Where we are:
|Part 1: Judgment||Part 2: Historical Interlude||Part 3: Salvation|
|Chapters 1-35||Chapters 36-39||Chapters 40-66|
When this takes place:
Chapter 61 is part of the second major section of Isaiah and deals less with Judah’s immediate plight than with its future deliverance from Babylonian exile and ultimate glory.
Isa. 61:10 – I greatly rejoice in the Lord, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Isaiah 61 reveals that “the Messiah, who ministered salvation at his first coming, will minister comfort for redeemed Israel at his second coming. Jesus read and applied 61:1–2 to his own ministry when he preached in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–21). Jesus did not quote 61:2–3 in the synagogue at Nazareth because they will be fulfilled at his second coming. In the kingdom, redeemed Israel will realize its destiny to be a priestly nation” (Robert B. Hughes, J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale Reference Library, S. 268).
In reference to Himself, Jesus quotes verses 1-2a in Luke 4:18-19. The Messiah’s mission is to “bring good news to the poor” … “to heal the brokenhearted” … “to proclaim liberty … and freedom” … and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He stops in mid-sentence, however, after the word “favor,” showing that His work would be in two advents. In His first advent He does the work laid out in verses 1-2a. In His second advent, He will carry out the work mentioned in verses 2b-3, bringing judgment on unbelievers and great comfort to Israel.
The Trinity (Isa. 61:1-3)
All three persons of the triune Godhead are written of in verse 1: the Spirit, the Lord God, and the Messiah, signified by the personal pronoun “Me.” Three factors indicate that “Me” refers to Messiah, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary. First, the association of the Holy Spirit with the anointing points to Jesus Christ. After being anointed with oil, Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David, are blessed with the Spirit’s ministry (1 Sam. 10:1, 10; 16:13). In a similar fashion, the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus to be Israel’s King (Matt. 3:16-17). The Hebrew word for Messiah means “the Anointed One,” and the Greek word “Christ” comes from the word chrio, to anoint. Second, part of this passage is read by Jesus (Luke 4:18-19) to refer to Himself. And third, the mission of the Anointed One as spelled out in Isaiah. 61 is the earthly ministry of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1116).
Further, when the Messiah comes, He will transform the Jews’ sadness into joy. From a New Testament perspective, the grief of captivity in Egypt, the defeat of the northern kingdom at the hands of the Assyrians, the destruction and exile of the southern kingdom at the hands of the Babylonians, the Diaspora at the hands of the Romans, the Holocaust, and the yet-future trials of the Great Tribulation will become distant memories as God comforts and blesses the redeemed of Israel. Isaiah reports in advance all that the coming One will do for His people:
- Comfort all who mourn
- Provide for them
- Give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes (a sign of mourning; see 2 Sam. 13:19; Esther 4:1; Dan. 9:3)
- Give them festive oil (to soothe and brighten the spirits; see Ps. 23:5; 45:7; 104:15; Ecc. 9:8; Matt. 6:17; Heb. 1:9)
- Give them splendid clothes instead of despair (bright garments are a sign of joy and acceptance)
- Call them righteous trees planted by the Lord, displaying His splendor (Isa. 60:21)
Yes, days of judgment lie ahead. Yahweh will chasten and rebuke His own, but in so doing He will turn their feet away from idolatry and, in the last days, turn their hearts toward their Creator and King.
Israel Rebuilt (Isa. 61:4-9)
The Jews will return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity and rebuild the temple and the cities. While these verses in some respects speak to this promise, the greater truth lies further in the future, after Messiah returns and ushers in the Millennial Kingdom. Israel will rebuild her ruined cities, even those buried beneath the rubble of antiquity. The nation will be so revered that “strangers” and “foreigners” will assist with farming and shepherding. Every Jew will know the Lord and, as a nation of priests, will deal personally with Him and even mediate on behalf of others. This was to be one of Israel’s ministries in the world (Ex. 19:6), but unfortunately she fell short and today awaits the empowerment by the Messiah to fulfill this ancient duty – one which the church will share (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).
The wealth of nations will come to Israel (see also Isa. 60:5, 11). But even more important, the Lord, seeing that Israel’s shame is “double,” will bless the nation will a double portion (v. 7). The “double” refers to the inheritance the first-born son in a family receives from his father’s estate (Deut. 21:17). Just as the eldest son is given special honor, Israel, as the Lord’s firstborn (Ex. 4:22), will be exalted among the nations, resulting in “eternal joy.”
“I will faithfully reward them,” Yahweh promises in verse 8, “and make an everlasting covenant with them.” This is the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah (32:40), Ezekiel (16:60; 37:26) and the writer of Hebrews (13:20). It’s also the covenant Jesus established through His blood (Matt. 26:28). Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22) but offered freely to all (John 3:16; 5:24). In these ways – God’s blessing the nation of Israel and sending His Son, a Jew, to bear the sins of many – “[a]ll who see them [the Jews] will recognize that they are a people the Lord has blessed” (v. 9).
Some may see these verses as relegating the Gentiles to perpetual servility, but such a view mistakes metaphor for fact, according to D.A. Carson, who writes. “Under the figure of a priestly Israel served by foreigners (5–6) and enriched by its former plunderers (7–8), the reality is the people of God (whose status is not national; cf. 1 Pet. 2:10; Rev. 7:9), vindicated and enjoying their full inheritance as kings and priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), while the pride of man is humbled and his power harnessed” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 61:5). There is no doubt that Christ’s finished work at Calvary, and the ensuing work of the Holy Spirit, make Jews and Gentiles alike joint-heirs with Jesus of God’s kingdom (Rom. 8:14-17).
A Remnant Rejoicing (Isa. 61:10-11)
Notice two metaphors for righteousness in these verses. First, “the garments of salvation.” The prophet exults that the Lord “has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness” (v. 10). This image is carried into the New Testament to depict the justification of believing sinners, who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (see, for example, Rev. 3:5; 7:9-17; 19:6-8, 14; and note the parable of the wedding banquet in Matt. 22:1-14, in which a wedding guest is cast out for refusal to put on the appropriate attire provided by the king, symbolic of Christ’s righteousness). Isaiah also makes reference to the turban worn by the high priest and the jewels worn by a bride – garments of special meaning that are worn with great joy. “Such is the beauty of God’s grace in those that are clothed with the robe of righteousness, that by the righteousness of Christ are recommended to God’s favour and by the sanctification of the Spirit have God’s image renewed upon them; they are decked as a bride to be espoused to God, and taken into covenant with him; they are decked as a priest to be employed for God, and taken into communion with him” (Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 61:10).
The second metaphor Isaiah uses for righteousness is growing plant life. “For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations,” he writes in verse 11. Just as God’s common grace – which includes seed, soil, water and sun – causes crops to spring up and sustain His creatures, so His saving grace will cause the believing Jewish remnant to proclaim righteousness and praise to all the nations. This promise is for the church as well. “Though it may sometimes be winter with the church, when those blessings seem to wither and do not appear, yet the root of them is fixed, a spring-time will come, when through the reviving beams of the approaching Sun of righteousness they shall flourish again” (Matthew Henry, S. Is. 61:10).
Warren Wiersbe writes: “The background of this passage is the ‘Year of Jubilee’ described in Leviticus 25:7ff. Every seven years, the Jews were to observe a ‘sabbatical year’ and allow the land to rest. After seven sabbaticals, or forty-nine years, they were to celebrate the fiftieth year as the ‘Year of Jubilee.’ During that year, all debts were canceled, all land was returned to the original owners, the slaves were freed, and everybody was given a fresh new beginning. This was the Lord’s way of balancing the economy and keeping the rich from exploiting the poor. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are living today in a spiritual ‘Year of Jubilee.’ You have been set free from bondage; your spiritual debt to the Lord has been paid; you are living in ‘the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Instead of the ashes of mourning, you have a crown on your head; for He has made you a king (Rev. 1:6). You have been anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and you wear a garment of righteousness (Isa. 61:3, 10)” (Be Comforted [An Old Testament Study], S. Is 61:1).