At Christmas we celebrate the Good News of the birth of Jesus. Isaiah describes it as being like a light shining in the darkness. The Hebrews in Isaiah’s time, six Centuries before the birth of Jesus, felt they had been abandoned by God. As a consequence of their rebellion against God they had lost their spiritual protection and been conquered and oppressed by other nations. Their punishment was temporary. The Prophet Isaiah passed on the Good News that God would intervene in history in the future – through the birth of a child in Galilee (9.1) and “the government will be on his shoulders” (v. 6) This intervention would “shatter the yoke that burdened them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (v. 4) – i.e. our human fear of death and separation from God. The Good News was that a saviour would come and redeem individuals from their fear of death and the sin guilt that prevented them from being in the presence of God. To understand what God is doing in history, we need to understand why a saviour was needed, what this saviour needed to do and God’s desire to “make righteousness”. (Isaiah 61.11)
1. Why do we need a Saviour?
I was brought up as a cradle Anglican in a more Liberal environment where it was vaguely assumed that we were all saved by our baptism and only had to live a good life to be included in the heavenly kingdom. I remember mocking evangelicals who seemed to think Anglicans needed to be saved. What I did not understand, until I read the whole Bible myself and became involved in healing ministry, was that: