The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study
Isaiah 61 - Reasons for Rejoicing
by I Gordon
Last time we looked at 'Rise and Shine!' We looked at the prophetic
passage which spoke of deep darkness coming upon the earth in the last
days. And yet the command was to arise and shine for the glory of Lord
has risen upon us! In this study we've moved on from Isaiah 60. We've
left it far behind and moved all the way up to 61. Now Isaiah 61 may
not initially ring any bells inside your head but hopefully when we
read it you'll get that old 'I know that passage... is that where that
is!' type of feeling. Let's see. Could be wrong.
I know that verse!
Isa 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has
anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind
up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to
prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of
vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn...
Familiar words I'm sure you will agree. Familiar to us, I hope, but if
you were reading them in Old Testament times you may wonder who the
'me' in this passage is. Whoever 'me' is, the Spirit of the Lord God is
upon Him (or her). Alright, it's a 'him'. What's more, Yahweh has
anointed him. And what a life he would lead - the afflicted would hear
news that would be like music to their ears! The broken-hearted would
have their wounds bound and healed. And the captives, in all walks of
life, and in all manner of prisons, would be set free. Needless to say,
prizes are not on offer for knowing who the 'me' is in this passage.
There is only one person in all of human history who qualifies.
In this study I wanted to focus on the reasons to rejoice as a
Christian. I probably gave that away by giving this study the title of
'Reasons to rejoice'. It does us good to just take a little time out to
remember these things! So... Isaiah 61 - it sounds familiar, or should
sound familiar, because this is a Messianic prophecy that is quoted
directly by Jesus in the New Testament. Let's have a look:
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing...
Luke 4:14-20 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and
news about him spread through the whole countryside. (15) He taught in
their synagogues, and everyone praised him. (16) He went to Nazareth,
where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the
synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. (17) The scroll
of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the
place where it is written: (18) The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent
me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the
blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the
Lord's favor." (20) Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the
attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were
fastened on him...
Jesus, at the start of His public ministry, went to his own hometown
and entered His synagogue. And he was called upon to read from the
scripture as was the custom of the Jews. Nothing out of the ordinary so
far! The scripture that He chose was the one before us this morning -
Isaiah 61. He read it out saying
'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to
preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release
the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Great words... enjoyed by all who heard them no doubt. Having finished
the reading he sat down. Again... nothing out of the ordinary so far.
Yet there was something in the way that Jesus read these words that
made all who were there to sit with their eyes transfixed on Him even
after He had finished and sat down.
Luke 4:21-22 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is
fulfilled in your hearing." (22) All spoke well of him and were amazed
at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's
son?" they asked.
Now things were definitely out of the ordinary! The members of the
synagogue thought they were going along to a normal Saturday meeting...
but they got oh so much more than that! Jesus said 'today this
scripture has been fulfilled.' It was a prophecy given by Isaiah that
had sat unfulfilled for the previous 700 years. But that morning it was
fulfilled. Jesus was saying 'I am the one it speaks of. I am the one
who has been anointed to heal the broken-hearted and set the captives
free.' He wasn't just quoting Isaiah. He was quoting what Isaiah had
heard from Him, and about Him, 700 years ago! The people couldn't
believe what they were hearing! Yet they were puzzled - Isn't this
Joseph's son? Isn't this the carpenter?
'Jeziel, didn't Jesus do that extension on your home and build that
fence?' 'Zachias, didn't Jesus build that cart for you?' 'He can't
be the Messiah could He?' 'And yet, no one has spoken like this
before. How gracious are His words!'
The truth is that there has been and will be, no one like Jesus Christ.
From His birth to His life, to His death, to His resurrection... there
is no one like Jesus. Let me read you some quotes in the footnotes
- see if you can tell me who said them! Great prizes are on offer if
you can get them all and I'll even provide clues. So let's look at some
reasons for rejoicing from Isaiah 61.
The God of grace
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD
has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to
bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom
to prisoners; (2) To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
Before Jesus came, people had been wondering what God is really like...
There had been 400 years of silence in terms of no recognised prophet
declaring the will of God. You can imagine what the people thought.
Does He hate us? Is He sick of us? Will He come to judge? Does He care
about what we go through down here on earth? And then God became a man.
And He came. And we could see what He was like. He came for the poor...
the afflicted... the broken-hearted... the captive, the sinners. He
came to set them free. God became a man... we could see what He was
like... and He was, quite frankly, far better and amazing than we had
thought! We have joy and thanksgiving due to the character of the one
we serve. Sometimes you see yourself and you see your sin and you see
that you have failed God and think that God must be getting to the end
of His rope with me! And yet you find yourself blessed... and all you
can think and say is 'who is this God?'
The God of Comfort
Isaiah 61:2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of
vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn...
When Jesus quoted this passage in the synagogue, He stopped mid
sentence! He stopped after saying it was the 'favourable year of the
LORD' and didn't mention the day of vengeance. Yes, there is a day of
vengeance. The signs of the Lord's return seem to be with us in this
day. But the day of vengeance has not come yet. Note that it mentions 'a year of the Lord's favour' and only ' a day of vengeance'. We are still in that period known
as the year of the Lord's favour. But I want to make mention of the
last part of the verse which is a reason to rejoice. He comforts those
who mourn! We think of comfort as an old man patting a young boy on the
head saying 'there, there, there... you'll be ok.' But it is far more
. God comes along side. He is with us. His presence and companionship
strengthens us. I hope, and am sure, that you can think of times in
your life when you have experienced this.
The God of the great exchange
Isaiah 61:3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland
instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle
of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks
of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
The gospel, the good news is all about the great exchange. It's not
about a self improvement trip. It isn't about you trying to pull
yourself up by your bootstraps. It is about exchanging what God is, for
what you are not. The greatest of all exchanges is given in the verse:
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our
behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Our verse here in Isaiah has three exchanges mentioned that govern a
person's emotional and mental well-being: Garland for ashes, gladness
for mourning and praise instead of heaviness. The figures suggest the
difference between a funeral and a wedding. At a funeral service Jews
put ashes upon their heads and mourn and lament; at a wedding, they
wear beautiful bridal wreaths and garments of praise. They would also
put on oil.
We play a part in this though. If all we ever do is think about what is
wrong and moan to God and others about our condition then it is quite
likely that spirit of heaviness will remain. We need to put on the
garment of praise. 'Thinking must be turned', Martin Luther said, 'so
that you can say 'Christ lives.'' God will give comfort but He doesn't
want us to be spiritual babies our whole life either. He was us to
encourage ourselves in Him just as David had to learn and do.
1 Samuel 30:6 Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people
spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one
because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
The spirit of heaviness is so prevalent in our age. So many are being
weighed down, so many anxious. So many in depression and we are
bombarded through increased pressure, increased busyness and increased
stress. Again, King David knew of this spirit of heaviness and he
experienced what it was like to be freed from this!
Psalms 40:1-3 A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry. (2) He brought me up out of
the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet
upon a rock making my footsteps firm. (3) He put a new song in my
mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will
trust in the LORD.
God gives new songs... Songs of praise. It is a reason for
The God of restoration and rebuilding
Isaiah 61:4-5 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise
up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, The
desolations of many generations. (5) Strangers will stand and pasture
your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
The immediate context of this verse is the restoration of Israel when
Jesus returns. And I have spoken recently of how God will restore all
things on this earth. Jesus spoke of the 'regeneration when the Son of
Man will sit on His glorious throne...' And we saw that this word is
pal-ing-ghen-es-ee'-ah - From two Greek words - Palin - meaning once
more or again, and Genesis. So this word means 'Genesis Again' or
'Genesis Once More'. But thank God that He is a God who does this in
the lives of men today. He does this in our lives. What we have ruined,
He can rebuild. What we have wrecked, He can restore. That which we
have broken, He can repair.
Now we may not have such a radical testimony, but God is in the
restoration and rebuilding business today with us as well. We too may
Something beautiful, something good.
All my confusion, He understood.
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But He made something, beautiful out of my life.
Finally, He is...
The God of everlasting joy
Isaiah 61:6-7 But you will be called the priests of the LORD; You
will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth
of nations, And in their riches you will boast. (7) Instead of your
shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation
they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will
possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be
Again, the context here is the coming kingdom. So we turn our thoughts
of thankfulness now to what is to come. Lots of good things here - it
speaks of being ministers of God and receiving wealth and a double
portion... but note how it ends for this is the bit that grabbed me for
obvious reasons! 'Everlasting joy will be theirs!' Everlasting joy? Is
there such a thing? How does that work? Is it hyperbole? Exaggeration?
Will our joy actually come to an end? Nope. It means what is says and
says what it means. Everlasting joy. It could only come to an end if
God did, for He is, and gives, this joy. David knew of this and said:
Psalms 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is
fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Conclusion - Our Response
Isaiah 61:10-11 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult
in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has
wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself
with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (11) For
as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the
things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord GOD will cause
righteousness and praise To spring up before all the nations.
I read a story the other day about a man who visited a social club
and was surprised to see 3 men and a dog playing cards. After
watching for a while he asked, "Can that dog really play cards?"
"Sure can" one of the players said. 'Wow' the man said, 'that's
incredible!' 'Naaa, not really' the player replied. 'He's not very
good. Whenever he gets a good hand, he can't help but wag his
The writer went on to say 'Friends, you and I are holding a good hand.
We are God's own elect. How can we not help but show our happiness and
thankfulness?' We have a lot to be thankful for. As we see these things
we should be wagging our tail so to speak. But I am also mindful that
life is hard in this age - more so than ever before I believe. People
are tired and weary and sometimes there is a 'spirit of heaviness' that
weighs us down through prolonged hardship and difficulty, so we should
also pray for those that are experiencing difficulties. But God, as we
have read, can give us a new song - A song of praise to our God. And
the garment of praise can replace the spirit of heaviness.