– Isaiah 61:1b-7a
- Mia Thermopolis, from The Princess Diaries (2001) Walt Disney Pictures
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Today's portion of the magnificent Isaiah 61 treasure--the bequest of our Lord's "Blessed Mourners"--is in fact just a single facet of the multi-faced gem that is verse seven, which could itself spawn a thousand sermons. So it is essential that we first look at the gem from all sides, then rightly divide it for the purposes of this study.
"Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs."
- Isaiah 61:7 (NKJV)
Wow! To begin with, we have three prominent themes: HONOR instead of shame; POSSESSION instead of confusion; and finally, the outcome--boundless, everlasting JOY. This devotional will focus on the first theme, HONOR.
But what's up with that pesky word "double"? Double honor. Double portion. Is it, like, we're allowed second helpings but not thirds?
Thankfully, our Lord does not afflict us with unsolvable puzzles. In fact, Isaiah's 8th-century B.C. audience wouldn't even do a double take. They were familiar with Old Testament law, wherein the "right of the firstborn" was a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17), not to mention the double honor of continuing the family's patriarchal lineage (Genesis 49:3). So, while the words "portion," "land," and "possess" all speak of inheritance, the word "double" specifically focuses on FIRSTBORN inheritance.
OK, so what's a verse about firstborn inheritance doing right smack in the middle of God's promises to His "Blessed Mourners" (verses 3-11)?
Because it is absolutely PIVOTAL! Think of the ground we've covered since verse 3. He first gives them "beauty for ashes": His eternal destiny in exchange for the ashes of their broken dreams. Right up through verse 6, where they "eat the riches of the Gentiles": His unlimited provision in exchange for the petty possessions and prestige they left behind.
Why? Because, as Paul said, "You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3) Christ--Who is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the FIRSTBORN from the dead (v. 18), and the FIRSTBORN among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
But it gets BETTER!...
Jesus Christ is indeed the firstborn among many bretheren, since we are all sons of God through adoption. Thinking back to the Old Testament "right of the firstborn," that means Jesus gets a double portion of honor and inheritance, while we get ... the scraps, right?
No, no, NO, hallelujah! And herein lies the mystery of it all: that, having died, and now alive again "hidden with Christ in God," WE ARE ALL FIRSTBORN ... IN HIM! Hebrews 12:22 speaks of the saints gone to be with Him as "the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." And Romans 8:16b-17 speaks directly in terms of our inheritance: "...We are children of God. And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and JOINT HEIRS with Christ."
Did you see that? It's not a matter of Jesus, the Firstborn, getting a "double portion" and the rest of us getting what's left over. Rather, IN HIM, we are the church of the firstborn, joint-heirs with the one-and-only Firstborn, Jesus Christ. IN HIM, we enjoy that "double portion"--instead of shame, the firstborn's honor; and instead of confusion, the firstborn's possession. There are no leftovers. It's just the firstborn's portion: ALL THINGS for life and godliness.
Charles Spurgeon proclaimed this same truth in his impassioned sermon "The Joint Heirs and Their Divine Portion," delivered July 28, 1861:
"And O my soul, thy portion cannot be slender nor thy dowry narrow, since it is the same inheritance which Christ has from His Father's hands. Weigh the riches of Christ in scales and his treasures in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possession if you can, and then dream of finding a limit to the possessions of the elect of God. 'All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's.' [Romans 8:17]"
Now, having surveyed the full breadth of verse 7, let's bite off, at last, today's theme: HONOR instead of shame. As joint heirs with Christ, one thing we receive is "double honor," that is, the HONOR of the firstborn Son. And yet, it's paradoxical because we enjoy that glorious honor only by giving it to Him, Who is the One and only being entitled to it. As Paul stated, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) Meaning, my boast--my honor--lies in the fact that He is everything; I am nothing, and yet at the same time, I am everything IN HIM.
And, if I inherit all the honor of the Firstborn of God, there remains no place for shame. Why? Because, on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, He bore the utmost shame--MY shame--so I no longer have to!
In our opening teaser, we recall Mia's shock on learning that she was heir to a kingdom she'd never even heard of: "I can't be a princess! I'm still waiting for normal body parts to arrive!"
In Disney's 2001 classic The Princess Diaries, Amelia "Mia" Thermopolis is ashamed of her looks, bullied by classmates, terrified to speak in front of class ... yeah, a typical fifteen-year-old. But when her world is turned upside down by the sudden revelation that she is a princess, soon to be queen, well ... watch the movie. But the point is that her surprise inheritance lifts her from shame to honor, from being a nobody to the place of preeminence among her people--a vantage point from which she can truly make a difference.
Why not pray ...
Thank You that I am part of that "chosen generation," that ALL THINGS are mine in Jesus Christ the Firstborn. From this place of strength, may I live--no longer I, but Christ in me--to reflect all honor and praise back to Him, that the world may come to His magnificent light!
In Jesus' name. Amen."
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 6/26/2022.
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