– Isaiah 61:1b-4
In the next region, the devil was given a demonstration of the latest upgrade -- maglev tracks where souls were fastened upside down by their ankles and whisked through a variety of automatic torture stations, where they were whipped, flayed, and flambéed in rapid succession.
And so it went. As the archdemon opened one massive gate after another and walked his master through the screaming hordes of tortured souls in each flaming ward, he received fresh plaudits for his fine work to improve the operations of hell.
Until they passed through another gate, where Satan was astonished to see ... orchards laden with summer fruit, birds twittering in the branches, towering palm trees, fields of wheat, a gentle breeze with the smell of fresh alfalfa. The devil was beside himself. "What the heaven is going on here!?"
"Oh, Master, you know...!" the archdemon whimpered. "It's just those dratted Jews and their irrigation projects!"
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On our own grand tour of the Isaiah 61 Messianic Age prophecy, we have been studying Christ's chosen few -- the "Blessed Mourners," we call them -- whom He ordained and empowered to carry on His work on Earth. They have already been gloriously equipped in verse 3 with beauty, joy, praise, and towering righteousness, and the time has come at last for them to sally forth and ... do something! But, just what does our Lord have in mind for them to do?
"They shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations."
The language here could not be more precise, nor the picture painted, more vivid. We're not talking about a fresh coat of paint or patching up a leaky roof. No ... it's about RUINS. DESOLATION. RUINED CITIES. Think of the once-proud city of Cologne after World War II. Then imagine that it had lain abandoned and utterly crumbling for yet another hundred years. Now it's 2045 and ... in marches the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help repair, raise up, and rebuild.
Back to our little story about lush orchards in hell. (I happen to be of Jewish lineage, and we Jews do love to poke fun at ourselves! If you don't believe that, check out Dan Greenburg's 1960s bestseller, "How to Be a Jewish Mother.") But our mid-century anecdote about hell is actually a nod to the awesome tenacity of Jewish immigrants, especially those pouring into Palestine after World War II, as they set out to reclaim vast swaths of the most dry, desolate land -- what had been, three millennia earlier, known as the "land flowing with milk and honey." They faced a task nearly as daunting as did the Corps of Engineers in our Cologne analogy.
There's nothing esoteric about Isaiah 61:4. These Blessed Mourners are quite clearly anointed with the Holy Spirit and power to repair and rebuild, to raise up a "city set on a hill" whose light beckons all who are weary, downtrodden, and oppressed by the devil to find our Savior's life in abundance. And raise it up they shall.
In fact, the ruins of that city are with us today. It was powerhouse of glory in the first century but, as the faith of many grew cold, it metamorphosed into the twenty-first century "desolation." Granted, there is plenty of life among the ruins, but nothing that holds a candle to the Early Church.
And, just how do we go about rebuilding? In Jesus' day, crowds would follow Him out of town -- into the hilly pastures or by the seaside boat launches -- and listen to His words of life. Shall we plan "Jesus mega-rallies" at the nearest marina or cornfield? Or perhaps ... As recently as the 1950s and '60s, healing evangelists toured the country in circus tents, drawing in thousands to hear the gospel. So, maybe we resurrect the mid-century "Jesus tent tour" model, complete with sawdust on the ground and wooden folding chairs?
Isaiah 43:19 suggests otherwise. "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but ... He is eternally full of surprises!
In the power of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mourners, the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, SHALL embark on the greatest "irrigation project" of all time, bringing streams into the wasteland -- abundant, vibrant life to the ruins of the Church in our generation. And it likely won't look anything like past revivals; it will be SOMETHING NEW.
Can this indeed happen right here in America? Nothing is impossible for God. Let's just give Him something to work with! A few "Blessed Mourners" who care enough to give their "utmost for His highest."
* * *
Why not pray ...
"Dear Father, as I ponder the "dry bones" of spiritual life in my generation ... they seem desperately dry. But reading Isaiah 61:4, there's a glimmer of hope! If I'm truly called to continue Jesus' ministry on Earth, I have to believe that these dry bones can live again, that revival can come to America once again. And never have we needed it so! Yet ... I don't know where to begin, but I'm willing. I want to be part of the solution, no longer part of the problem. Please, Lord, show me where to get started: this year, this month, this week! I'll be watching and listening for your answer.
In Jesus' name. Amen"
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 1/30/2022.
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