Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11 (NRSV)
Chapter 61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; Verse 2to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; Verse 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Verse 4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Verse 8For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Verse 9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
Verse 10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Verse 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
The afflicted, brokenhearted, imprisoned, mourners, and devastated—these are the ones to whom the good tidings came and still come. God is not only faithful from a distance but comes bearing good tidings of an actual change in our situation. Now we are “a people whom the Lord has blessed,” and we are clothed with the garments of salvation. Many in the COVID-19 pandemic have experienced fear, sickness, isolation, and mourning. These are precisely the people to whom God brings good tidings and comfort. We can rest assured that, despite appearances to the contrary, God is at work bringing righteousness and blessing in the midst of it all. God reminds us that the story is not over; it has taken a very different turn. God’s promise of new life, embodied in God’s coming to us, causes us to rejoice.
Lord, thank you that your word of life comes especially to the afflicted, those who mourn, the brokenhearted, the imprisoned, and the devastated. Amen.