The Voice of Isaiah: Instead

Ken Eriks

Read: Isaiah 61:1-7

A beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. (v. 3)

A single word can make a difference. For example:

  • Everything in your family is as you hope. There is only one word spoken: accident. Life is turned upside down.
  • Vibrancy and vitality are evident. One word, cancer, changes that picture.
  • The unemployment check is about to run out. The washing machine just broke. Then a word, job, casts everything in a brighter light.
  • You are new in school. All the children seem to have someone to play with. Then one student includes you in a game at recess. The word friend is spoken.

In today’s reading, Isaiah uses one word, instead, three times. It is a promise that God is going to change the equation. It is an expectation that an exchange will take place. It does not just add something to what is already there. It replaces a bad situation with a good one. Isaiah’s people, recently returned from a long exile, see a destroyed land. Their inner life is ashes. Isaiah promises that God will change it to a renewed spirit.

When God makes this exchange promised to Israel, and to us, the result is that we are called “oaks of righteousness,” a “planting of the LORD” (v. 3). What we have done with life is replaced with God’s gift. Our roots are sunk deeply into God’s grace. —Ken Eriks

Prayer: Lord God, in Advent, prepare us for Christ’s coming.