With Tony Horsfall
Monday 7 August
After graduating from London School of Theology, Tony served as a missionary in East Malaysia, then as a pastor in West Yorkshire before heading up a missions training programme called EQUIP at Bawtry Hall (Doncaster). Since 2004, he has had his own ministry, Charis Training and has a passion to see people grow in their relationship with God.. He is the author of over a dozen books including Rhythms of Grace, Working from a place of Rest, Deep calls to Deep and most recently, Grief Notes. Tony is deeply committed to providing care for those in Christian ministry at home and overseas, and loves nothing better than to lead people on retreat, taking quality time to be with God. He has been a regular seminar speaker at New Horizon for many years. Here the New Horizon Media team bring you a summary of what he had to say during the morning Bible Teaching at #NH2023.
I’ve been saying to Jilly my wife recently that a lot of my life has been done in very small things. I’ve done a lot of retreat work with just a handful of people. Sometimes it is surprising when you see the fruit of that. Even when you write a book, you don’t always know how that is being used. It is lovely when you see some of the ways in which God has used you.
I’ve put a short sleeved shirt today to give the impression that it is warm here – I thought I would be good for tourism but I do feel the warmth of the welcome here!
The theme of the week is Joy from the Ashes. That is an acknowledgement that life is not always easy, even for those who know Jesus. Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry. There is celebration and lament. I wanted to look at this passage in Isaiah 61 – it gives us hope and leads us along a journey of transformation so that we can become a blessing to others.
Over these five days, I’m going to take a little section each day. It will be like a journey. We are beginning our journey on Monday morning and we will finish on Friday. If you can be there on this journey, the teaching builds day by day.
Reading from Isaiah 61: 1- 11
I’m not really interested in increasing your Bible knowledge. What I’m interested in is helping you to change, to become more like Jesus. That means we have to apply the word, not just in our minds but in our hearts. Sometimes we can listen to the word intellectually. Don’t be sermon tasters. This week, respond to what you are hearing.
Let’s have a look first of all at the context of this prophesy. There are 66 books and it is not an easy book to read but if you persevere it pays rich dividends because it is jam packed with promises from God. We usually divide into two sections:
- 1-39 Towards the exile – the prophet analysing the sin that has come to the people and that if they do not change their ways, God will chastise them.
- 40-66 Exile and beyond – then there is a huge change (Comfort my people). The tone changes dramatically and from that point on, the focus is on the promise of a return from exile and the comfort God wants to bestow on his people as he brings them back and re-establish them into the promised land.
Sometimes people divide it into three sections:
- 1-39 Anointed King
- 40-55 Anointed Servant
- 56-66 Anointed Warrior
God is the God of history. He knows the end from the beginning and he is well able to give to Isaiah a vision of the end times.
Prophecy has five levels:
- Immediate – Israel in 8th Century BC. Sometimes the prophet is speaking to his immediate context. If there were no immediate application, it would not be useful.
- Future – Exile and aftermath
- Far future – Fulfilled by Christ. Isaiah is pack with prophesies about the coming of the Messiah, a servant figure who will be sent by God to bring salvation.
- End times – Gospel age and return of Christ. To that day when the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the seas. In this one book there are four different applications.
- Now – But as we read it today, it applies to me in my context. This is a fifth application. Any word that Isaiah spoke is still anointed by the spirit of God, so it can speak to us today. Isn’t that amazing? The Bible is amazing and it is packed with life and it can leap off the page to us.
This morning we are going to concentrate on the headline verse (v1). As you consider that verse, there are three people that are mentioned:
The Sovereign Lord – Isaiah is packed with wonderful descriptions of who God is. Isaiah presents us with this magnificent view of the great Creator God whose plans and purposes are being worked out, despite what is happening. He paints this grand picture of who God is – the sovereign Lord who is in control of everything. This comes from Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6. He saw the Lord “high and exalted”. That is life-changing. On that day when everything was shaken in the nation (the death of a king), Isaiah camed into the temple. The stability was gone. As he sits in the temple, he has a vision of God that will change his understanding forever. God is on the throne. His prophesy flows from that understand. We need to see the Sovereign Lord. We need to know who is on the throne when things are topsy turvy. And we need to encounter him. It is not just enough to know about him. We must encounter him and know deep in our hearts that his plans and purpsoes are being worked out.
The Spirit – the book of Isaiah is full of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we have the impression that the Holy Spirit only came at Pentecost but he has been there from the beginning. Isaiah has a wonderful understanding of the spirit. In chapter 11, he talks about the seven-fold spirit. Then in chapter 44:3 we see that the Holy Spirit who so often brings streams in the desert (like water in a dry and thirsty land).
The anointed Servant (me)
Who is the servant?
It could speak about Isaiah himself – 20:3
It could speak about Israel – 41:8-10
It could speak about an unknown prophet?
But we know that this is actually about Jesus – the anointed servant, the promised Messiah.
- Immanuel (7:14)
- Wonderful Counsellor (9:6)
- A Branch (4:2,11:1-5)
- The Cornerstone (28:16)
- The King (32:1)
- A Warrior (42:13)
Jesus – the true servant
- 42:1-9 – Bringer of justice
- 49:1-6 – A light to the Gentiles
- 50:4-9 – The obedient one
- 52:13-53:12 – The suffering servant
Jesus at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-22)
Obviously, Jesus loved the prophesy of Isaiah. We read in Luke how he goes into the Synagogue in Nazareth at the start of his ministry to make a statement about who he is and why he has come. He chooses these verses from Isaiah 61.
A chosen place v16 – he went back to the place where he grew up. To the people there he was just another lad in the village. A prophet is never welcome in his own country. It was hard for them to recognise him..
A chosen passage v17,21 – maybe it was coincidence or maybe he had asked for the book of Isaiah. As he begins his ministry, where does hie begin? He begins with a pastoral heart. I have come to help people. I have come to bring good news to them. There is this moment of high expectation. He sits down and the eyes of everybody are fixed on him. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. In other words, I am that person.
Remember the Ethopian eunach… about whom does the prophet speak? It is the same thing here. Jesus is saying, “This is who I am. I am going to bring good news the poor. My message is freedom, recovery and favour.” Jesus embodies good news. He demonstrates good news. We ought to experience Jesus as good news. He has come for the poor, lowly, needy, broken, bruised, fallen, failed. He came for those who had need. And he is that chosen person.
A chosen person – ‘He sent me’ – Galatians 4:4.
Gracious words (v22) All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. Jesus came to us full of grace and truth. When he speaks, he speaks healing, deliverance, life and grace. He wants to speak gracious words to us this week. We have to catch the heart of Jesus – tender, gentle, loving. Dane Ortland – the heart of God for sinners. He walks among us today with that same intention.
The mission of the church: Acts 1:1
Our mission is to continue to do all that Jesus began and taught. That is why when we ready Isaiah 61, we can read it as applying to us too because we are united to him. We can dare to say, “Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me…” Every believer shares His anointing. The same spirit that rested upon him. We have to find ways to express his heart in our ministry and our lives, that his graciousness will flow through us to other people. We need to seek every day to live in the power of the spirit.
He has anointed us for this task:
• The Upper Room
• His departure
• Pentecost – trying to do God’s work without God’s help will find.
Step into His anointing
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
Spend time with God for fresh anointing:
Look up to God, the Sovereign Lord – hand over to him all the distracting cares and worries. Know that he is in control so you can have peace and rest.
Open yourself to the Spirit – don’t be afraid of the Spirit (he is the spirit of Jesus).
Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Anointed Servant – he is the one who walks among us. Knowing who we are. Knowing our circumstances. He comes not to judge or to condemn but to heal and to set free.
Take a moment to let what you have heard sink in. To know that Jesus the anointed servant is here. He is tabernacling amongst us. The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us. He is here. He wants to meet with you and to minister his love, grace, freedom, and favour to you. Find time today to be still and quiet with him and say, Lord Jesus I want to meet with you and become more like you. That is the desire of my heart.