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Proverbs 4:23   Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 27:19   As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.

Flaming Heart


Isaiah 61:1-3

      Isaiah 61 prophetically announces several broad intents of the Lord: the restoration of Israel; the coming of Jesus; and healing the broken hearted. What it says about healing broken hearts, contingent upon the gospel, applies to the whole human race, should they choose to respond to His offer. Healing broken hearts and restoring people is remarkably the same for Jew or Gentile, or indeed any human being.

    Rom. 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
      My intent is to lay out the biblical progression for healing, how it is applied by the Lord, and the outcome for those who participate in it with Him. Luke 4:18 reports that Jesus took the scroll of Iaiah 61 and read from it:
    Is. 61:1 (KJV) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal (bind up) the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
      The order of what He says is as significant as the heart condition He identifies. The first priority is to preach the good news to the poor, that is, the meek and humble, either in attitude or circumstance or both. Wilson defines poor as the “oppressed, afflicted, wretched, but everywhere with the accessory idea of humility.” To preach good news to the ones who need to know that God sees and cares about them, and who are in a humble enough condition to hear—e.g., the fishermen responded more readily than the Pharisees. Humility calls for honest awareness of our condition—brokenhearted, captive, blind to certain critical truths, and needing to be set free from what has oppressed our lives. In one verse Isaiah and Luke are describing the condition of man since the Fall, declaring not only our brokenness but four stages the Lord intends to lead us through to recovery. Those stages of recovery stand out better in the KJV, and I have chosen to use it for this passage.

      Stage One

       The phrase in Is. 61 for heal the brokenhearted is “bind up” the broken hearted. The word heal, sometimes used in translation, is not referenced in Strong’s; it is the word bind or bind up that we must look to for definition of the nature of the first stage of recovery. It means to wrap tightly, as in swaddling, but this is a swaddling of the heart or we could say of the soul. Remember what brokenhearted means from Chapter 7; the word is shabar. It means to burst, crush, and destroy, to break down, off, or in pieces— a rather severe breaking. There are two primary implications to binding up our heart: one is like a medical tending to torn or crushed flesh; the other is what tending communicates emotionally and spiritually and how it works to restore connection, security, and hope.

       The first thing the Lord would impart is the quality of His love, likened to wrapping tightly or swaddling. That kind of wrapping brings an experience of being treasured, already a healing message. It is potentially wordless; a simple and powerful gesture which imparts safety, security, and comfort—these are the initial priorities. Comfort feels like binding up the wound; it communicates that brokenness matters, that someone gets it, cares, starts to intervene in a harmless, non-scary, assuring way that brings hope and begins to apply what needed to happen when the breaking occurred but was unavailable then. I have seen this kind of response from the Lord many times; it is characteristic of His initial encounters with His children. He does not start with things that greatly challenge us but makes a way for comfort, acceptance, and safety to register. He shows us the tender side of His nature first—not that there isn’t a stern, truth-oriented side, but the Scripture often speaks of mercy and truth, in that order—mercy comes first.

       When the love and compassion of the Lord settle upon someone, people who may have been anxious and relatively alone all their lives often say: I feel so peaceful. It’s because they have been joined. The root word for peace means to join; to set at one again. Stage One is to be wrapped tightly in His love, to experience being cared about simply, profoundly, and in a way that works to dispel shame and fear. That experience with the Lord is usually accompanied by tears, though the person wouldn’t be quite able to explain them; it’s being touched so tenderly and lovingly that tears are the only response that matches.

       Once we have experience of the Lord wrapping us in His love, we have contrast and the beginning of security. We can see how different it is from what has happened in the past, and realize that He does not advocate or agree with the breaking influences imparted to us and does not go about connection the way people did who weren’t listening to Him. Stage One calls for frequent repetition, as do all the stages—they are meant to be ongoing resources for transacting life with the Lord. This is especially true at critical junctures when security and turning to the Lord for truth are again needed. These interactions serve to open the door to the second stage.

       Stage Two

       With security and a place of refuge restored, we are better able to hear Him preach deliverance to the captives. Deliverance from captivity speaks to the multi-faceted spiritual battle that has diverted us from God and holds us captive. There is an implied reference to delivering us from the deceit that disconnected us in the garden and has produced endless complications since. The meaning of the word captive says as much. It means a prisoner of war. Who is the war between? Primarily good and evil, God and the serpent, who deceitfully abducted us in such a way that we didn’t know we were being abducted. In this stage we begin to realize that many of the things we have taken in as truth are not true; they didn’t come from the Lord and they do not agree with Him. They in fact hold us in an illegitimate bondage which we have not been able to see clearly and therefore do not know that it is bondage and can be broken. This is true whether the bondage is by direct assault or deliberate plantings of the enemy, or it comes through the common blindness of man since the Fall. More often than not it is a mysterious combination of both, which makes it devilishly difficult to track! Stage Two means to take apart the false structures and their imprisoning influences and to replace them with the Creator’s view and provision for the life He gave.

       Stage Three

       As spiritual awareness and discernment grow in Stage Two, it leads to the development of Stage Three—recovery of sight to the blind. Blind is a word with huge scope. It means the physically blind, many of whom the Lord healed. I love Bartimaeus, there beside the road yelling out to Jesus because he knows he is passing in front of him. Jesus stops and asks him what he wants, and Bartimaeus says: that I might have my sight. There is no greater difference to be made in Bartimaeus’ life than that! And Jesus does restore his physical sight. But blind also refers to metaphorical sight, dulling of intellect or spiritual perception—blind to the things of God. A good description of metaphorical blindness is given in Is 42: 16; 18-20

    I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
    I will lead them in paths they have not known.
    I will make darkness light before them,
    And crooked places straight,
    These things I will do for them,
    And not forsake them.
    Hear, you deaf;
    And look, you blind, that you may see.
    Who is blind but My servant,
    Or deaf as the messenger whom I sent?
    Who is blind as he who is perfect,
    And blind as the Lord’s servant?
    Seeing many things, but you do not observe;
    Opening the ears, but he does not hear.
      Obviously we all fit somewhere into that description because we are prone to think we know and to count ourselves among those who aren’t blind, when many things are not yet reconciled with or exchanged for the Lord’s truer light. When Jesus was talking about spiritual blindness in John 9:39f, the Pharisees were offended: Surely, You are not calling us blind. His response ties their pride to sin (knowing better than God):
    Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.
Stage Three is an ongoing part of healing, one we can expect to have continue throughout life, as there is no way to exhaust the things the Lord is teaching us and moving us into with Him. But it must start with and be pursued from the perspective that indeed there are areas of blindness for which we need recovery of sight. Humbling is obviously an element here and is a prerequisite for hearing the gospel all the way through!

       Stage Four

       Consistent application of all three stages to our brokenness leads gradually to Stage Four—being actually set free from the influences that have crushed and clouded our soul. When we can see, we see we are under things that have bruised and oppressed us, and we see that is not where we belong. We also begin to see that He does not intend for us to stay there! We can be freed from them and stop spinning in the confusion and frustration they have caused. The word for liberty used in Luke 4:18 means freedom, pardon, deliverance, forgiveness, remission—that’s the whole work of the cross coming to fulfillment, the buying of our liberty and return. The word “set” is also powerful; it means set apart, by implication those sent out, properly on a mission. The purpose for the stages of healing is to restore us to the design in which we are made, enable us to discover the hope of His calling, to be able to hear and see it, and be free to follow Him in it.

       To set at liberty them that are bruised. Bruised means crushed. It is like the word for broken hearted where we began, but at Stage One, He binds us up, wraps us tightly in healing comfort and love, which need to precede the greater challenges of sorting out truth and balancing old allegiances with the Lord’s central role in our lives. Here at stage four, being delivered from deceit and our sight recovering, we begin to experience release from oppression. It loses influence and power because we no longer believe things that were imparted askew. Freed in that way puts us in a healthier condition to be sent out, no longer suffering from the bruised state in which He found us.

       Jesus declares that His Father sent Him to heal (bind up) the brokenhearted. The word sent is the same word used when He declares that He will set at liberty them that are bruised. In both cases the meaning is set apart, sent out on a mission. He is sent out and means to send us. This is repeated in His priestly prayer in John 17; there the same word is used for Him being sent into the world as Him sending us into the world.

    John 17:18, 19 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified (purified, made holy) by the truth.
      We can expect these stages to touch our lives continually, as they are based on His one diagnosis for all—brokenhearted. They are designed to proceed in order and then to overlap as various contingencies in life challenge or confuse us. We can also see these stages as His instruction and preparation for ministry—they are the means by which we are healed personally and they will be the means by which we minister healing to the hearts of others. We won’t be effective until we have gone through it ourselves, and are able to join Him in how He means to deliver healing to His children. Later in Isaiah 61 that is the model He presents. He refers to those who move through healing with Him as those who will be called trees of righteousness—people will notice the difference in them—trees He has planted who will glorify Him; and they are the ones He will use to rebuild similar ruins.
    That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, the He may be glorified. And they shall rebuild the old ruins…
      Once we move through the ruins ourselves, we are in a position to aid another on the same journey. It’s a description of the Lord’s credentialing process. He has to raise up people who know about heart healing because His whole world needs it. All are brokenhearted and all are deceived:
    Rev. 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…
      The verses following verse 1 describe how the four stages will be carried out and arrive at liberty. Let’s look specifically at the exchanges that relate to the four stages, as they give a clear picture of what it will look like living through the healing stages He has devised.
    To comfort all who mourn,
    To console those who mourn in Zion,
    To give them beauty for ashes,
    The oil of joy for mourning,
    The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
      It is easy to see how comfort all who mourn relates to bind up the brokenhearted. They are very similar, but this view of Stage One adds the contingency of mourning—not our most comfortable activity; in fact it is something we tend to avoid. It is extremely vulnerable, and if there is no matching comfort, we will not go there. True comfort, of the sort the Lord intends, depends upon connection. We can’t receive without a connection through which to receive. And apparently we don’t heal without mourning and being met in it. We have to acknowledge that the losses are as significant as the Lord considers them and be met in them. Comfort is one of the more powerful healing influences in the Lord’s arsenal, else mourning would simply be repeating the pain.

       There is little question but that we have things to mourn (if we just consider the ways in which we have missed God), but that does not mean we will go ahead and mourn and receive His comfort. Mourning adds an additional aspect to the binding up of Stage One and points to what binding up tends to touch as it proceeds. When we experience comfort which wasn’t available when we needed it, we grieve the lack of comfort because we see that it makes all the difference and leads to deeper levels of healing.

       The New Testament word for comfort is parakaleo, which is a combination of para, close alongside, and kaleo, to call—one called close alongside, who consoles, speaks tenderly to, and ministers healing. Notice how close parakaleo is to the word Paraclete, the word used for the Holy Spirit—the Comforter who dwells with and in us to reveal Jesus and carry out the restoration prophesied. Comfort is relational, deeply relational, whereas most of our means of compensating for the lack of it aren’t relational—food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, etc. They do not hold real comfort, so we must continue and increase them to accomplish diversion from pain—the best they can do.

       When the reality hits that things occurred that have caused brokenness, comfort enables us to let go of its devastating effects, in exchange for being valued, heard, cared about and put back together—bind up the brokenhearted. Comforting those who mourn is the crux of what Stage One looks like happening!

       Ashes and brokenness are counterparts. Exchanging our ashes for His beauty relates to delivering the captives; captivity offers and produces mechanisms that have no life-giving power—we end up with ashes which we try to get to work. Wilson defines the word ashes as a covering of the head, a bandage with which to cover a wound or disguise oneself. Beauty refers to an adornment of splendor, to be adorned with something that gleams—the extreme opposite of ashes. If we do not have a gleaming adornment available, we must compensate with things far less effective, and until they are replaced with real splendor, it is difficult to call them a lie because we are standing on them! Is. 44:20 says:

    He feeds on ashes;
    A deceived heart has turned him aside;
    And he cannot deliver his soul,
    Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
      Figuratively, “right hand” refers to our strongest side. To pronounce our strongest element a lie is an overwhelming challenge, however freeing it may be once accomplished. Consequently, we remain trapped in untruths for a long time, confused and frustrated by trying to get them to work. This is the captivity described in this passage, and it is indeed formidable. In Chapter 44 Isaiah cites the snares; in Chapter 61 he proclaims how God intends to free us from them. The same word for ashes is used in both Isaiah 44:20 and Isaiah 61:3. They are ways of talking about the state of the prisoners of war, those who need their former beauty restored but cannot accomplish it themselves.

       Stage Three is recovering sight to the blind, which holds some implication of mourning in that both kinds of blindness (physical or spiritual) are losses we have to mourn until sight is recovered and we can move on in life. If we go ahead and mourn with the Lord, He comforts, helps us see the truth about what we are grieving, and shows us His alternative. Seeing it in His light has the effect of lifting us out of oppression and loss. Obviously when blindness turns to sight, there is freedom and joy, exchanging the oil of joy for mourning. Mourning is truthful declaration with God. Strong’s says the figurative meanings of oil are richness, anointing, fruitfulness. On the other side of mourning and in union with God, are richness of fellowship, His anointing for the things of God, and fruitfulness as we follow Him—the oil of joy is His gift of new life!

       But notice that the pivotal point for these exchanges and restoration is mourning. It could be called the pivotal point in the chapter because it is where meeting with the Lord and His work of rebuilding begins. Well, what do we have to mourn? There are our own shortcomings and the cost of them. There are the wounds in life we have experienced, whether physical or verbal, and the humiliating or defiling messages that have diminished our view of ourselves and perhaps misrepresented God in our sight. There is the gradual discovery of all the ways in which we have missed the Lord and bouts of mourning and repentance as we face our sin. The sorrow over missing the Lord is magnified as we have more experience of the depth of His love. If we really face any of these squarely, grief will register, and that is where we encounter the need for the comfort He means to bring.

       We have to get in touch with what we have to mourn to mourn it, else it is buried and carried as heaviness and dampening of joy. To see it as a meeting place with the Lord where the clearing of destructive heart deposits occurs is the shift in understanding needed. The Lord turns our personal mourning into greater awareness of the common condition of man, which then makes sense of everyone’s wounding and moves us toward both receiving and sharing His compassion for our own pain and that of others.

       Stage Four is to set at liberty them that are bruised—oppressed, afflicted. A spirit of heaviness is good at producing oppression and affliction. Heaviness is a very descriptive word. Strong’s says heaviness means feeble, obscure, dark, to be weak, despondent—quite sapped of energy and life. Heaviness is the legacy of the things that have wounded, diminished, and tormented us in life. What I see happening with people as they are healed is the heaviness loosens, breaks up and gradually lifts. All of the healing of earlier stages contributes to heaviness changing. And there is a point at which we come out from under heaviness because it loses power, the elements responsible for it cease to hook our hearts because they are being broken up and replaced. There’s a point at which we realize we are not so much under the customary weight of heaviness. The first response to noticing that is amazement, and then praise! The lifting of long-standing heaviness is replaced with a different garment, a garment of praise, the new covering we may not have thought possible.

       In Is. 61:1-3 four stages of healing are described; they all move toward the same outcome—setting free. The first set declares what needs to happen and in what order; the second set speaks of what it will look like being applied to us and the exchanges that are available from the saving One.

    The response of those who have experienced His stages of healing is declared in verse 10:

    I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
    My soul shall be joyful in my God;
    For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
    He has covered me with the robe of righteousness….
      The stated purpose is healing of heart, but here in verse 10 it is linked with salvation and the Lord’s robe of righteousness. It’s the work of redemption, saving us out of abduction and restoring us to His heart.

       Note that the healing progression happens with the Lord. It depends on connection with him and cannot happen without it (He cannot deliver his soul, Isaiah 44:20). The relational outcome of the healing He describes is a different place with Him, which was prophesied by Jeremiah.

    Jer. 24:7 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.
      I think it is fair to call this a definition of biblical healing, since it is declared by the Lord and carried out by His active involvement. The individual aspects of it are referred to many places in Scripture, but here it is all together in a clear order. We don’t start with being set at liberty; we start with having our heart wrapped tightly. Therefore we need to join the Lord in His order of things and proceed at His pace, first for our own healing and then in being equipped for the healing of others, should He draw us into that venture with Him. Each stage takes the time and reinforcement it takes to become established, and that implies learning to follow Him patiently, personally and on behalf of others. And, having gotten to Stage Three, recovering sight, we must realize that we might be plunged back into Stage One, the need to have our heart wrapped tightly again because of some particularly devastating occurrence in life. It will challenge us to invite Him in, go ahead and mourn with Him, and apply His means of recovery afresh.

       I hear Isaiah 61 as the heart of what God has been saying to us since the Fall: In His grace He is willing to put us back together, when He can get us to see our condition and turn toward Him with it. It’s been the story throughout the scriptural record—God calling to us and us not hearing well—which continues to this day. These are the dynamics of His healing process. His stages of healing unite our hearts with His, a goal which extends far beyond easing of pain. His means cause us to know Him because healing occurs with Him, and with Him one cannot miss the tenor of His heart.

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