Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Extravagant Exchange

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."

I don't think it's a coincidence at all that Jesus began his ministry by teaching from this very passage. Luke 4 tells us that this is the Scripture Jesus read from the first time he taught in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. This passage was foreshadowing Jesus himself, and exactly what He does in our lives when we place our faith and trust in Him. He exchanges. Jesus Christ constantly exchanges our sin, our mess, our brokenness, and our failures for His beauty, righteousness, and grace. He can take anything we have to offer and give us of Himself instead! In fact, a number of Scriptures follow this same theme, in which God says to his people, "Instead of ____, I will give you _____." And what He gives is always better--He doesn't just exchange, He exchanges extravagantly!

My ashes for his crown of beauty. My sin for his robe of righteousness. My anxiety for His peace. My despair and grief for his gladness and praise. He doesn't simply fill our cups--our cups overflow. He didn't simply save us from our sin, He gave us eternal life as well, a life which freely begins in the here and now as we come to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in our lives. He rises to show us compassion because He longs to be gracious to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 sums up what I think of as the "extravagant exchange":  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." I really can't add anything to that, and I certainly couldn't say it better than that. This is what Jesus came to do. And it is good news indeed.

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