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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 61

Verses 1-3

The Good News

Just as Isaiah 50 and Isaiah 53 painted for us Christ and His suffering, this chapter reveals to us Him in the full grace of His Person regarding the blessing for Israel. Until the end of the previous chapter the LORD is the Speaker. Now comes a change of glory. We see that change in Isaiah 61:1 of this chapter in the change of the Speaker Who now performs. It is no longer the LORD here, but it is Christ Who speaks here. This is apparent from what the Lord Jesus says in the synagogue in Nazareth, where He indicates that this Scripture of Isaiah which He has just read out is fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:17-Ecclesiastes :).

In this verse we find the triune God. The name “Lord GOD” is the translation of Adonai Yahweh. This Name appears four times in Isaiah 50 (Isaiah 50:4-1 Samuel :). The anointing takes place at the baptism of the Lord Jesus when the Holy Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove (Luke 3:21-Song of Solomon :). The anointing is also mentioned at the announcement of the servant of the LORD: “I have put My Spirit upon Him” (Isaiah 42:1). His anointing means His special equipment for His service as King, Priest and Prophet.

In this part of Isaiah we learn that Christ’s service is threefold:
1. a service of grace (Isaiah 61:1-Exodus :),
2. a service to judge (Isaiah 61:2) and
3. a service to restore (Isaiah 61:2).

It is remarkable that in Nazareth the Lord Jesus only reads the first part about grace and then declares: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-Ecclesiastes :).

“Afflicted” has to do with humility, but here mainly as a result of “suffering. The afflicted is someone who is shaped by suffering and has become small and dependent. An afflicted is broken and shattered by suffering, but also internally broken by the awareness of sin. Because of this he has humbled himself and is brokenhearted.

To “bind up the brokenhearted” is to bring enlightenment to those who are wounded in the heart (Psalms 147:3). The Gospel according to Luke recounts these tender acts of the Lord (Luke 4:40; Luke 7:13-Ezra :Luke 13:11-1 Chronicles :; Luke 17:11-Psalms :). It is the same with “proclaim liberty to captives”. It is about those who are bound with chains of sin and the devil. Many are bound and blinded by the religion of the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees.

The Lord Jesus was sent “to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD” (Isaiah 61:2). The “year” does not stand for a certain period of time, but for a longer period of time. That period lasts as long as Christ preaches the gospel to Israel. Ultimately it means the year in which everything that God has promised to Israel will be given back to them (Leviticus 25:10; Leviticus 25:13Leviticus 27:24). That will be the true year of jubilation with exuberant joy about this favor.

The second service of Christ is to announce ‘the day of vengeance’. “The favorable year” is opposite to “the day of vengeance”. In His mercy, God will limit the exercise of His vengeance to a short period of time. In the quote the Lord Jesus makes in the synagogue of this section, He ends with “the favorable year”. He does not speak about the day of revenge. He did not come at His first coming on earth to announce the day of revenge. Later He says that days of vengeance will come upon the people and that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:22-Jeremiah :).

Here in Isaiah it is about judging the enemies of Israel, especially the king of the North. This judgment is also one of the services that the Lord will perform. It is necessary to establish His kingdom in peace. The world will learn righteousness, not by grace, but by judgment (Isaiah 26:9).

Isaiah 61:3 is about the third part of Christ’s service: comfort and restoration. This will be fulfilled after the time of “Jacob’s distress” (Jeremiah 30:7), when the God-fearing remnant will have gone through a time of unprecedented mourning. Then there will be garland instead of ashes. In Hebrew, the words “garland” and “ashes” consist of the same letters, but in a different order: pe’er and epr. That means that the LORD does not give joy instead of mourning, but even more, that He turns their mourning into joy. That which is the cause of their mourning today, will be the cause of their gladness!

The LORD, who will come as their Redeemer at His second coming, will bring them comfort with joy, giving them a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. All signs of mourning will be taken away, and instead signs of gladness will come. Like a mantle on a body, the praise of the redeemed will be the expression of the inner jubilation. Like oil and wine to their healing (cf. Luke 10:34), the Lord will pronounce the “blessed” of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to the faithful remnant. They will know forgiveness of their sins (Zechariah 13:1).

There wouldn’t be such joy if there hadn’t been such mourning first. Never does the sun shine brighter than after a dark cloud. There will also be worked a spiritual change by the LORD. They will be called “oaks of righteousness”. “Oaks” presuppose strength and greenness. Thus it is with “righteousness” that will characterize the people. They will not work this themselves, but it will be “the planting of the LORD” for His glorification (cf. Isaiah 60:21). The people are seen as a forest of large, powerful trees that cannot be felled by a storm or an axe.

Verses 4-9

Restoration of Israel

These verses predict the future restoration of Israel and its exaltation to a place of dignity, honor, and authority over the nations. Places that are deserted and desolate will be fertile and densely populated (Isaiah 61:4). Already now the remains of cities are being excavated, but then they will be completely resurface. Those who have oppressed them will serve them and work as shepherds of their flocks and farmers (Isaiah 61:5). They will gladly do so because they want to share in the blessing of this people (cf. Isaiah 14:1-Exodus :). That blessing comes from God. The people will see by the blessing that God is with His people (Isaiah 60:10; Zechariah 6:15).

It is to be hoped that people will be equally attracted by our revelation of the blessing God has given us. Every revelation in the realm of peace has for us its counterpart in the spiritual realization of what our spiritual blessings are. It is also the intention to see that God is with us, that the attention is focused on Him. That will attract people to belong to that God.

Israel itself will be what God intended from the beginning for His people, that they should be a priestly people, a kingdom of priests (Isaiah 61:6; Exodus 19:6). Just as the descendants of Aaron performed priestly service for all the people of Israel, so in the future all the people of Israel will perform priestly service for the Gentiles. We are already in that position, but it is God’s intention that we also practice it.

All the nations that have always used their assets for self-enrichment will bring this assets to Israel. Israel will enjoy it. Just as the priests used to live from all that the people of Israel brought them, tithes and sacrifices, so Israel as a whole will live from all that the nations will bring them. Everything to which the Gentiles are famous and what they have appropriated from the earth will pass to Israel under the blessing and powerful ministry of Christ.

This subject is described by Paul in Romans 11 (Romans 11:13-Jonah :). If the fall and current loss of Israel means the riches of the nations through the gospel of grace, much greater will be the result of their fullness, that is, Israel's full national prosperity and welfare. As a servant of God, the people of Israel will perform as it were Levite service for the nations (Isaiah 2:3), so that the nations will receive education regarding the ways and thoughts of the LORD.

They will gain a double possession in the land that will extend far beyond the original boundaries (Isaiah 61:7). It will go with them, just as it went with Job who received double after a time of calamity (Job 42:10-2 Kings :). Where they used to be humbled, objects of defamation and contempt, they will now be filled with an exceptional and infinite joy. There will be double compensation for all their past suffering, just as they have received double for all their sins (Isaiah 40:2).

In Isaiah 61:8 the LORD makes it clear that in all blessings God’s own features will be maintained. He declares that He loves justice and that He hates wrongful robbery. By this He refers to the cruel treatment Israel has received from their opponents. In direct contrast to this He “will faithfully give them their recompense”. He will make sure that their work will be pleasing to Him and will be done in faithfulness. For the faithfulness with which they have served the LORD, they will be rewarded by Him (Matthew 10:40-Luke :).

He will make an everlasting covenant with them with the result that the nations will recognize them as a people blessed by the LORD (Isaiah 61:9). Their offspring will be glorious among all nations – a complete change from the present situation.

Verses 10-11

Rejoicing Greatly in the LORD

The Speaker in these verses is Christ Himself, though in identification with the remnant. On their behalf He declares His joy in the LORD (Isaiah 61:10). In that day, the joy of Christ corresponds perfectly to the joy of the believing remnant. He sees what will be realized in the coming day as already fulfilled.

The garments of salvation with which the God-fearing in Israel are clothed are His own. Just as “a bridegroom decks himself with a garland [or: the priestly turban], and a bride adorns herself with her jewels,” so will the LORD reveal Himself in His glory and beauty in connection with His redeemed people. He decks the head ornament like a priest does. This speaks of the fact that the remnant is made suitable to appear before God as a priest.

Christ will then appear as the true Melchizedek and act in the triple capacity of King, Priest and Bridegroom. In view of the church He will also act as royal Priest (Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 9:11) and as her heavenly Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:25-Jonah :).

Just as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and just as the garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so will “the Lord GOD” cause “righteousness” and “praise” (or fame) to spring up before all nations. God causes the germination of the seed. The bearer of the seed is the Servant of the LORD.

All these processes are now active among all nations through the gospel, but the direct application here is to the condition of Israel in the millennial realm of peace. Then the prayer of Moses will be answered: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalms 90:17). Then Israel will show the glory of the LORD to the nations, namely ‘righteousness’ and ‘praise’.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 61". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-61.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.