The OT Lesson for Sunday is the amazing vision of restoration by the prophet Isaiah. Its language is beautiful, poetic, hope-filled. And yet. And yet, if you really read it, you can't help but know the pain and the sorrow that drips from these words of hope. One can't write of restoration without a precipitating tragedy lurking in the past.
The Exile was/is that precipitating tragedy. God's chosen people had been conquered by the Babylonians and spread to the four corners of the known world as slaves. Their holy places had been destroyed. Their God, it seemed, had left them to fend for themselves. Hope was hard to find.
The lesson from last week, the beginning of Isaiah 40 has Isaiah eavesdropping on the court of heaven as the Godhead determines that Israel has paid its price, its sins had been forgiven, and their return to God's graces should be put into motion. This weeks lesson, from Isaiah 61 tells of what that restoration is made; hope in the midst of trial, good news for the oppressed, binding for the brokenhearted, freedom for the prisoner. It is agonizingly beautiful good news.