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The Acceptable Year of the Lord
By David A. DePra
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. (Isa 61:1-4)
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4:14-21)
What is, "the acceptable year of the Lord?" This term, which Jesus quotes from Isaiah, is used no other place in the Bible. But the meaning is clear: It is the "year" in which the full plan and purpose of God is accomplished – this "year" being not a literal year, but the full cycle – the FINISHED cycle -- of restoration in God’s redemptive plan. This "acceptable year of the Lord," is what Jesus preached all through His ministry, and which He, Himself, came to accomplish.
We see this "year" pictured in the festivals and harvest seasons which God established for Israel. God gave Israel 3 feast seasons: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. In every way, these 3 feast seasons were directly tied into the 3 harvest seasons of barley, wheat, and fruit. The 3 feast seasons and the 3 harvest seasons not only correspond to each other, but speak of the redemptive plan and purpose of God – and correspond to the 3 resurrections in His plan.
So what we have is this: By the time we cycle through the feast and harvest seasons in Israel each year, we have what amounts to a complete picture of the Redemptive plan of God. Thus, it can be said that the outworking of this plan of redemption is, "the acceptable year of the Lord." It is HIS year -- and it is acceptable to Him.
The Year of Jubilee
There is actually another layer to all of this. Every 50 years there was to be a JUBILEE year. The year of JUBILEE requires that all land rest, all slaves be freed, and all land be returned to it’s original owner. This was God way, in the nation of Israel, of keeping people free from slavery, and free from debt. But there is a more important spiritual significance to the year of Jubilee. The fact that the year of JUBILEE was every 50th year, and thus completed a cycle of 7x7 years, shows that it symbolized the spiritually perfect plan of God -- brought to it’s fullness.
This JUBILEE year is the, "acceptable year of the Lord" which is being described by Jesus in Luke – it was to be spiritually brought to pass through HIM. This was what Isaiah was prophesying. Jesus fulfilled, or will fulfill, all of the feast days, as well as the spiritual intent of the year of Jubilee. He said He came, "to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."
So Jesus was the One who accomplished fully, "the acceptable year of the Lord" -- as illustrated by the feast and harvests each year. He was the One who both proclaimed and brought to pass the real fulfillment of "year of Jubilee."
You will notice that, "the acceptable year of the Lord," is the accomplishment of more than just ACTS and MIRACLES by Jesus. More than that, "the acceptable year of the Lord," is really a term which embodies the outworking of the Redemption in US – in all humanity. Every single point Jesus lists among the things He came to us is FOR us. There isn’t a single thing on the list which takes anything away from us.
"The acceptable year of the Lord," is acceptable because it is the "year" when God’s will is brought to pass through Jesus Christ. It is the fulfillment of every shadow and type – it is the real YEAR OF JUBILEE in Christ Jesus. This, "acceptable year of the Lord," right now, is almost two thousands years in it’s unfolding.
Announcement of His Ministry
What happened that day in the synagogue, as recorded by Luke, was both amazing and sad. Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan and had been led into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Forty days He had fasted, and been tempted, and had won the victory. Now, presumably after a recovery period, and after spending some time in the nearby districts, He was back in His hometown.
Luke records, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." So when Jesus walked into the synagogue that day, some things He had done, and performed, had probably been talked about ahead of time.
Obviously, this was not the first time Jesus had met these people in His hometown. Not only did He grow up among these very people, but He had participated in the life of the synagogue all His life. But today things would be different. Today He would make an announcement without apology to these people – and there would be no question about what He was saying. Jesus would that day claim to be the Messiah.
Jesus quoted from Isaiah and said that He was the fulfillment. This is why they wanted to throw Him over the cliff, or stone Him. His proclamation was just that radical, and that direct.
What could have been going through their minds? This was no stranger. This was Jesus, the supposed, "carpenter’s son." He had been here, in their midst, before. He had even read the scripture before. But now, He was claiming to be the Messiah.
Their reaction? "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?" They could not imagine how, "Joseph’s son," could be equipped with such gifts! But there was also resentment in their hearts. They were basically saying, "Who is this guy to tell us where to get off? How can He say these things about Himself to us? We know Him."
One cannot help but wonder why they didn’t at least stop and think about this? I mean, if nothing else was true, not a one of them had ever seen Jesus sin. He was sinless. What is it like to be around a sinless human being? Was there no witness to them at all?
The Bible teaches that Israel did not know the hour of their visitation. They had prayed and prayed for the promised Messiah of God, and when He came they not only failed to recognize Him, but they called Him the Devil. Why? Were they just stupid? No. The reason was that their hearts had strayed so far from God Himself that when He appeared to them in Jesus, they had no affinity for Him. Indeed, there was little about Jesus that jived with the expectations Israel had for the Messiah.
This was a heart problem, not a brains problem. And it is a warning for US. Are we so far from God that when He moves in our midst, we cannot recognize Him? Perhaps even think He is the Devil?
The reality is, if Jesus Christ Himself came to earth today, and walked into any number of supposedly Christian churches, and announced Himself as He did that day, He would perhaps get the SAME reaction. People would not recognize Him. They would kick Him out of their church, or worse.
The reason we can know this is a probability in some places is because Jesus HAS come to them – in the form of the Holy Spirit – and rejecting Him is exactly what they have done. Some folks simply do not want God messing with their church – much less their lives. This is going on everywhere today.
It really doesn’t take much for people to reject Christ. All they need to do is refuse to consider that they need Him. Jesus came to liberate the poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind, and bruised. If you feel as if you will not be in one of those categories, then you will probably feel Christ is not for you. You won’t say that outright, mind you, but in the end, that is what it comes down to.
Today there is a NEW kind of gospel. It is a gospel that presents Jesus as someone, who, if you acknowledge as Lord, will give you eternal life. Sound good, doesn’t it? Well, Jesus will do that. But the problem is, you cannot have eternal life until you come to the Cross. The true gospel is a message of coming to the Cross of Christ so that you can be set free from the OLD LIFE. And then, and only then, can you embrace NEW LIFE. So in effect, if you want to be rich, you have to first confess you are poor. If you want to be set free, you have to confess you have been in prison. The only way to receive eternal life is through repentance.
This is not a game. You are born IN ADAM. It doesn’t matter how nice a person you are, you must still come to the Cross. This is not because God wants to condemn you. It is because God wants to deliver you. Read again what Jesus said He came to do. It all FOR US, and not AGAINST US.
The people who heard Him that day were not about to consider that God was actually giving them the Messiah they had prayed for. They wanted a Messiah on their terms, and One which was in accordance with their traditional expectations. Again – what is it like to see a totally sinless man? To see those miracles? And to hear those words? Clearly, they had no excuse. Jesus may not have been what they expected. But they did not recognize God when they saw Him.
Israel did not recognize the hour of God’s visitation to them – not because of a lack of brains, and not because they were ignorant of the Bible. They did not recognize it because their hearts had strayed so far from God that they were no longer able to recognize God in their midst. They stood fact to face with God Incarnate, and many of them called Him a devil. They wound up killing Him.
Let’s hope at least one person who was there that day, and wanted to throw Jesus over the cliff, did later come to accept Him. I wonder what it was like to look back on this day and remember how foolishly blind you were? I wonder what it was like to know that so many others continued to walk in darkness. Of course, this is all a lesson for us. If we want to recognize when God moves in our lives in a special way, we need to stay close to Him. Otherwise we could miss the hour of our visitation as well.
The Mission of the Messiah
The name, "Christ," is the Greek equivalent for MESSIAH – the anointed one. The name, "Jesus," means, "He who saves." Thus, the name Jesus Christ means, "the anointed One, the one who saves."
Jesus that day in Nazareth said, "THIS DAY the scripture – Isaiah 61 -- is fulfilled." This day? Can we possibly wrap our minds around the significance of that announcement? Forget about that time in history. Do we realize that TODAY – right now – is that "day" as well? Do we understand that today we continue to live in, "the acceptable year of the Lord?"
Right now, "the acceptable year of the Lord," continues! Right now, God is preaching the gospel to the poor; healing the brokenhearted, preaching deliverance to the captives, and restoring sight to the blind, and setting at liberty them that are bruised." But not where His presence is rejected, and where people want to throw Him over a cliff if He doesn’t get with THEIR program! God will not force Himself upon such people. But everything Jesus announced that day was a part of HIS PURPOSE AND PLAN. He wants it all for us.
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