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The office of Christ. The zeal and blessings of the faithful.
Before Christ 698.
THE fourth discourse, contained in this and the next chapter, according to Vitringa, explains more distinctly some parts of the foregoing prophesy in the last discourse. It is observable, that from this chapter to the end of the book, the same things and phrases which occur in the former discourse, are often repeated, and illustrated by new figures. This discourse is divided into two sections; the former contained in this, the latter in the next chapter. In this section we have, I. A speech of the Messiah, supposed to be in the flesh, and present with his people, explaining to them the true cause of his unction and mission into the world; namely, to preach the Gospel, and actually to confer upon them the good things therein promised; Isaiah 61:1-3. II. A speech of the prophetic company; explaining, first, the works of the followers of the Messiah in subjecting to him the inheritance of the Gentiles; Isaiah 61:4. Secondly, the remarkable privileges every where accompanying them; absolutely explained, Isa 61:5-6 comparatively, with respect to the preceding state and time, Isaiah 61:7-9. III. A speech of the church, first, glorying in the Lord, and exciting herself to joy; with the reason thereof, Isaiah 61:10. Secondly, unfolding at large the reason of that exultation and joy, Isaiah 61:11.
Isaiah 61:1-3. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me— The Spirit of JEHOVAH is upon me, because JEHOVAH hath anointed me. To publish glad tidings to the meek hath he sent me; to bind up the broken-hearted: to proclaim to the captives freedom; and to the bounden, perfect liberty: to proclaim the year of acceptance with JEHOVAH; and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all those that mourn; to impart [gladness] to the mourners of Sion; to give them a beautiful crown instead of ashes; the oil of gladness instead of sorrow; the clothing of praise, instead of the spirit of heaviness: that they may be called trees approved; the plantation of JEHOVAH for his glory. Lowth. These are the words of the Son of God, made man, wherein he sets forth the nature of his high and blessed office. From Luk 4:18 there can be no doubt of the application of these words; nor of the meaning of them, from a review of the spiritual blessings offered to mankind by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The second verse alludes to the year of jubilee, which was proclaimed by the sound of the trumpet, when there was a general release from all manner of servitude, debts, and obligations; a lively and striking type of that liberty which Christ hath procured for all mankind. See Leviticus 25:8-9. The day of vengeance, which is here mentioned as accompanying the acceptable year of the Lord, alludes to that vengeance which was to be taken upon the enemies of the Gospel and Son of God. See Hebrews 10:27-30. Matthew 24:21.Revelation 18:1; Revelation 18:1; Revelation 18:24. The prophet adds, as a consequence of the preaching, the gifts and graces dispensed by the Messiah, that the believers in him, and the partakers of his mercy, should be called trees of righteousness; that is so say, should become true and righteous believers, strong and firm in the faith; spiritual trees, planted and flourishing in the house of their God. See Psalms 1:3; Psalms 92:12. From this prophesy we gather, that the epithet of Messiah, Christ, or Anointed, which is given to the future Saviour in the writings of the Old Testament, and which afterwards became a part of his proper name, is to be referred to the oeconomy of grace; and that Jesus Christ was anointed by the Father, not only to preach the blessings of the Gospel, and to promulgate the beginning of the new year of grace, but also to confer those blessings which should constitute this oeconomy of the church, and distinguish it from the ancient one; which goods and gifts of grace, being divine and celestial, demonstrate the sovereign and divine excellence of the person of the Messiah, though he is here represented principally as clothed with the human nature, and anointed in it for the great offices which he had undertaken. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 61:4. And they shall build the old wastes— The meaning is, that the persons thus delivered by the Messiah, and anointed by his Spirit, should endeavour, and that with success, to bring to the knowledge and worship of the true God the Gentiles, for many ages alienated from him; and should apply themselves to the building up, confirming, and restoring them: the prophet representing the whole world in its spiritual aspect, under the appearance of a country wholly laid waste and desolate by an enemy; by which enemy we are here to understand the wicked one, the great enemy of man. The strangers and aliens in the next verse, which is wholly metaphorical, mean all those who were enemies to the church, and afterwards brought to its true service and obedience. See chap. Isaiah 58:12 Isa 49:8 Isaiah 54:3. Instead of ploughmen in the 5th verse, we may read husbandmen.
Isaiah 61:7. For your shame, &c.— Instead of your shame, ye shall receive a double inheritance; and of your ignominy, ye shall rejoice in their portion: for in their land a double share shall ye inherit; and everlasting gladness shall ye possess. Lowth. See on the next verse.
Isaiah 61:8. For I the Lord love judgment, &c.— For I the Lord love justice: I hate stolen things in an offering; and I will give them their reward faithfully, and I will make with them, &c. The reader is still to bear in mind, that the prophet, in speaking of these evangelical times and things, makes use of ideas and expressions taken from the old law. Burnt-offering is here used for the whole ritual worship of God. The phrase, Stolen things for burnt-offering, is not to be understood as if the Jews really offered things stolen in sacrifice; but that they were guilty of injustice, iniquity, rapine, and other vices, while they presented their sacrifices before the Lord. See Proverbs 15:8. The meaning of the verse is, "It is not to be wondered that God should be so benevolent and gracious as mentioned in the preceding verses, toward his people delivered and sanctified, who should bear his Gospel to the nations, and possess them. For, as the worship of God was celebrated by the greater part of his people so called, in much hypocrisy, amidst manifest breaches of his law, and on this account was hated by him, and therefore the worshippers of God attained not to the benefits which accompany the sincere service of religion; at this time having obtained a faithful people, worshipping him in spirit and in truth;—God was both willing, and might, with strict justice, liberally confer his grace and indulgence upon these his faithful worshippers, and give them the hope of their fathers; and that by a covenant founded in the blood of his Son, which should remain to the end of ages, and whose effects should extend even to eternity." See Vitringa.
Isaiah 61:10-11. I will greatly rejoice, &c.— The church here bursts forth into joy and rapture upon a view of the blessings of grace so liberally conferred upon her. In this sublime and elegant passage we have, first, a proposition, and then the reason of it in this verse, together with a confirmation of that reason in the next. The garments of salvation, and the robe of righteousness, signify in this place all those effects of the spiritual redemption procured by Jesus Christ for his people, applied by divine grace to cover and adorn believers. There is nothing more common in the prophets, than to represent the graces and ornaments of a renewed mind or state under the similitude of a parable. Bishop Lowth reads the last clause, As the bridegroom decketh himself with a priestly crown; and as the bride adorneth herself with her costly jewels. See Mill. Dissert. IX. p. 259. In the 11th verse, the reason of the joy above mentioned is more fully explained. The salvation of Jehovah, and his righteousness made known throughout the world, should be the cause of joy; the only true, solid, and durable cause on earth. See chap. Isa 51:3 Isaiah 58:11.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Our Lord, in the opening of his ministry at Nazareth, Luk 4:17-21 has left us no doubt to whom this prophesy belongs. We have here,
1. His qualifications for, and ordination to, the office of Mediator. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; without measure the Father hath given it unto him, that he might be enabled for the arduous work that he had undertaken: because the Lord hath anointed me; he invested him with full power and authority for the discharge of his offices, as prophet, priest, and king.
2. In consequence of this appointment he opens his commission, which was, to preach good tidings unto the meek; those who are lowly in their own eyes, to whom free pardon and grace will be welcome news: or the poor; as Luk 11:18 both in spirit and property, for unto these the Gospel is preached. He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted; those whose bleeding hearts, pierced with a sense of guilt and sin, no other physician can cure, he is sent to bind up, to comfort, and heal them: to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Captives are we all by nature to sin and Satan; not even born free, and by willing subjection also under heavier bondage, from which, by reason of our native corruption, we are utterly unable to deliver ourselves. He is come to purchase our liberty respecting God, by paying a ransom for us in satisfaction to the divine justice, which had delivered us up to the executioner of wrath: to rescue us by his power from the hands of our enemy; destroying death, and him that had the power of it, and providing a sufficiency of grace and strength to loose our captive bands, and enable us to come forth at his call, delivered alike from the guilt and power of our sins. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; as the jubilee trumpet proclaimed the release of servants, the restoration of lost inheritances, and rest from all labour; so does the Gospel proclaim, with more acceptable sound, a glorious liberty among the sons of God; a restoration to our forfeited inheritance, through the blood and infinite merit of a Redeemer; and an eternal rest in glory, secured to the faithful soul, not for a year, but for the ages of eternity: and the day of vengeance of our God; the day of vengeance taken on Christ for our sins, or rather on the powers of darkness, when he triumphed over them on his cross; and which the sinner, who obstinately rejects his salvation, may expect, when he cometh on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory: to comfort all that mourn under a sense of guilt, or corruption, or affliction, or who compassionately melt at others' woes or danger; and this he does by his great and precious promises, which afford balm for every grief: to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, or the mourners of Zion, whose hearts are tenderly affected with her corruptions, divisions, declensions, and sufferings: to give unto them beauty for ashes. In the original there is an elegant paranomasia, פאר Pheer for אפר Epher; they who lay in ashes, and were disfigured with dust, shall be raised up in beauty; the oil of joy for mourning; for in seasons of affliction they neglected to anoint themselves as at other times: the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; their sackcloth changed for brighter robes: expressions which are designed to describe the blessed change that is wrought upon the sinner's heart by the Gospel of Jesus, when from the dust of death and hell, from the depths of despair and misery, he is rescued, refreshed with the oil of divine grace, and his natural deformity removed, through that new creation in Christ Jesus, whereby he puts on the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, and rejoices in God his Saviour with that holy cheerfulness which adorns his profession: that they might be called trees of righteousness, whose blessed fruit proves the soundness of their root; the planting of the Lord, to whose rich grace they are indebted for all; that he might be glorified, this being his great design; and to shew forth his glory in our lips and our lives, must be our chief labour.
2nd, The promises here made might be designed for the encouragement of the Jews on their return from Babylon; but they extend to the church of Christ, and every sinner delivered from the bonds of corruption.
1. They shall be enabled to rebuild their waste places, and repair their former desolations; and when deeper desolations were spread over the world by sin, ignorance, and idolatry, God was pleased to send his Son, and by his ministry, and those whom he hath ordained, to raise up a glorious church in the midst of a desert world: and in every soul recovered by divine grace, the ruins of corruption are also repaired, and the heart renewed as a holy temple, a habitation for God through the Spirit.
2. They should no longer be in subjection to others, but have plenty of servants at their command: or this may better refer to those of the Gentile converts who, being put in trust with the Gospel, become pastors to the flock of Christ, and husbandmen in his field, labouring assiduously in the work of the ministry, to sow the seed of eternal life in men's hearts.
3. They shall be exalted and enriched; honoured as priests of God, and enriched by the treasures of the Gentiles, the kings of Persia liberally assisting them at their return. But this belongs more particularly to the church of Christ, where every member is consecrated a priest unto God, into which the riches of the Gentiles are brought, who at first contributed abundantly to the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem, and whose wealth is still in part devoted to the service of Christ and his people: and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves; in Christ, the glory of all believers. Or it means, that the Jewish believers would rejoice to see the honour put upon the Gentiles, in making them fellow-heirs; and of the same body. Note; (1.) Despicably as the men of the world account of God's ministers, their honour in his sight is great. (2.) They employ riches aright, who use them to promote the interests of Christ, and to serve his church and people.
4. They shalt have abundant cause of joy and rejoicing. For your shame ye shall have double, or for your double shame; for that load of ignominy which the profession of the Gospel at first exposed them to, God would doubly repay them in inward consolations; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; God can make them take pleasure in reproaches, and his love will be a portion that will abundantly satisfy them, in spite of all tribulations which they may be called to endure. Therefore in their land they shall possess the double; whatever loss they sustain for Christ, he can give them in this world more in kind, or, what is better, double their inward comfort and joy, which is the best possession: everlasting joy shall be unto them; faithful souls shall not only here be satisfied with the fulness of his house, but inherit an eternity of glory as their exceeding great reward.
5. God will be their guide, to teach them his will, and how to please him. I the Lord love judgment, and therefore will right the wrongs of his people: or he urges it as an argument for them to walk in uprightness before him, and in the paths of justice respecting each other. I hate robbery for burnt-offering; as when by their own deeds and duties men pretend or endeavour to obtain justification and the remission of their sins, which is regarded as the highest robbery of the Redeemer's glory, through whose infinite merit alone we can be accepted: or it is a rebuke to those who, like the Pharisees, were strict in the observance of their ceremonial offerings, yet in temper were covetous, and offered in sacrifice the fruits of their oppression. From a heart enslaved by iniquity, no pleasing service can be rendered to God. And I will direct their work in truth; his believing people shall be taught of him the true worship and way to please him: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, in which he engages to be the God of his faithful people for ever and ever.
6. Their posterity shall be blessed. Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people; distinguished for their sound faith and unfeigned piety: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed, blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. And this, with all the foregoing verses, some writers apply to the calling of the Jews in the latter day, when they shall possess an honourable place in the church of God.
3rdly, We have the words of the church triumphing in God her Saviour.
1. For what he hath done for her. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God; an interest in his love known and believed, cannot but fill the soul with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. When we can say he is my God, we may well rejoice in him greatly: here we need fear no excess, while he is the glorious object of our delight. For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; he has applied to my soul the merit of the Redeemer's blood; and he has made me all glorious with the garments of salvation, the divine tempers and graces with which the Spirit of God arrays the souls of genuine Christians; as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, coming from his chamber completely dressed, or in sacerdotal robes, glorious as those which the high-priest wore; and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels, glittering and splendid for the day of her espousals: and thus are believers presented to Christ, justified and pardoned through his infinite merit, and decked with the beauty of holiness. May my soul be thus arrayed!
2. For what he has promised to do for her. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so that from year to year, in regular succession, the earth brings forth her increase; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. To the end of time these privileges and blessings shall be the ornaments of every faithful soul, and the subject of their ceaseless praise.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 61". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24