A YEAR OF FAVOUR
Jesus had returned to his hometown of Nazareth and, as an honored guest, was given the opportunity to read the scroll at the synagogue.
Whether he chose the passage from Isaiah 61 or it was the scheduled reading, it was clearly divinely orchestrated. This messianic prophecy described the nature of the Messiah’s work perfectly.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
If you know the story of this event in Nazareth from Luke 4, you may have noticed something unusual about the way Jesus read the passage. He stopped in the middle of a sentence—right after “the year of the Lord’s favor” and before “the day of vengeance.” Why? Because the day of retribution comes later. When Jesus came, he came for favor.
What did Jesus mean by “the year of the Lord’s favor”? It sounds like a New Year’s blessing, but it’s hard to imagine him thinking, Okay, according to the Gregorian calendar that will be established centuries from now, I was born a few years bc—not sure how my people figured that—which makes this year ad (28? 29? 30?). So yes, this year is the year of God’s favor. No, the passage prophesies of a season, an era, an unfolding of history.
It seems clear that we are still living in that era; Jesus didn’t revoke favor after the resurrection but instead sent his followers into the world to proclaim it. So what, then, is favor? And what does it mean to be living in this season of history?
Favor is hard to define but not very difficult to describe. Favor is an invitation into God’s shalom—his peace, wholeness, fullness, kindness, abundance, and well-being. It’s an assurance that he is with us and looks kindly on us—that his people live under his smile. It means he is uniquely disposed to pour out his grace on all who will receive it, that he is the wind in our sails, that his promises are “yes and amen,” that the God of glory is on our side, and that none of our obstacles or opposition are any match for him. Favor assures us that it’s not irresponsible to put the weight of our hardships on him and refuse to feel the burden of them ourselves. It means even our problems will work out for our advancement. It tells us it’s okay to laugh today. As much as we want.
It also means I’m his favorite. (Comes from the same word, right?) Of course, it means you are too.
I think that’s a good word for 2016. As a child of God, you have every right to assume all of the above for this coming year. This year (literal) is within the year (figurative) of God’s favor. That means favor is yours. You can walk in confidence that he is lavishly sharing the inheritance of his Son with all who find their life in him.
That makes the coming year look like a very good year. And it will be. Live with anticipation of seeing the goodness of God show up in your life in remarkable ways. Your faith and the unfolding of history have combined to place you in the center of his favor, and you are covered with it wherever you go.