Reading: Luke 4:16-29, 42-43.
"To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (v.19). "All...
wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth"
It may interest you to know that that word 'acceptable' and that
word 'grace' are identical in the original. Verse 19 ought really
to be translated "to proclaim the year of grace of the Lord".
These were words of grace which were proceeding out of His mouth.
We are brought back to re-emphasize that word 'grace'. For some
reason the Lord is stressing that note at this time, and this
whole chapter is a chapter which circles round that one thing -
It introduces the whole of this age, this dispensation, from the
coming of the Lord Jesus in the first place, to His coming again,
which may not be long. Between those two comings is the year of
grace. It is a long year, but it is the year of grace. It is
therefore the acceptable year of the Lord. This particular time in
which we live is peculiarly the age of grace. I think we ought to
be profoundly grateful that we are born and are living in the age,
the day, of grace, and that the Lord keeps strictly to the nature
of grace in this dispensation. That is something for which to be
very thankful and something which we must not violate in our
hearts. If we do, we do so at our peril and to our loss, and we
can only really glorify God - this is what comes out here - and
please God and be in the way of the light of His countenance, His
blessing, when we really do come into perfect harmony with the
note that He has struck for any given time, and we are attuned to
that keynote. If we ever get on to any other line than that of
grace, things will begin to go hard with us; there will very soon
be discord and friction, but so long as we remain on this line of
grace, we are in oneness with Him, we are in tune with Him.
Now the day was introduced, the acceptable year of the Lord came,
with the Lord Jesus as the Anointed, the Spirit of the Lord upon
Him for this very purpose - to announce that the day of grace had
come. The Holy Spirit rested upon the Lord Jesus for the purpose
of introducing the day of grace. The Holy Spirit is working in
relation to the Lord Jesus right through that day according to the
nature of the day, that is grace. Well, it is announced.
Then it is demonstrated, and from the Old Testament two incidents
are taken, in order to bring the nature of grace home to this
people. "There were many widows in Israel in the days of
Elijah... and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to
Zarephath, in the land of Sidon" - a woman outside Israel -
and she was a widow. And that is grace. The incident is taken in
order to bring home this, that in Israel in those days the
attitude of heart and mind was such as to make it impossible for
the Lord to meet them in terms of grace. They were, perhaps,
regarding things as their rights. They were Israel and as Israel
they had a right to things. They were within the covenant and they
were standing upon the ground of legal right. Or perhaps some
other mood was operating in Israel, hurt, pride, offendedness with
God and His ways, rebellion of heart, stiffneckedness, something
which made it impossible for them to meet the Lord on the ground
of those who recognized the grace of God, and God had to go
outside to one who, when the Lord did do something for her, would
at once recognize she had no rights, that she stood in no legal
relationship for claim and that this was the unspeakable grace of
God to her.
That is what the Lord brought home to these people of Nazareth.
Evidently they were in a state like that, and the Lord read their
hearts and saw quite well that in Nazareth there was no condition
which would mean that they took the goodness of God in sending His
Son as an expression of His grace. They were taking everything as
their Israelitish rights, they were on some other basis.
Then the second thing taken from the Old Testament was that of
Naaman. There were many lepers in Israel, and all lepers have this
in common, that they are desperately in need. Somehow or other, in
Israel, the lepers being just as much in need as any other lepers,
were not in a condition to be dealt with in grace. We may be in as
desperate a need as anybody, perhaps a greater need than anybody
else, yet the Lord cannot meet us because we are in some frame of
mind that just exits the ground of grace from under our feet.
Maybe we are offended, we are hurt, we are aggrieved with the
Lord, something like that that just puts up a barrier between us
and the Lord and He cannot meet us. So the Lord says, "There
were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet:
and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian",
someone outside the boundary, who had none of the legal rights and
claims in Israel; he was healed.
To the woman outside and to the man outside, grace was a very
real thing, and grace is always grace to the outsider, to the one
who knows he or she is an outsider. We can be an insider and an
outsider at the same time. I mean, in our hearts we may know that
it has got to be all of the grace of God. In spirit, in mentality,
we can be outsiders in that way and find the grace of God.
Well, here are two great examples that the Lord gives. Here there
are no claims, no rights, no ground whatever of merit. There is
nothing here that can set up a situation that puts God under an
obligation to do something. Here is a state and position which, if
anything is going to happen, it is going to be the grace of God.
The Lord brought that home to the people at Nazareth and it got
home. It was a nail in a sure place. It stung. They saw the point.
"You people here are demanding, are claiming as your rights: you
have no due sense of your utter unworthiness or need, your
undoneness, your dependence upon the grace of God. Here God sends
His Son in grace right into your midst, He has been brought up in
your midst, but you have not a sufficient sense of the need of the
visitation of God in grace to open your hearts to His Son!" It
brought it home and they were wrath with Him. So grace was
introduced and grace was demonstrated and, so far as they were
concerned, pride of heart meant the grace was rejected. They were
not going to get down, let go. They were going to hold to their
rights, hold to their ground. We can do that in many ways and shut
the door to the Lord by not letting go, and they rejected the
grace of God. Well, He departed, and that is how it is. Grace
goes, and we are shut up to the outworking of a position in which
grace no longer operates. God forbid that that should be true in
any case here or in any way.
But the story, thank God, does not end there. They rejected; they
said, "Go, get out, we do not want you!" But when He came into
this other region they said, "Stay!" This multitude said, "Do not
go!" (Luke 4:42). Here is grace triumphant, and when some close
the door, there are always those who recognize the need of grace
and say, "Don't go, stay!" - in whom grace triumphs. The line of
the Lord's fullest blessing is the line of our most conscious need
of His grace. That is the way of the light of His countenance, and
it is not necessary for us to take the position of working to
merit salvation or of purely legalistic lines in order to rule
grace out. There are many ways in which we can get a condition of
heart which shuts the door to divine grace. The only thing to know
the grace of God, the unmerited favour of the Lord, is to realize
all the time that it must be all of Him and that we in no way have
any claim upon Him at all.
Edited and supplied by the Golden Candlestick Trust.