sat before us was on fire with the Spirit and ready to serve. He had never been baptized, and he was excitedly waiting for that experience. What I saw was a miracle! His wife and mother-in-law both described the change that had taken place. I felt as we were talking that I was to begin a work with this family to help other released inmates.
“ Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:24-26
The old man had died so that the new man could be born to sow seeds for a great spiritual harvest. This change could have only been possible through the Holy Spirit. We can never give up on someone who is lost, even if we have to separate ourselves from that person and pray from afar, we still haven’t given up. He had been given the oil of joy along with the other blessings we find in Isaiah 61. “. . . preach good tidings unto the meek; . . . bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” 1-3
This change is very real and visible in the way it takes over. C.H. Spurgeon tells us:
“Certainly there is a beauty which the Spirit gives to men, which they can never obtain in any other way. Oh, the excellence of the character that is formed by the hand of the Spirit of God! It is a beautiful thing which even God himself delights to look upon; it is a thing of beauty, and in the most emphatic sense a joy forever. He that is made comely with the comeliness which the Holy Spirit gives must be a happy man. Other beauty may bring sorrow, but the beauty of holiness makes us akin to angels.. . As the believer is delivered from the power of sin he is brought into a condition in which the joy of the Lord can more and more abide in him. Now, in every way Jesus loved righteousness intensely and hated wickedness intensely. He died that He might establish righteousness and that He might destroy wickedness from off the face of the earth, therefore it is that he has greater gladness because He had greater holiness. Moreover, you know that in any holy enterprise, if the business succeeds, the joy of the worker is proportionate to the trial it has cost him. In the great battle of righteousness our Lord has led the vanguard, the great fight against wickedness our Savior has borne the brunt of the battle, therefore, because He to the death loved righteousness and to the agony and bloody sweat strove against sin, the accomplished conquest brings him the greatest joy. He has done the most for the good cause, and therefore He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.. . On Christ this anointing is poured above His fellows, and then upon his fellows in communion with Himself there comes the sprinkling of the oil. We have our measure, He has it without measure.. . and through the power of the anointing we are told that His people come into the same condition of righteousness as Himself.” C.H.Spurgeon
C.H. Spurgeon was a great minister in the 1800’s. But what I gain most from his sermons is his great love of Christ and the joy his words bring to thrill the spirit of the follower of Christ in every era. It doesn’t matter. His words are timeless just like the Scriptures because they bear the living Spirit that infused him when Spurgeon wrote them.
He states further “Once more, it becomes a perfume. When oil was poured on a man, his presence scented the air around him, and when the Spirit of God is given to us it is perceived by other spiritual minds. Cannot you detect in a brother’s prayer that he has been with Jesus? Do you not know by the lives of some of the Christ’s dear saints that he is very familiar with them? Do you not perceive that they have had a special anointing? The ungodly world cannot tell it, but saints discern it. The nostril of the wicked is only pleased by the leeks, and the garlic, and the onions of Egypt, but the believing nostril has been sanctified, and it perceives the delicate myrrh and cinnamon, and sweet calamus and cassia, which make up the anointing oil. The rare combination of sacred qualities which make up a holy character will be seen in the believer in whom the Holy Spirit displays his power, and as a consequence he will be glad at heart.” C.H. Spurgeon
I witnessed evidence of the oil of joy in this man who sat in the booth we shared and praised God for the transformation that had taken place in him.