Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
There have been many times when Israel, as well as other nations, endured bondage. Our reading from Isaiah 9:1-4 for this week points to a time of release from slavery. The prophet Isaiah spoke to a nation which was often under attack by either Assyria or Egypt. In smaller ways the other neighbors would act out of hostility. Yet the bondage which Isaiah speaks to in chapter nine goes deeper than human enemies. The people have been walking in darkness. They have been held captive in such a way that they wouldn’t even see their enemies.
Out of the darkness, God shines a light upon his people. He makes joy where there was sorrow. He gives the joy of a harvest or the joy of dividing of spoils. The abundance seems limitless. The people who had no hope are now secure. God has broken the yoke, the shackles, the oppressor’s tools of oppression.
Often we hear calls from this passage for political liberation. We hear it used by social activists, urging others to shake off what they view as totalitarian oppression. Yet the purpose of this passage is not to incite Israel to riot against other nations. It is to show that God has soveregnly intervened to bring freedom.
We will continue to look at other passages this week, but it is no secret that the readings from the lectionary complement each other. Where does freedom come from? In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel this week we find Jesus walking in the very same place Isaiah addresses. He is the light who shines in the darkness. He is the one who frees prisoners. Lord, have mercy. Set the prisoners free.
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