Old Testament: Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7
First, in reading our Old Testament lesson, there are two common, wrong, ways of reading Isaiah 61, that we first need to be aware of. First, the view that God has cast off His people, Israel, and all the blessings must now forever and always fall to the Church. The Bible itself is clear that this is not the case when Paul writes, “Has God cast off Israel? God forbid!” and, “As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.”1 The second mistake is the legend that “we” are the physical descendants of Israel. This especially turns up in “Anglo-Israelism” which presumes that all English-descended people are of the Hebrew diaspora and heirs of the promises of Jacob. Both of these ideas are racial in origin and effect. God does not play favorites, as we read, “there is no respect of persons with God.” The whole idea that there is any human worthiness that makes God our debtor is rig
For Isaiah:ht in there with the witchcraft the prophets spoke against, and the presumptuous religion that Jesus rebuked in the Pharisees and the scholars at the Law.
So, has God cast off Israel? Then we need to see that God is talking here to Israel. But only to them? The prophet is speaking to the time in the future, when the Kingdom is realised on Earth, when the Gospel has gone out “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (and Scythians, barbarians, slave, free, to the uttermost part of the Earth), so we can read it as applying to us as well, but not only to us.
Galatians: The fulness of time. Over the time preceding, it seems God had been guiding the development of the different religions and philosophies, so that when the Gospel was preached it was the next, obvious, step. The Greeks welcomed the good news of Jesus, the Word, because their own philosophies spoke of the logos, the one principle guiding the affairs of the Universe, but did not say who or what that logos was. The Irish religion had also come to the point that their druids were answered in the Gospel of Jesus. If somebody could do the research, I'm sure the same thing would be found true in Africa, that, for instance in the Kikuyu tradition the One, the Creator, who lived unapproachable on top of Mt. Kenya was the understanding the people had gotten to so far, and so they were ready to hear of the God Who Is One, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So that whether we were under the law of Moses, or the law of the Druids, or the law of our own consciences, it is the Spirit of Christ Who has come, not to free us from law, but to set the true law in our hearts, “to will and to do according to His good pleasure.”
Luke gives us the wonderful story of Jesus' dedication. We hear of the “silent period” of five centuries before Jesus came, and think that means that the heavens were somehow become brass, and God's back was turned. But we read of His intervention for the faithful some 160 years before when He helped them regain the Temple from the Greeks, and kept the day's-worth of oil burning in the lamps for the eight days it took to prepare more. And now we see two people, prophets in their own right, waiting on the Lord day and night in the Temple, praying, fasting, looking for the coming of their Messiah.
But back to Isaiah, we see a wonderful promise: That Israel, who had failed at every turn to follow and obey the Lord, will be the very sceptre and crown of the Lord's majesty on Earth- it will be Israel's righteousness (can it but be from the Lord?) as the evidence of His right to rule on this earth, and we may expect that, as we who believe have been grafted in, that the work in our own lives will be jewels in His crown and His sceptre as well, as we read, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy;” and, “..God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory2.” As we continue in His word, we shall truly be His disciples, and His truth will set us free. Let us, together, go forward to discover the fullness of that freedom!
1 Romans 11:1 & 9: 25
2 1 Thessalonians 2:19,20; Colossians 1:27