“…To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free” (Isaiah 58:6)
I want a superpower. It seems that superheroes are all the rage right now. You can’t go to a movie these days without seeing a sledge hammer carrying Norse god doing battle with his cosmic foes or an eccentric millionaire genius flying around in his red suit of iron, blowing up bad guys and outsmarting the villain.
However, if I could have my superpower of choice, I would leave the mysticism and pyrotechnics to the movie variety of superheroes. My superpower would be undoing. In short order I would be the most popular of superheroes, for I would undo the wrongs of the world. I would change today and make it yesterday so the words rashly spoken could be wiped away, and thus undo the hurt they caused in sundering friend from friend. I would swoop in and reverse the choice made by the well-intentioned husband, who invested the family savings in a foolish scheme that rendered him penniless and ashamed to face his wife and children. I would undo the harm parents do their children, laying upon them their own unfulfilled dreams as a burden to great to bear, and I would certainly go back into my own past and undo much. I would want the power to undo.
Unfortunately, I have no such superpower, and I am powerless, save for a timely word of advice as a prohibitive when opportunity serves, to undo much of anything, and absolutely powerless to undo what has already been done. If only I had had my powers men would not live in regret and sorrow for their past transgressions. Had I only been on the job, like the comic book superheroes who are always present to save the day, deeds would not have been done that set a chain of events in motion that ended in such suffering, sorrow, and grief. Like superman under the influence of kryptonite, I am helpless to stop today’s wrongs from turning into tomorrow’s tragedies, save for my humble attempts to do so in my own life. If it is up to me to save us from ourselves, we are indeed undone, and the world must be what it will be as a result of all that people do, both to themselves and each other. And we all know what a terrible place that can be!
However, there is good news in this regard. There is, in point of fact, a great Undoer. No, He does not force our hand to do what is right, nor does He always succeed in stopping us from doing what we shouldn’t, but He is the greatest Righter of wrongs that has ever been or ever will be. Many years ago, I remember sitting in a church in rural Virginia. A large crowd was gathered there to hear my friend and I minister to them. Before our time to take the pulpit, however, the Lord began to run a phrase though my mind. It came quietly, but irresistibly to my consciousness again and again. “To undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free,” it said. At first I did not understand that this was the coveted direction for the service I had sought, but with quiet persistence the Spirit of God ran the thought through my mind and heart again, “To undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free.”
It was familiar, and I knew it was a scripture. I knew the general address of the verse in question and looked it up quickly before the service was handed over to me. I found the words in the verse quoted at the top of this article. Lastly, just the words “to undo” repeated in my mind. To undo. At last I had it! I took the pulpit certain of what God wanted to do for the people in that service. I boldly told the people how often we come to meetings like this, looking for what God will do. We know He will save, heal, and deliver. “We love what God does,” I told them, “but tonight we are going to celebrate what He undoes!” It wasn’t good grammar, but in that way that God’s anointing connects with us when we’ve landed squarely on His perfect will, those words set the hearts of the people alight with expectation, and what a meeting we had!
Again and again in the Word of God, we see Jesus busy undoing. In fact, that is what the Spirit of God came upon Him to do! As He preached in His hometown, He outlined His God appointed ministry of undoing with the Words of Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Sin had done a number on God’s creation. The world looked nothing like what God had originally intended. Jesus came to show us the Father and reveal the Kingdom of Heaven. He came to undo the works of sins and death and heal what was broken in the heart of man. He came to undo the blindness and oppression and unlock prison doors. As John put it, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might undo the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8, author’s paraphrase).
We all worry about our failures and wonder if there is any help out of the pit we have dug, but if redemption shows us anything, it shows us that God lifts us out of the pits we ourselves have dug and into which we have fallen. While we may still suffer the consequences of our wrongs, and find we still need to make amends with those we have wounded, the bitter judgment of our sin has been dealt with. God did not do away with our wrongs, as some might suggest. Rather, He laid them all in one place, at one point in history, on one person, Who suffered that awful judgment on our behalf. If you’re the kind of person whose pride is shaken when someone anonymously pays for your lunch, you might find this hard to take, but the fact is that there is nothing for you and I to do but humbly accept the sacrifice Christ made for us when He took our sins upon Himself, dying the death from which none of us could have recovered.
By this act of mercy, God’s grace has been freely released to those humble enough to come thankfully to the Throne of Grace and receive it. The enormous debt collected over a lifetime of poorly lived yesterdays can be eradicated today in a solitary moment of grace and forgiveness, if you will put your trust in the One Who died to undo what our father, Adam, did. He will likewise undo you in the most benevolent way and recreate you, a new creature who has no past or shame. This grace is not only reserved for first timers either! We, his sometimes errant children, can also find this grace and forgiveness for our missteps when we simply acknowledge and repent of our sin.
The power of sin was indeed undone though the cross, and there will be a day when this earth will be remade and wiped clean of sin’s every trace. For now, we live in the earnest of that fuller inheritance yet to come, knowing the present reality of that indefinable union of our nature with God, as He renews us inwardly and strengthens us bodily. He has moved inside, reconstructing our hearts into a habitation suitable to His presence.
I cannot say that everyone will see or recognize this great undoing that God will do in your life. They may miss the signs of new construction done in the sacred chambers of your heart. They may still see you as nothing more than the sum of your former faults and transgressions. That cannot be helped. Men will do as they will. But for those of us who have been completely undone (and better yet, redone), we must always remember to see men apart and separate from their foolish mistakes, for God may yet undo them as well and make of them what only a truly good undoer can.