Meditations Of The Messiah - Messiah's Food For The Poor

by Ray Hawkins


Isaiah the prophet is so caught up in what he saw relating to the Messiah that he feels the weight of the revelation. The imagery of chapter 61 is so vivid that the intensity of the future event brings sweat to his brow. "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor ...". It goes almost without saying that the Anointed One is a reference to the Messiah. In this marvelous passage of Scripture another aspect of His ministry is unveiled. He was to be a preacher, empowered in a unique way by the Spirit of God. His pastorate was not in the grounds of a Theological Institution, nor the exclusive domain of the privileged. The test of His anointing would be at the hands and heart of the Poor.

When we read of the Poor, that term immediately conjures up vagrant types, homeless youth or people unable to pay their debts. The word used is far more meaningful than that however. It is dealing with the quality of a person's inner being, not the size of his bank balance. A millionaire can be bereft of spiritual virtues without recognizing it. A woman may be unskilled in corporate management and yet have a quality within that attracts the interest of God. For the word used for Poor refers to meekness, humility, a realization of the limitations of the soul without God. Meekness is that quality that Moses discovered in Midian that made him so much the statesman of God. He learnt dependence upon God and how to control an independent spirit.

The psalmist underscored this virtue: "For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation" (149:4). "The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground" (147:6). The Rabbi from Nazareth summarized it well when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

To this type of person, the Poor, the Anointed One comes to preach. The inference is that such a person hears what is being said. To us it may seem rather strange that the Messiah would specialize in preaching to the meek rather than present them with a much more practical program for improving their lot. We can imagine Him coming to a meek but bankrupt person and offering to pay the debts.

Merely to preach seems futile. But is it? Simply to pay the debts is to allow the person to fall into debt again and to expect a welfare-type deliverance. The Messiah is not a politician after votes for re-election. He is there to show the resources of God for a person to rise above circumstances. Herein lies the power and direction of His preaching. He came with the conviction of the relevance to life: " (God) humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna ... to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Why such an emphasis?

Changing manna for sliced bread still leaves the inner being unsatisfied, unfulfilled. There are many with material wealth who have no sense of purpose, no hope, no spiritual dimension to life. Others are almost destitute of this world's goods and yet have a radiance and relationship with God that overrules the hunger pangs. The Messiah knew that a vitally important thing He could do for people was to transform their attitudes, enhance their personalities rather than give them a meal ticket. The Anointed Servant seeks to lift a person from self-pity to self-worth, from beggar to achiever, from cursing God for lack to praising God for courage to provide.

Such spiritual gifts have real and strong practical outworkings. There are far more important and eternal than any immediate gratification of appetites, for the Messiah knows that the real poverty is to be without hope, without the knowledge of the love of God, without a dream, without forgiveness.

It is a sad spectacle when a brand new house is occupied by people with slum natures. In no time at all that house is a wreck. A new slum has begun. The Messiah through His teaching seeks to change the slum nature into a palace or temple; to make the inner being noble with the realization of its kingly or priestly character. Such transformations by the Spirit through the preaching of the Good News empowers people to turn slum environments into dwellings fit for the Messiah's presence.

Herein is one of the basic purposes for the Word of God. It reveals the resources of God and how to unleash them in personal living.

Isaiah claims that the preaching of the Anointed One would be "good news" . To the meek just what does that imply? The term is used by Isaiah as we read: "You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!' See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young" (40:9-11).

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (52:7)

The Messiah belonged to the beautiful-feet brigade. In fact, He is the Commander as well as the message.

The over-all testimony of the good news is simple. The LORD reigns! God has not abdicated. He has not given up on His promises to Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets. The sin of the nation, the hostility of the Gentiles will not cancel out God's intentions. We may not appreciate why He is so long bringing all His promises to pass, but this is the declaration of Scripture: the LORD reigns and He is faithful! So, those with a heart for God, those with a desire to see His Word vindicated, will not despair.

One of the fascinating claims of the Rabbi from Nazareth that stirs so much passion is that this Isaiah passage relates to Him. The implications of such a claim are awesome. One inference is that the Redeemer God has not forgotten His people. In fact, when John the Baptizer sent a delegation to check out the claims of Yeshua, part of the response stated that the "poor had the good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:5). It was this descendant of the house of David about whom the record states: "He came preaching the kingdom of God and repentance."

Today there is still need for the good news. Despair is ruling as a tyrant and Unbelief is its chief minister. In such a scene it is hard to be "poor in spirit" . Usually we are hardened by anger, stuffed by materialism, unyielding through pride or confused by suffering. It is hard to hear what the Messiah would say in such circumstances. The blessing therefore passes us by.

The Anointed One came preaching good news. Some tried to cross Him out, but He rose above their deeds. Because of His triumph the meaning of Isaiah 61:1 takes on deeper and more wonderful meaning as we hear again: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LO RD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."