The Year of God’s favour

With Tony Horsfall

Wednesday 9 August

After graduating from London School of Theology, Tony served as a missionary and as a pastor before heading up a missions training programme at Bawtry Hall. Since 2004, he has had his own ministry,Charis Training and has a passion to see people grow in their relationship with God. As an author his books include Rhythms of Grace, Working from a place of Rest, Deep calls to Deep and most recently, Grief Notes. Tony loves nothing better than to lead people on retreat, taking quality time to be with God. Here the New Horizon Media team bring you a summary of what he had to say during the morning Bible Teaching at #NH2023.

Thank you for that warm welcome. It is a bit cooler today but I’m am persevering with the short-sleeved shirts as an act of faith.  The just shall live by faith.   Somewhere the sun is still shining!  Good morning we are going to continue our studies in Isaiah 61 – this amazing chapter that is helping us understand the theme of joy from the ashes.

Reading from Isaiah 61: 1- 11

Today we are going to look at the application of this good news. How the anointed servant applies good news to our lives. We remember in the temple, Isaiah saw the Sovereign Lord. We talked about God sometimes unravelling us in order that we can feel our need of Him. But God meets Isaiah  even there.


Isaiah 6: 6 – 8   – God takes the initiative to bring cleansing, forgiveness and healing. When God exposes our brokenness it is painful but it brings healing when we apply the benefits of the cross.  Isaiah needed this experience of grace in order that he might minister grace to the people of Israel.  God has a message of comfort to bring to us and it comes from a prophet whose life has been transformed by grace.


Isaiah 61:2  To proclaim the year of God’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God.  It is a proclamation of good news but also the “year of God’s favour”.  We are reminded of a God who is kindly disposed towards us. A God whose heart is full of love towards us. He is not condemning us. He wants to meet us at our point of need, to help us. It is about mercy and grace and favour.

Mercy – God doesn’t give us what we do deserve

Grace – God gives us what we don’t deserve

Favour – the kindness of someone who loves you dearly.

I can understand mercy and grace but favour… that I am His favourite (not exclusively because we are all his favourites) because he shows me His favour. This is the Jesus who is speaking to us through these verses.


The year of Jubilee (the year of God’s favour) – a time of setting the captives free just as Jesus restores everything we lost in the fall and gives us our freedom. The cross is the basis and the place where all of that is dealt with and made available to us.


The hope that the enemies of Israel would have their day of reconning but you may know that when Jesus reads this passage in Luke 4 there is no mention of the day of vengeance. It may be because the manuscript didn’t have it or that he just didn’t say it.  Most scholars think that his focus was on the time of Salvation – there will be a day of reconning in the future… the contrast between the year of God’s favour and the day of vengeance.  There is a different time-scale.  Today is the day of favour, today is a day of salvation (1 Corinthians)  This is our moment.  This is our opportunity. God is kindly disposed towards us. 

In this passage in Isaiah, it is packed full. As you read it through, there are six verbs (action words) that describe what it is that the Messiah wants to do for us.  I’ve indentified them individually so we can get the feeling of the mercy, grace and favour that is flowing towards us like a mighty river.



Good news, favour and vengeance. It means to announce with divine authority. To preach and publish abroad this wonderful message of good news. We need to broadcast this message as good news and we need to receive it as good news. When Jesus began his ministry, Mark 1 says, “Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God, the time has come, the kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news.”Preaching that there is good news. I find it quite sad that some preaching doesn’t build people up, it knocks them down.  It discourages people… reminding them of how far they are falling short rather than who we are in Christ. Let us bring the good news of the gospel.  

Binds Up

Here the anointed servant is the one who binds up, who bandages us. It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan and whereas the priest and Levite passed by, the Samaritan bandaged up the man’s wounds. He got his robes dirty and his hands messy out of tender love for this victim at the side of the road. The Messiah doesn’t hold us at arms length because we are messed up.  He gets involved iwht us. It is an act of deep compassion towards us.  


He releases those who are captives, those who are spiritually blind.  The word of Jesus had great power. It is the same word by which God brought the world into being, “Let there be light” and he speaks into our souls and says, “Let there be light.”  When he says, “Be free” we are set free.  When he says, “Be whole” we are made whole.  


The next word he says is, “Comfort”  – it means to put strength into somebody. He is our merciful high priest who understands our need. Paul talks about the God of all comfort.  He loves to comfort His people and He does it through the scripture.  Isaiah is jam packed with amazing promises from God. He comforts us through His Spirit and through our friends. A bruised reed He will not break and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.


God is the great provider. His name is Jehovah Jireh. He provides everything we need to live a godly life. He is generous towards us.  When we have a need, we turned to Him and ask for our daily bread. 


He gives liberally and generously out of His storehouse.

“It is one thing to know the doctrines of the incarnation and the atonement and a hundred other vital doctrines.  It is another, more searching matter to know His heart for you.”

Dane Ortland

There is a difference between knowing things in your heard and believing it in your heart.  If you don’t know it in your heart, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand God’s heart towards you.

THE GREAT EXCHANGE – where He finds us

We can bring to God the ashes, mourning and despair and we can trade it in to receive beauty, joy and praise. Grace finds us in a difficult spot. First of all, we are sitting amongst the ashes. When people were in mourning, they would mark their forehead with ashes because they did not want to be happy.  It was a sign of disfigurement.

“There is nothing as useless bleak and dead as the ashes of yesterdays fire. In the Bible, the ashes represent devastation and loss.”

That is where grace finds us.  We are full of mourning and life seems to have no horizon. We are enveloped in the fog. We feel weighed down, oppressed and depressed.  You can be in a very dark place.

God comes to us, searches for us and finds us out.


In our darkest days we cry out to God and He invites us to do that.  The psalms invite us to use the words of scripture to voice our own deep emotion.  Lament is part of our experience and it is better that we get it out.

“The cries for help which echo through the gospels were expressions of lament directed to someone whose love and kindness reflected that of Yahweh and brought healing and deliverance to the oppressed and suffering.”

Dr David Smith

THE GREAT EXCHANGE – where He takes us

But the good news is that we don’t have to stay there in the ashes. There is wonderful transformation when we give our suffering to God. It causes us to open to God. In that humility and brokenness, something of the beauty and character of God is formed within us.


The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.  

Eliz K-Ross

I think you have met some beautiful people. Here is somebody who has suffered a great deal but they have come through. There is a gentleness, a compassion that would not have been there without those times of difficulty.

We may not understand at the time.  This is a process. Sometimes God acts miraculously. Other times it is more of a journey step by step but this beautification of God’s people happens through times of pain and brokenness.


Nehemiah and other returnees when they came back from the exile. There was deep sorrow at what they saw. But they also discovered a great joy at the same time. When they discovered and read the word of God. It is Nehemiah who makes that great statement, “The joy of the Lord shall be your strength.” The oil of joy speaks to us of the Holy Spirit – oil talks about anointing and Jesus shares that anointing with us.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11).

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your joy (John 16:22)


Even in the midst of our difficulties we find the grace to give praise. In the psalms, we see the psalmist expressing his grief and he still turns towards God and praises God. He enables us and gives to us garment of praise. In the darkest night, you can still see a glimmer of light. That is how it begins and then slowly the dawn comes, and the darkness begins to dissipate and somehow unbelievably, joy begin to rise in your heart. And sometimes you begin to feel a bit guilty about having joy after such sadness. That deep joy of knowing that God has a hold of your life and is working things out.  

People who have come to know the joy of the Lord do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. 

Henri Nouwen

These are the things that God wants to give to us.

AWAKE AWAKE 52: 1- 3

Here is a promise to finish with.  It is a call to the people on their return.

“Awake, awake Zion clothe yourself with strength… Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter of Zion, now a captive.  You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”


God takes the initiative. He comes to us and bestows these things to us. Sometimes we have to shake off the dust of disappointment, hurt and pain. We have to choose to rise up and take the chains off our necks and walk as a free person. As we have been sharing yesterday and today, my real prayer is that you will have a real encounter with God.  It shouldn’t be “sermon tasting” – a little bit of this and that.  But a genuine encounter with God – what is He saying to you. This is your moment and how will you respond?

God is totally for you and His favour rests upon you.  Tomorrow we are going to see how God transforms us into oaks of righteousness.

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