Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt. 4: Oaks of Righteousness

Why do you minister?

Are you involved in ministry? What does it look like? What were your motivations? What are your goals?

These are important questions for anyone feeling called to help others, in any capacity. These questions are directed at the core of our ego, our expectations, our desires, and our sense of worth.

This is a touchy subject because as humans, we all have emotional needs. These were created by God, and in His Kingdom, they should be perfectly met. However, we live in the world, where people sin and fail, and we all are subject to the thorns that have filled the land. Recovering from those wounds takes intentionality and time, and ultimately, surrender to God.

Isaiah 61 is a promise of healing and transformation, which is why we stressed that this work must start in ourselves before we could ever hope to walk it out into the hurting world. And as we, and those to whom we minister, receive this healing, we become something glorious. Oaks of righteousness. To our modern ears, this sounds silly. We're well-behaved trees? What does this even mean? There is a theme of trees in prophetic imagery throughout the Bible, but to simplify things, step outside and observe an oak. They are tall, strong, and rise above their surroundings. They produce an abundance of fruit (in the form of acorns) and house all sorts of animals. They beautify the landscape and fortify the ground. All in all, they are good and wonderful things.

But we're not talking about trees; we're talking about people. And in the end, we're not talking about people, we're talking about God. “...that He may be glorified.” God anoints a servant with His spirit, sends the servant to proclaim good news and grant blessings, so that the recipients may be transformed into oaks of righteousness. However, they are a “planting of the LORD.” He is the one planting and growing the trees, and He is the one who receives the glory. There are alternate readings of this verse, however the bottom line remains: God grows and God receives the glory.

And this is why we started with the question, “why do you minister?” Isaiah 61 is a work of God, and not a work of man's strength. And the end result is transformation of others and the glorification of God. You should not seek to minister for the purposes of status, personal fulfillment, experience, meaning, or any other goal that points towards you. Doing so is toiling in our strength, and will not produce much fruit. God works, and calls us to take part in it. We should hunger for the things God is doing, and like the worker in Proverbs, it will be for our good: “A worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on [Proverbs 16:26 NASB].” If our hunger is for our own fulfillment, it will urge us on towards endless striving.

It is so much better to desire God, and hunger to be where He is, to do the work He is doing, and to embrace the privilege of getting to wonder at the glorious oaks growing up around you.

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