Time of God's Favor

Author: Dwight A. Pryor
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising
God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among
those whom he favors" (Luke 2:13-14 NRSV)
The glad tidings from the highest heaven came to the lowest stratum of society, to
shepherds. Angelic heralds announced the arrival of a humble king, and the poor in spirit
rejoiced. The favor of the Lord was being extended to them.
Though surprising, this was not unanticipated. enturies before, to a discouraged and
oppressed !srael, the prophet !saiah promised an Anointed "ne who would bring good
news to the anavim#the poor, the afflicted, the meek $%&:&'. !n other words, (essiah
would come for the humble, and to them he would announce “the year of the Lord’s
favor” $%&:)'.
!esus" First #ermon
At the beginning of his public ministry#thirty years after the nativity of Yeshua as *od+s
agent to yoshia $save' his people#we see the theme of *od+s favor figuring prominently
once again in the (aster+s life. This gifted son of (ary and ,oseph returns to his home
village in the lower *alilee, and with bold prophetic voice he announces the in-breaking
of *od.s redemptive reign in human affairs: “The Kingdom of Heaven (God) is here!”
$(atthew /:&0'
As usual, he attends synagogue on the 1abbath. 2hat anticipation must have filled the
air, what fascination in the minds of the worshippers, as ,esus of 3a4areth ascended the
bima $platform' to read from the Torah and the 5rophets6
2e can only speculate as to the assigned Torah portion that 1abbath morning long ago in
3a4areth. 7ut the concluding prophetic reading, the Haftarah, was the reader.s choice#
and its message is every bit as timely today as it was two thousand years ago.
Rav Yeshua $8abbi ,esus' asks the attendant for the 97ook of !saiah: $Luke /:&0'.
;nfurling the scroll#like the one found intact among the discoveries near the <ead 1ea
#he turns to his passage of choice and begins reading:
“The !irit of the Lord is u!on me"
be#ause he has anointed me $$$ to !ro#%aim the year of the Lord&s favor$” (Lu'e ()*+,*-
.R/)
As 9the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him,: =eshua rolls up the scroll and
hands it back to the #ha0an $attendant'. >e sits down, in the customary manner for sages,
and begins to expound upon the 2ord of the Lord.
$reative %eading
Two features of =eshua+s reading of !saiah are striking: the first, commonly noted? the
second, rarely understood.
@irst, he stops reading from !saiah %&:) in mid-sentence.
The original text declares: “$$$ to !ro#%aim the year of the Lord&s favor" and the day of
vengean#e of our God$” ,esus deliberately concludes his reading with the words sh’nat
rat0on %a’1donai#9year of the Lord+s favor.: >e desists from reading, v’yom na2am
%’e%oheinu#9and the day of vengeance of our *od.:
The point is pretty obvious: =eshua.s agenda as the Anointed of *od is related to
manifesting, extending and embodying *od+s favor toward men. >e is not the Agent of
*od+s judgment.
1econd, out of the mouth of two witnesses a matter is established in ,ewish tradition. To
reinforce his point, therefore, =eshua engages in a bit of creative reading and rabbinic
exegesis of the !saiah text.
>e inserts a phrase#“to set at %iberty those 3ho are o!!ressed”#from the well known
passage of !saiah AB:A-% immediately before his concluding reference to “the favor of the
Lord$” 2hy does he do thisC
Dery simply: to drive home a point.
As my friend <r. 1teven 3otley has documented, ,esus connects his reading of !saiah
%&:)a to the only other passage in !saiah#indeed in all the >ebrew 7ible#that has the
same exact >ebrew phrase: rat0on %a’1donai $!saiah AB:Ab'6
>is use of the rabbinic techniEue of linking two texts with the same key word or phrase
$called Ge0era hava' dramati4es the main point and provides his interpretive key to the
passage+s intent.
&essianic Tas'
To a stunned hometown audience, ,esus both announces his (essianic identity and
interprets his (essianic task by a creative reading of the !saiah scroll.
ontrary to the expectations of many, in 3a4areth and the *alilee $including his cousin,
,ohn the 7apit4er', ,esus announces that the time is not yet for *od+s wrath to be poured
out against wickedness, arrogance and the kingdoms of men. 3o, that baptism of fire will
come with a future Apocalypse. 3ow is the time for a baptism of the humble and
repentant in the renewing waters of the >oly 1pirit.
>e emphasi4es that today is the day of salvation, not of judgment. >e announces the
good news of *od.s favor, not the bad news of *od.s vengeance. =eshua is the Anointed
"ne through whom *od.s kingship is breaking into people.s hearts and lives, healing,
saving, encouraging, comforting, delivering and making whole.
The (essianic task as ,esus understood it is all about showing forth *od.s favor. At his
birth, angelic hosts announced *od+s sha%om or peace coming on the earth and >is favor
upon men. 3ow, at the birth of his public ministry, ,esus echoes these glad tidings.
!n him, we see !saiah.s prophecy being fulfilled and the favor of the Lord breaking forth.
2ith him and the angels, can we say: “G%ory to God in the highest!”
F )G&/ The enter for ,udaic-hristian 1tudies.
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