– Isaiah 61:1b-8b
"I don't know of anything. Jobs are scarce--" replied the minister, beginning to shut the door slowly.
"I didn't know but you might perhaps be able to give me a line to the city railway or the superintendent of the shops, or something," continued the young man, shifting his faded hat from one hand to the other nervously.
"It would be of no use. You will have to excuse me. I am very busy this morning. I hope you will find something. Sorry I can't give you something to do here. But I keep only a horse and a cow and do the work myself."
The Rev. Henry Maxwell closed the door and heard the man walk down the steps. As he went up into his study he saw from his hall window that the man was going slowly down the street, still holding his hat between his hands. There was something in the figure so dejected, homeless and forsaken that the minister hesitated a moment as he stood looking at it. Then he turned to his desk and with a sigh began the writing where he had left off. He had no more interruptions, and when his wife came in two hours later the sermon was finished, the loose leaves gathered up and neatly tied together, and laid on his Bible all ready for the Sunday morning service.
- Excerpt from In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon (1896, Public Domain)
Read the full story at: http://tinyurl.com/in-his-steps
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The latest stop on our Isaiah 61 Messianic tour brought us to verse 8, where Christ reveals to His Blessed Mourners the eternal why-and-wherefore of their mission to turn the world upside down. In His own words, it is because "I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering." And, having already covered, last time, the premise of JUSTICE -- that is, to act in righteousness and love toward our fellow man -- let's ponder the meaning of ...
ROBBERY FOR BURNT OFFERING!
Seriously? Like ... is our Lord's wrath revealed against those who would pilfer a goat from the neighbor's field to sacrifice at the temple?
Well, yes! ... metaphorically. See, the root of all Pharisaism -- all sham piety -- is our appetite for appearing "holier than thou" while having a heart of cold mutton in our dealings and relationships. As Jesus put it, "They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers." (Luke 20:47, NIV)
We need only flip back a few pages to Isaiah chapters 58 and 59, which deal at great length about this very topic. It is, in fact, the problem statement that sets the stage for the solution laid out in Isaiah 61. It is the irredeemable faux religiosity that calls for Christ's redeeming work in the second half of verse 8 ... which we'll unpack in our next session.
So, what's a Blessed Mourner to do?
Our lead-in story above is an excerpt from the opening scene of In His Steps -- one of the top ten best-selling Christian books of all time, after the Bible (of course) and a few others like Pilgrim's Progress and Foxe's Book of Martyrs. We're introduced to one of the main characters, Pastor Henry Maxwell, who is so intent on polishing his grandiloquent sermon that he cannot so much as spare a kind word for a homeless tramp at his door.
In His Steps. A powerhouse of truth with over 50 million copies sold, translated into more than twenty languages, and the basis for two major motion pictures. Due to a clerical error (or perhaps divine purpose), the book has been in the public domain since it was first published in 1896.
Without divulging details and spoilers -- since you absolutely MUST read the book if you haven't already -- suffice it to say that the drama that began with this brief conversation between a small-town pastor and a transient man ultimately snowballed into a great spiritual awakening, not only in their (fictitious) region of America, but in the heart of every man and woman over the past century who has fallen in love with this inspirational story -- which compels us to antecede every word and action with the thought, "What would Jesus do?"
In effect, the resounding moral of In His Steps is Isaiah 61:8: "I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering."
Why not pray ...
Forgive me for all the ways I honor You with my lips while my heart is cold and distant. In every situation, in every interaction with the people you bring my way, let my prayer be, "What would the Christ of Isaiah 61 do?" And, by Your grace and power, I commit to carrying on His eternal mission of justice and transforming love.
In Jesus' name. Amen."
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 11/20/2022.
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