In this eloquent and beautiful chapter Messiah, Yahweh’s Anointed, declares his commission, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God” (v2). He had been instructed that he might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary” (50:4). The opening verses reveal some of those words.

The latter verses speak of the honour and joy of the elect and of the certainty of their reward.

There are connections with the preceding chapter; saints are called “the planting of Yahweh, that he might be glorified” (61:3; 60:21). Also saints are described as “the work of my [Yahweh’s] hands” (60:21), the essence of which is taken up by the Apostle Paul when he makes the same point, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:10). That Paul is alluding to this part of Scripture can be seen from his following comment that saints are no longer “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise” (v12), for in an intriguing contrast the prophet says that “strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen” (61:5).

It is also notable that this is the fourth time in Isaiah that Yahweh’s Servant, His Son, will be distinguished by copious endowment with His Spirit (11:2–3; 42:1; 59:21); which would be the key, enabling him to fulfil his mission, to ultimately “set judgment in the earth” (42:1, 3, 4; John 9:39).

61:1–3 The proclamation of the year of jubilee

Messiah announces his commission and the joyous results

61:1 “(1) The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me; because Yahweh hath anointed me (2) to preach good tidings unto the (3) meek [Heb ani, afflicted, humble]; he hath sent me (4) to bind up the broken hearted, (5) to proclaim liberty to the captives, and (6) the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”

This is a key statement, for only through the influence of God’s Spirit upon our Lord could his mission be accomplished. We are told that this gift was bestowed upon him without measure, in greater measure than to any other (John 3:34; Psa 45:7). He would be distinguished by it and be called the Christ, that is, the Anointed, or in Hebrew, Messiah.

The bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus when he came to be baptised by John was what singled him out and enabled John to recognise him as the Lamb of God (John 1:33, 34).

In Israel, prophets, priests and kings were anointed and thus appointed to office.

The Trinity confounded

In this opening statement there is reference made to God, His Spirit and His Son. The relationship is plain, but totally incomprehensible if we believe in the Trinity, for how could one God anoint another God with a third God and all be coequal and coeternal? It is a fog, a nonsense, and we can be thankful that we are privileged to understand the Truth of this most important subject. See also Luke 1:35 and Acts 10:38, where the same point can be made.

Isaiah 61:1–2, Luke 4:14–15 and the synagogue in Nazareth

Following the bestowal of the Spirit upon him, and his overcoming of temptation in the wilderness, Luke records that “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about … And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book [cp Isa 29:10–12, what a contrast!], he found the place where it is written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted … To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:14–19).

After closing the book and handing it to the minister he sat down. The eyes of all in attendance were riveted upon him; the words had been read in a way never before heard. Seizing the moment he identified himself as the subject of them, “And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (v20, 21). But the record does not finish there, but continues and tells us about the impact of his reading and application of the words to himself, “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (v22). Tragically for them wonder did not translate into belief; was he not just Joseph’s son?

There is a second allusion to Psalm 45 in this notable passage: our Lord is described as “fairer than the children of men,” and then we are told that “grace is poured into thy lips” (v2, cp Luke 4:22).

(2) We are told that his primary commission was “to preach good tidings unto the meek,” the afflicted, the humble. Luke 4 explains that this was more important than the healing miracles as their benefit was limited to this life only. Lest the preaching be thwarted elsewhere he told those who would prevent him, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43).

(3) The “meek” are the humble who are teachable. They would be blessed and inherit the earth (Psa 25:9,13; Matt 5:5).

(4) The “brokenhearted” are those, like David, who confess and repent. He says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:17); and in another place, “Yahweh is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psa 34:18).

(5) Here reference is being made to the year of jubile, when slaves by law were restored to liberty from bondage and servitude (Lev 25:9–10, 39–41). In what sense does Messiah set free captives and open the prison for those that are bound? The Lord himself told his generation, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [slave] of sin,” and that “If the Son … shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). Sin enslaves, leading all to the prison of death. Only the Son of God can bring “freedom,” or “liberty”: he has “the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18). Also refer to Isaiah 42:7; 49:9; cp Psalm 142:7; 146:7.

(6) Note the Septuagint (lxx), “and the recovery of sight to the blind.” If you read again carefully Luke 4:18 you will find these words are found in the Lord’s reading of Isaiah 61:1, 2, indicating that the Septuagint was the version in common use in his day.

61:2 (1) “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and (2) the day of vengeance of our God; (3) to comfort all that mourn;”

(1) When our Lord read these words in the synagogue in Nazareth he stopped after reading “the Lord.” Why did he do that, and what is “the acceptable year”?

Similar words are found in Isaiah 49:8, “ Thus saith Yahweh, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.” They effectively answer His Servant’s plea in Psalm 69:13, “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.”

The “acceptable” year is the time when the favour of God is available, before the time of judgment, the “day of vengeance.” Notice that Isaiah 49:8 is quoted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 and expounded, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It is the time referred to in Psalm 95:7, “Today if ye will hear his voice.” In Luke 4 the Lord proclaims that that day has come.

(2) It is not that the Lord did not refer to the “day of vengeance,” for in ominous words, he spoke of AD 70, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things that are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).

Other references to this day are found in Isaiah 34:8, 35:4; 59:17; 63:4.

Note also the contrast in time, “day” compared with “year”: day expresses the sharp and rapid accomplishment of the work of vengeance.

(3) These words are cited in effect in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:4): “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” In Isaiah 61:3 and 66:10 the nature of the “mourning” is explained, as ‘mourning in Zion.’ This is specific and it speaks of those who are distressed on account of the ungodly ways of men and who long for the coming Kingdom – they mourn the absence of the bridegroom (Matt 9:15; see also Ezekiel 9:4; Psa 137; Rev 6:10).

One of the great themes of Isaiah 40–66 is comfort (see 40:1,2; 57:18; 66:13).

61:3 “To appoint unto them that (1) mourn [niv ‘grieve’]in Zion, to give unto them (2) beauty [Heb peer, translated ‘ornaments’ in v10] for ashes, (3) the oil of joy for mourning, (4) the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; (5) that they might be called trees of righteousness, the (6) planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” [niv ‘for the display of his splendor’].

(1) See notes on verse 2 (3).

(2) niv, “a crown of beauty.” The gift of immortality is implied in these words (Cp Psa 149:4). The Hebrew word peer is literally ‘headdress’ (v10; 3:20; Ex 39:28; Ezek 24:17,23). Ashes of mourning were smeared on the head, but here there is an exact remedy, “beauty”.

(3) Cp Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9; 1 Kings 1:39–40.

(4) A change of garments is also associated with the change from mortality to immortality (v10; 2 Cor 5:2–4; 1 Cor 15:52–55). So the garment of praise replaces the spirit of heaviness (niv ‘despair’, rsv ‘faint spirit’), a spirit that is dull and listless, sad and depressed. So the infusion of new life finds expression in spontaneous praise and exhilaration.

(5) Having been transformed, we are now told what the blessed will be called, the new name signifying the new potentialities of their new immortal nature. Large trees (rsv, niv, ‘oaks’) are indicated; they will produce righteousness as kings and priests, having themselves been recipients of the righteousness of God made available through the work of the Servant (53:11; 54:17; Phil 3:9; Rom 3:24–26).

(6) See notes on Isaiah 60:21.

61:4 The meek to rebuild

“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”

Here are further results, accomplishments of the Anointed’s work: those granted the gift of eternal life will restore that which has long been destroyed and lies in ruins.

The desolations which have come by disobedience will be raised up, repaired and restored (cp 52:9; 58:12; 64:10; Matt 23:38). Rebuilding will be the lot of those whose lives are now constructive. All who are Christ’s must look inwards and make sure they are builders and not destroyers. Consider other glorious promises in like vein in Isaiah 58:6–14, in particular verse 12.

61:5–9 Yahweh’s love of justice ensures the exaltation of His servants and the subservience of mortals

61:5–6 “And strangers shall stand and feed [niv ‘shepherd’] your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the ministers of our God: (1) ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory ye shall boast yourselves.”

There is a clear distinction in these and the following verses between the redeemed of the Lord, the immortals, and the mortals. There is a contrast seen in their respective occupations. Aliens and strangers are pictured doing menial tasks on behalf of the redeemed, who are recognised to be their mediators, the priests of Yahweh and His ministers.

This is consistent with the roles of the saints as revealed more plainly in the New Testament, they will be the kings and priests of the age to come (Matt 19:28 “… in the regeneration … shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;” 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26–27; 3:21; 5:9–10; 20:4); they will be privileged intercessors, teachers, pastors (Mal 2:7; Jer 3:15; niv ‘shepherds’).

Compare these words with the type, Solomon’s use of Gentile labour (1 Kgs 9:20–22).

This further elaborates and complements the picture already given of Gentiles coming to Zion, humbly acknowledging Israel’s Messiah and bringing their great wealth.

61:7–8 (1) “For your shame, ye shall have double [rsv ‘a double portion’]; and for confusion [rsv ‘dishonour’] they shall rejoice in their portion [rsv ‘lot’]: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. (2) For I the Lord love judgment [rsv ‘justice’, Heb mishpat], I hate robbery for burnt offering [rsv ‘I hate robbery and wrong’]; (3) and I will direct their work in truth [rsv ‘I will faithfully give them their recompense’], and (4) I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”

(1) The shame is set against the coming reward, and there is no comparison for the eternal blessings to come outweigh a hundredfold the transient shame and dishonour (cp Matt 19:29).

Notice the repetition twice of the words “double” and “everlasting”. By this means Yahweh is emphasising the richness of His blessings for thefaithful, and the fact that they will be granted eternal life, and be immortal like Him. A double portion was the privilege of the firstborn (Deut 21:17; Zech 9:12; cp Isa 40:2).

“Everlasting joy” is a glorious contemplation (Cp 35:10; 51:11; Psa 16:11).

(2) Here the reason for saints being rewarded is spelled out; Yahweh ‘loved justice’; saints who have suffered for His name’s sake can rest assured that it has not been in vain. The rsv stresses this by saying “I hate robbery and wrong”. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). He most assuredly will.

(3) These are beautiful assurances and the rsv enhances the meaning.

(4) The everlasting covenant, that is the “new covenant” and it embraces the “sure mercies of David” (See Isa 55:3; 54:10; 59:21; Jer 31:31–34), and promise of eternal inheritance to Abraham and his seed (Gen 13:15; Gal 3:26–29).

61:9 “And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.”

Here apparently reference is made to families of saints, generations who have accepted God’s way and taught their children as well. For saints it is a solemn charge to teach their offspring the Truth (Deut 6:7–9; Psa 78:3–8; 2 John 4; Gen 18:19). By this means the Truth has been preserved over long periods. These generations will be recognised in the Kingdom and acknowledged to be the seed the Lord has blessed.

61:10–11 Isaiah, a type of the Anointed, rejoices in immortal glory and the coming righteousness and praise

61:10 (1) “I will greatly (2) rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath (3) clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe [mlb ‘mantle’] of righteousness, as a (4) bridegroom decketh himself with (5) ornaments, [rsv ‘garland’, lxx ‘mitre’] and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

(1) The question might reasonably be asked, Who is the speaker of these words? Is it Isaiah, or is it the Anointed who speaks in the first person here? There is a sense in which it could be both, for Isaiah and his sons were “for signs and for wonders in Israel from Yahweh of hosts” (8:18), and the other words of this verse “Behold, I and the children whom Yahweh hath given me,” are cited of Christ and the saints in Hebrews 2:13.

So here we have a glorious picture of the Christ rejoicing in his God and Father because he has been clothed in the “garments of salvation”.

(2) Clearly he is rejoicing in his divinely bestowed powers, but other thoughts are introduced here; there is mention of ‘joy’ and ‘rejoicing,’ so often associated with the marriage of the Lamb to his bride, the ecclesia (cp Psa 45:15; Rev 19:7–9).

(3) There is also emphasis upon his clothing, described as “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness,” (which contrasts with 59:17), and not only speaks of the immortality he now possesses, but that which he will bestow on his elect as plainly indicated in verses 1 to 3.

(4) Also there is reference to him as our heavenly Bridegroom and the richness of his adornments; but there is also mention of the bride; she is described as being “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white … the righteousness of saints” (Rev 19:8, see also 62:4–5).

(5) See note on “beauty”, verse 3, note (2).

61:11 “(1) For as the earth (2) bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause (3) righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”

(1) The connecting word, “for” tells us that what is described in verse 11 is the direct result of verse 10: the glorification of Christ and his bride and the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” which will follow.

(2) Here we are given the strongest assurance possible that the earth will be transformed by Christ and the saints into Paradise, Eden will be restored (51:3; Ezek 36:35; Song 4:13 ‘orchard’ lxx paradeisos). The double analogy is of the earth bringing forth and the garden causing what is sown in it to “spring forth.” There is a powerful inevitability here (see also Isa 55:10). A garden tilled and tended must bring forth, must produce. It’s like a woman who conceives – the inevitable result will be a birth (cp 1 Thess 5:3; Mic 4:10).

(3) And what is the inevitable result? Righteousness and praise springing forth before all nations. Christ and the saints shall rule the world in righteousness (Isa 9:6; 32:1; Psa 72:1–2; Acts 17:31), and what will his reign yield? Praise and honour from all nations (Psa 72:15). Imbibe the spirit of the concluding words taken from Psalm 96:11–13, “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before Yahweh: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the earth with righteousness and the people with his truth.”