Many of our country's forefathers held John Leland in high esteem. Yet in his journal we discover he often felt unworthy to preach and perhaps ashamed of his past prior to being saved. In my opinion, this humbleness enabled him to be used of God.
I fear, like John Leland, that many people live in shame and never learn to accept God's forgiveness.
In my years in the camping ministry, I listened to many stories from young women who had suffered at the hands of a man. Often such encounters would lead the girl into a life of entrapment. Feeling as though she were damaged goods, she'd allow herself to be in a position again to receive such abuse, perhaps even seeking it out thinking that was the only way to be 'loved.' Once a victim, she moves into engaging in sinful behavior and becomes trapped in a vicious circle, not able to discern between good love and brutal lust.
Elder Leland felt a great conviction against his former life. We don't know what that former life entailed, but we can see his great sorrow for it. We know that prior to God grasping his heart, he attended dances and other 'frivolities' and that he was ashamed of this. The above statement was a result of witnessing the baptism of a young lady he'd danced with. Her commitment to change and discovery of a new life obviously impacted him.
In Isaiah 61, we find hope for the victim of this vicious cycle of a sin committed against them thus leading them to engage in sin themselves.
The speaker in Isaiah 61 is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. After the Prophet Isaiah recorded what the Messiah would do with respect to Israel and the Gentiles, we see the Messiah focusing on the individual and on His plans for each person:
- "To preach good tidings unto the meek." Note, it is to the meek. The meek are those who are poor, humble, and afflicted. Those who are proud will not look to God for help. They look to themselves for inner strength and power, or to their knowledge of science and humanities, but they do not look to God.
- "He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted." When a person experiences the consequences of sin, it is heart-wrenching. When a person feels crushing shame for a sin, conviction to change can rise from the dust. Jesus was sent to be a cast or a splint for the injured heart, thus providing a way for that conviction to bring change. As such, Jesus makes a way for healing to happen and to prevent or protect from further injury, IF the person is willing to humble herself and let Him work in her life. But like a broken bone, healing may take time.
- "To proclaim liberty to the captives." Like the young ladies I mentioned above, many people are held captive by a sin they cannot gain victory over. But Christ was sent to proclaim liberty. Where does that liberty come from? When He was on earth, He met many people enslaved by sin, including the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). When she expressed some faith by calling Him Lord, He didn't condemn her but told her to "go, and sin no more." He proclaimed to her liberty. Then He gave Himself to be the final offering for sin. Upon Him our sins were placed so that we too can "go, and sin no more."
- "To proclaim...the opening of the prison to them that are bound." When sin shackles us to the walls of our wretched life, death holds the keys to our prison door. When Jesus died and was buried, He went into that prison and took those keys. And when He rose again, He conquered death and gave freedom to all who will believe, accept Him as their sin offering, and then follow Him out of that cell. For the young woman who abandoned her body and self-respect to the use of men or for the moment of ecstasy, He opened the prison. Will she trust Him and come out?
- "To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God." When we give ourselves over to Him, accepting the liberty He offers and walking through that opened prison door, we can have hope that God will prevail against our enemies. They cannot touch our soul. They cannot take away our Heavenly Home and the freedom we have in our heart and will someday have in Heaven. That hope enables us to hold up our heads and walk a straight path. What can man do unto us? We are safe and secure under the wings of our Saviour for eternity.
- "To comfort all that mourn." Like John Leland, we at times look back and wish we'd not lived the life we did. We wish we'd made other choices or not allowed ourselves to be in a position of vulnerability or become a victim and slave to sin. But in Christ, we find comfort. We will not forever be under the dark cloud of the sins of our past. When we get to Heaven, we will remember them no more.
- "To give beauty for ashes." The world around us is burning away in the lust of its eyes and the lust of its flesh and in its pride of life. It affects us. We experience the consequences of man's sin even as all creation does. But in our hearts, we find beauty in Christ. We find beauty in the hope of eternal life He gives us. And one day, we will stand in Heaven and be awed by the beauty of His presence and the place He has prepared for us.
- "The oil of joy for mourning." Scarred, we mourn what might have been. Pain of sins deepen our sorrow, but when we look to Christ and what He has done for us, and what He has planned for us, we receive the healing balm of joy. How can you not have joy when you reflect on Him and the tremendous love He has for you?
- "The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." When we focus on the entrapment of sin in our lives, we are weighed down. But, when we focus on the freedom we experience in Christ, we can do nothing more than praise Him, and that praise rests upon our shoulders like a delicate chiffon scarf.
- "That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." Did you notice? Trees of righteousness. You don't become that by staying in the captivity of sin. "Go, and sin no more." Victory over sin requires action on our part. We must leave the old life and plant ourselves in Christ and the life He wants us to live. Only when we live according to His ways will He be glorified. And honey, we are created for His glory.