– Isaiah 61:1b-11
Then, without warning, [the witch] did a thing that was dreadful to see. Lightly, easily, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, she stretched up her right arm and wrenched off one of the cross-bars of the lamp-post.
. . .
She raised her arm and flung the iron bar straight at its head.... The bar struck the Lion fair between the eyes. It glanced off and fell with a thud in the grass.
. . .
"Hullo! What's that?" said Digory.... "Do come and look...."
It was a perfect little model of a lamp-post, about three feet high but lengthening, and thickening in proportion, as they watched it; in fact growing just as the trees had grown.
"It's alive too—I mean, it's lit," said Digory.
"Remarkable, most remarkable," muttered Uncle Andrew.... "We're in a world where everything, even a lamp-post, comes to life and grows...."
"Don't you see?" said Digory. "This is where the bar fell—the bar she tore off the lamp-post at home...."
- The Magician's Nephew, Chapters VIII and IX [excerpts] (1955) C.S. Lewis
* * *
As our tour of the Isaiah 61 Messianic prophecy comes in for a landing, He closes it with one final thought. This thought addresses the question that the ten preceding verses have ignited in the minds of His Blessed Mourners: "How could I dream of fulfilling even a molecule of this weighty mandate? Surely I'll fall flat."
Have no fear. Is this not the same dear Savior Who said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light"? (Matthew 11:29-30, NKJV) Even as He calls us to submit our neck to His toilsome yoke, He assures us that the labor will be restful, easy, and light! But how can this be?
Let's unpack our Lord's concluding message in verse 11, which settles this very mystery: "For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."
First, think of a bud, on a branch, connected to a vine in the earth of the Lord's garden. "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, ESV) See, as branches we often flaunt lots of buds, which are our good intentions—all the things we're going to accomplish "for Jesus." But those buds will never develop into a single piece of fruit without the power of the vine coursing through us.
This is a sobering thought, and yet ... what freedom, what exuberance, what "joy unspeakable" it unleashes in us when we finally "get it"! It's our Lord Who is at work in us, both to will (the bud, the good intention) and to fulfill (the cluster bursting forth in sweet fruit) His good pleasure. We need only be planted in His good earth, where the "the garden" itself—the very earth, charged with His infinite love and power—"causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth."
Theologian and author C.S. Lewis, best known for his classic fiction series The Chronicles of Narnia, gave us a unique illustration of this truth. If you've read the first installment of the Narnia books (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) or seen one of the video adaptations, you will recall Lucy's discovery, when she first enters Narnia, of a lamp-post strangely located and shining bright in the middle of a forest.
Though that book was the first of the Narnia series to be published, it was followed five years later by a prequel (the sixth book of the series, The Magician's Nephew), where we discover at last the origin of this odd lamp-post.
In true allegorical style, the story brings us to the land of Narnia at the dawn of its creation, in a state of utter darkness and void. And there we find Aslan the Lion (a type of Jesus) speaking—or singing, as it were—all things into being. His words permeate the earth itself, which responds in explosive fashion with every sort of grass, trees, flowers, and herbs.
Enter the witch Jadis (the story's counterpart for Satan) appearing on the scene from another dimension. In a burst of hatred and wrath at finding Aslan and hearing His song, she flings at Him the only thing that comes to hand—a short iron bar that had earlier been wrenched from a lamp-post. It ricochets off the Lion's head, Who is both unharmed and unruffled by the blow. But almost immediately, as the iron sticks into the earth pregnant with Aslan's creation power, it begins growing into a fully-formed lamp-post that sheds a magnificent, sweet light in the manner of its kind.
Isaiah 61 is all about Messiah Jesus, Who said, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12), coming to dispel darkness and despair. But He also said, "As the Father sent Me, so I send you" (John 20:21), and "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). We not only carry His torch ... we are the torch as His Spirit shines bright in us. We not only purvey His fruit of hope and salvation ... we are the branches, that bear the buds, that spring forth into the most delicious fruits of "righteousness and praise ... before all the nations." How? Solely by virtue of abiding in Him—in His earth, in His garden—where His Isaiah 61 creation power courses through our veins.
In the words of the old hymn, "Channels only, blessed Master / But with all Thy wondrous power / Flowing through us, Thou canst use us / Every day and every hour."
Why not pray ...
What a fitting conclusion You sealed the Isaiah 61 message with, hallelujah! Help me to "get it." I need to "get it"! Open the eyes of my heart to see that I, too—flawed and failure-prone as I am—can be a branch budding forth to glorious fruit, a light springing up in the darkness, as I yield to Your loving hand, to be rooted in the fertile earth of Your garden.
In Jesus' name. Amen."
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 5/29/2023.
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