October 26, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
As I reflect on this passage from Isaiah today, I find myself yearning for what it promises. “Everlasting joy!” Overwhelming “gladness and joy!” The end of “sorrow and sighing!” This is not to say I am personally in a place of deep sadness today. But not far away are those who live with sorrow and sighing: the homeless folk living on the highway bridge, the relatives of those killed in recent violence, and a dear friend whose grandmother died in the wildfires in Northern California. Then I think of people living in places devastated by earthquakes, hurricanes, and ethnic strife. I long for the day when God will give us truly “everlasting joy.”
The people of Israel heard these words of Isaiah quite literally and with deep yearning of their own. They needed to be ransomed from their bondage in Babylon and brought back to Jerusalem. The verb translated here as “rescued” (from the verb padah in Hebrew) meant to transfer ownership of something through purchasing it. In a sense, the Israelites needed to be bought back from Babylon so they could be resettled in their own land. As they looked forward to this exchange, they eagerly anticipated the joy of their being ransomed. When God bought them and brought them back, there would be exuberant joy and gladness.
You and I have been rescued and welcomed into God’s joy. We haven’t been ransomed from exile in Babylon. But we have been purchased from a far worse bondage. Jesus, by his shed blood, bought us back from sin and death. We are no longer captive because Jesus has ransomed us.
I’ve been a Christian for more than fifty years. I must confess that I can easily take my being ransomed for granted. When that happens, not only do I fail to offer God the gratitude he deserves, but I also miss the joy of my salvation. We who have been ransomed by Jesus should experience pervasive, lasting joy. This is not to say we’ll always be happy in a superficial sense. But, beneath our momentary emotions, there should be in us a deep sense of joy, knowing that we belong to the Lord because he has purchased us.
As this joy radiates from us, others will be drawn not just to us but also to the source of our joy. They will be drawn to the God who rescues, redeems, and gives the gift of everlasting joy.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Are you in a place of sorrow and sighing right now? Have you asked for the Lord’s help? Have you asked others to intercede for you?
Have you ever felt the joy of being ransomed by Jesus? When? What was this like?
What helps you to live in joy of your redemption each day?
Gracious God, what a gift it is to have been ransomed by you. Thank you for buying me out of bondage through the sacrifice of Christ. Thank you for the freedom and honor of belonging to you.
I think today of people I know or others in this world who are experiencing sorrow and sighing. Reach out to them with your mercy, Lord. Lead them to the place of everlasting joy.
God, you know how easily I can take my salvation for granted. Forgive me! And help me to know the “everlasting joy” that comes with the remembrance of your having ransomed me.
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. Amen.*
*“My Jesus, I Love Thee” by William Featherston, 1864.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Working for the Joy of Others (2 Corinthians 1:24)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.