When God Flips Us (Isaiah 61)

I am intrigued by people who flip houses, for two reasons.

  1. Flippers see what I cannot see. When I look at a broken down house I see nothing but a dump, but Flippers can see all kinds of potential. Flippers see a fine fixer-upper (cue the Rock Trolls from “Frozen”).
  2. Flippers get to call themselves Flippers, which sounds quite cool.

Flippers are able to deconstruct and then reconstruct a house that not only becomes habitable again but becomes valuable and desirable.

God is the consummate Flipper.

Isaiah wrote the section of Scripture we call Isaiah 61 to people who had been conquered, deported and enslaved. Their world had been blown to pieces. Their lives were in shambles. From their humiliated and defeated perspective, they were beyond salvage. But God specializes in flipping lost causes. Where we see irreparable ruin, God sees promise. Where we see a pile of manure, God sees compost.

Here is Isaiah 61 in The New Living Translation, with a few parenthetical notes I have added. In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus applies the first section of this passage to Himself and to His kingdom agenda, which is why the pronouns are capitalized.

On behalf of God, the prophet announces liberation, recovery, and restoration.

v.1) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort (heal) the brokenhearted  and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

v.2) He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. (In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus intentionally closes the scroll before reading this last statement, which means Jesus did not come to condemn us!)

v.3) To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory (deeply rooted, strong, stable).

v.4) They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations (a return to productivity).

v.5) Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards.

v.6) You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.

v.7) Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

God directly reinforces this liberation, recovery, and restoration.

v.8) “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward My people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.

v.9) Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”                                              

The prophet expresses the transcendent and irrepressible joy and hope of the liberated, recovering, restored people of God.

v.10-11) I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. The Sovereign Lord will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

There are ten upgrading exchanges in this passage, all fulfilled in Christ:

  1. We exchange poverty and oppression for the good news of God’s intervention (v.1).
  2. We exchange brokenheartedness for God’s healing comfort (v.1).
  3. We exchange captivity and bondage for God’s liberation (v.1).
  4. We exchange debilitating and exhausting grief for God’s favor and grace (v.2).
  5. We exchange wretched doom (ashes) for God’s approving crown of beauty (v.3).
  6. We exchange despondent heaviness for God’s joyful blessing (v.3).
  7. We exchange devastating despair for God’s festive praise (v.3).
  8. We exchange ruined failure and waste for God’s new start (vv.4-5).
  9. We exchange humiliating shame for God’s double share of honor (v.7).
  10. We exchange suffered consequences for God’s justice and faithfulness (v.8-9).

No wonder the prophet erupts in joyful and hopeful praise at the end of this chapter! In the Christ-following life, joy and hope are not pursuits or objectives. Joy and hope are results. They are effects. They are outcomes. When we begin upgrading our lives for Christ’s life in us, all of the joy and hope we could ever need begins bubbling up through our union with Christ.

In light of these ten upgrading exchanges, please read verses 10 and 11 again. This rendering combines the New Living Translation, New International Version, The Voice, The Common English Bible, and The New English Translation.

I am overwhelmed with joy and my soul vibrates with exuberant hope, because of the Eternal Lord my God! For God has dressed me with the garments of deliverance and has wrapped me in a robe of His righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit, or a bride adorned in her jewelry. For just as the ground produces its crops and a garden yields its produce, so the sovereign Lord will cause deliverance to grow, and give His people reason to praise God in the sight of all the nations.”         

Faith exercise questions:

  • Do you know anybody who has been “flipped” by God? What was their response?
  • When has God “flipped” you? What was your response?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges have you experienced?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges are you currently experiencing?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges do you want or need to experience?
  • From the passage, what is the next faith-step for you? Which of God’s promises do you need to claim? Do you need to be flipped?
  • What if Isaiah 61:10-11 can be our “new normal?” What if God WANTS to bring us into a joy-full and hope-full life that lifts us above hardships and attacks? Are you in?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)