Isaiah 61 – Out of the Mouth of the Messiah
A. What the Messiah will do.
1. (1a) The empowerment of the Messiah’s ministry.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me.
a. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me: Here, Isaiah prophetically speaks for the Messiah, and the Messiah announces that He is blessed and empowered by the Spirit of the Lord GOD.
b. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me: In Luke 4:16-22, Jesus spoke in the synagogue of Nazareth, His hometown. He opened up the scroll to Isaiah 61 – perhaps an assigned reading, perhaps chosen by Him – and read from the beginning of the chapter through the first line of verse 2. When He sat down, He simply said today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Jesus is the person described in Isaiah 61:1-3 and He is the one the Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon.
i. If Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son, perfect in both His deity and humanity, needed the Spirit of the Lord GOD, how much more do we.
c. Because the LORD has anointed Me: This identifies the speaker as the Messiah because Messiah means “Anointed One.” Passages such as 1 Samuel 2:10 refer to the Messiah as His anointed.
i. The word “anoint” means to rub or sprinkle on; apply an unguent, ointment, or oily liquid to. Persons in the Old Testament were often literally anointed with oil. For example, priests were anointed for their special service to the LORD (Exodus 28:41). Literal oil would be applied, but as a sign of the Holy Spirit upon their lives and service. The oil on the head was only the outward representation of the real, spiritual work going on inside them.
ii. As Christians under the New Covenant, we also have an anointing: But you have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). In the New Testament sense, anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to.
2. (1b-3) The ministry of the Messiah.
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
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;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
a. To preach good tidings to the poor: The Messiah announces that He is here to heal the damage that sin brings. Sin has done great damage, so there needs to be a great work of redemption.
b. He has sent Me: Because sin impoverishes, He will preach good tidings to the poor. Because sin breaks hearts, He will heal the brokenhearted. Because sin makes captives, He will proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. Because sin oppresses, He will proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
c. He has sent Me: Because sin is a crime that must be avenged, He will proclaim…the day of vengeance of our God.
i. Significantly, Jesus stopped reading before this sentence. He stopped in the middle of the prophecy, because to proclaim…the day of vengeance of our God is relevant to His Second Coming, not to His first coming. The comma in year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance has stood for almost 2,000 years. This shows us something of the nature of Biblical prophecy: it may “shift gears” and time frames quickly and without warning.
ii. We can compare a whole year of grace to a single day of vengeance.
d. He has sent Me: Because sin brings grief, He will comfort all who mourn.
i. The extent of the comfort and restoration is beautifully described. Instead of the ashes of mourning, He gives His people beauty. Instead of the mourning itself, He gives His people the oil of joy. Instead of the spirit of heaviness, He gives His people the garment of praise. Why do we sit in the ashes, why do we mourn, why do we indulge the spirit of heaviness when Jesus gave us something so much better?
ii. The word beauty has in mind a beautiful crown or head ornament. It is translated exquisite hats in Exodus 39:28 and headdresses in Isaiah 3:20. In mourning, ashes would be cast upon the head (2 Samuel 13:19). Here, the ashes are replaced with a beautiful crown.
e. That they may be called trees of righteousness: The restored place of God’s people is glorious. They are as strong, beautiful, and useful as trees – and trees of righteousness at that. Most wonderfully, when people look at the trees, they see they are the planting of the LORD.
B. What God’s people will do.
1. (4) God’s people will rebuild what is ruined.
And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
a. They shall rebuild the old ruins: God loves to restore ruins. He wants to use His people to restore and rebuild things that are broken down and ruined. Under the empowerment of the Spirit, and the ministry of the Messiah, God’s people will be rebuilders.
b. The desolations of many generations: Even if the rubble has stood for many generations, God can still use His people to rebuild. A beautiful example – and partial fulfillment – of this is Nehemiah, who took the decades-old rubble of Jerusalem’s walls and rebuilt the walls.
2. (5-6) God’s people will be set apart to serve the LORD.
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
And the sons of the foreigner
Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
But you shall be named the priests of the LORD,
They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
And in their glory you shall boast.
a. You shall be named the priests of the LORD, men shall call you the servants of our God: God’s people, under the anointing of the Spirit and the ministry of the Messiah, have a holy occupation. They are priests of the LORD and servants of our God. God provides others to take care of the flocks and to be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
3. (7) God’s people will rejoice at God’s great blessings.
Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
a. Instead of your shame: What a change under the anointing of the Spirit and the ministry of the Messiah! No more shame. Now, you shall have double honor. No more confusion. Now, they shall rejoice in their portion. Indeed, everlasting joy shall be theirs, a joy that can never be taken away.
C. The everlasting covenant.
1. (8) The heart behind the covenant.
“For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth,
And will make with them an everlasting covenant.
a. For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering: The LORD explains how sacrifices such as a burnt offering can really just amount to robbery if the heart isn’t right. Instead, the LORD loves justice. Sacrifices alone, and the sacrificial system in itself, are not enough.
b. I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant: God has an alternative to the sacrificial system. As God directs the work, and as He makes an everlasting covenant, then His heart will be fulfilled among the people.
2. (9) The covenant brings prominent blessings.
Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles,
And their offspring among the people.
All who see them shall acknowledge them,
That they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed.”
a. They are posterity whom the LORD has blessed: This everlasting covenant brings blessing, and blessings so prominent that the blessed shall be known among the Gentiles. In fact, all who see them shall acknowledge them.
b. Whom the LORD has blessed: The writer to the Hebrews pronounces a blessing regarding this everlasting covenant: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
3. (10-11) The covenant brings salvation and righteousness.
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,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
a. I will greatly rejoice in the LORD: The blessed one’s joy isn’t in the blessing itself but in the LORD. This is the same thought later expressed in Philippians 4:4, where the Apostle Paul wrote, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
b. For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness: The granting of salvation and righteousness to God’s people is represented by the picture of clothing them.
i. These are glorious garments: As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
ii. These are given garments: For He has clothed me…He has covered me.
c. As the earth brings forth its bud: The blessing of God grows. It isn’t manufactured, but it grows. Even so, the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
i. There is a sense in which we can never make something grow. No one can get inside of a seed and “turn on” the genetic component that makes the seed spring forth, and bud. The blessing of life and growth is miraculously within the seed. But we can provide the right environment for the seed to bud, grow, and be fruitful. That’s also how we receive and flourish in God’s blessings. We can’t “make” or “manufacture” them. But we can put our hearts and minds in the right environments of faith, fellowship, and obedience, to see blessing grow and flourish.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org