Monday, September 21, 2020

PASSING THE MANTLE - Isaiah 61 Devotional #1

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me to ..."
– Isaiah 61:1a (AMP)
"Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies at 87," read the NPR headline of September 18, 2020. Now, all political opinions aside -- and I mean that! -- most adults living in the U.S.A. and reading that headline knew, not only who it was referring to, but the gravity of the news.

You see, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had not only worn THE ROBE of a United States Supreme Court justice; she had "been THE ROBE." Regardless whether one agreed or disagreed with her legal (or personal) opinions, there was no denying that Justice Ginsburg's sincerity and demeanor -- whether on or off the bench -- bordered on nobility. And THE ROBE she wore, though it was by far tinier than the other eight justices' robes, would be difficult to fill indeed.
Starting with this issue of Bradstix, we launch into a series of devotionals based on Isaiah 61 -- the passage quoted by Jesus (in Luke 4) as He began His public ministry. 
Now, this verse isn't just about Jesus bursting on the scene flashing his "badge" of authority -- though that's precisely what He was doing -- but it goes way further, foreshadowing the commission He was going to pass on to the Church (i.e., His disciples and their disciples, and ultimately, YES! ... you and me) within a few short years.
#1 "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me ..."
Wait! If Jesus was (and is) God, then how or why should the Spirit of God -- the Holy Spirit -- rest upon Him? There isn't room enough here to list the vast number of references in Scripture that allude to the Spirit of God resting on Jesus. But, just focusing on the context of Luke 4 (when Jesus quoted this passage), we see the progression:
a) Jesus is baptized by John (Luke 3:21)
b) the Holy Spirit descends upon Him as a dove (v. 22)
c) this marks the beginning of His ministry (v. 23)
d) Jesus was "filled with" and "led by" the Spirit (ch. 4:1)
e) He "returned [from the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit" (v. 14)
f) and finally, he stood up and read (vv. 16-19) this very passage:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me ..."
#2 "... BECAUSE the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me TO ...
So, BECAUSE Jesus was the Christ -- the Messiah, the Anointed One -- and BECAUSE that anointing was a commission TO -- for the purpose of -- accomplishing the things He was sent to do (which we'll examine in later devotionals) ... therefore, the Holy Spirit had to come upon Him and abide (remain) upon Him throughout His earthly ministry.
Now, it's clear that Jesus' ministry was all carried out, from that point forward, in the anointing and power of the Spirit. The same Spirit who descended in appearance as a dove and rested upon Him.
Since the days of the Levitical priesthood, God had ordained that anointing should be accompanied by physical symbolism, which was usually oil (from which we get the very word "anointing").
But sometimes the symbolism was different. God told Elijah to go "anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet." (I Kings 19:16) Instead of pouring oil on Elisha's head, Elijah threw his own robe (mantle) over Elisha, and that had the same effect -- a physical depiction of the Spirit Who would rest upon Elisha, giving him both the power and the authority to carry out his prophetic commission. And when Elijah was caught up to heaven (II Kings 2), his robe dropped upon Elisha, who immediately used it to perform the miracle that began his ministry -- parting the Jordan.
Now, back to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had worn the robe for twenty-seven years -- a robe that symbolized her authority as one of nine persons representing the highest circle of justice in the United States of America. But the time had now come for another to wear that robe. 
In the realm of the Spirit, just as Elijah's robe (mantle) passed to Elisha, there can be a passing of the anointing to a new vessel. Besides Elijah's case, we see Moses passing the anointing to Joshua, Aaron to Eleazar, and many other examples, though they did not all involve the same precise symbols.
So, what does this have to do with you and me? Everything, really!
If our only purpose were to get into Heaven, why, we would all be caught up like Elijah the moment we became believers, would we not? But Elijah had already been serving the purposes of God for many years before he was finally taken. And, when the robe of anointing passed to Elisha, he also continued that God-ordained work for many more years, until death took him. In other words, as long as we're on this planet, it's because there is something for us to do.
Let's look once more at Jesus' reading of Isaiah 61:1. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me to ..." Now, once again, we'll devote later devotionals to delving deeper into the many infinitives that follow on that ponderous word "TO." 
But, suffice it to say that Jesus came to Earth to accomplish, by His Holy Spirit power and anointing, a God-sized work of ministry ... not to mention His ultimate work of becoming the Sacrifice Lamb to atone for all Sin! And, accomplish it He did! But then He left, and ... that was it? Indeed no, hallelujah!
When Jesus spoke with His disciples after his resurrection and before His ascension, that's where he passed the robe -- the anointing -- for them to carry on that very same ministry:
"So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:21-22)
From that moment forth, "the Spirit of the Lord God" was upon his disciples because the Lord Jesus had "anointed [and] commissioned" them. He had SENT them to continue the same ministry that the Father had SENT Him to begin. 
Of course, it was formalized about seven weeks later on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit anointing fell, not only upon them, but on 120 disciples gathered in the upper room -- representing the first sprouts of the Early Church. And to this day, the Holy Spirit is given freely by God "to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32), giving us, the Church, not only the robe of authority, but also the power to effectively continue the ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).
Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration to all Americans -- whether they agreed or disagreed with her -- because she wore her tiny robe with such towering dignity until the very day she had to pass it to another.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, open my eyes to discover my own robe of anointing.  May I take the first step today, reaching outside myself to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ.  In the words of the old hymn, let me 'be His hand extended, reaching out to the oppressed.  Let me touch Him -- let me touch Jesus -- so that others may know and be blessed.'
In Jesus' name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 9/21/2020. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved

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