Isaiah 61

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This attractive description of millennial blessedness is continued in chapter 61, but before it is resumed, the first three verses, forming a paragraph by themselves, instruct us further how all will be brought to pass. Here we have the passage that our Lord found in the synagogue at Nazareth, as recorded in Luke 4, and which He read, stopping in the middle of verse 2 because there the prediction of His first advent ends. The fact is, of course, that for Israel, as for us, everything depends on His two advents.
The words that were read by our Lord all indicate grace, without any allusion to the law of Moses. There is a veiled allusion to the three Persons of the Godhead. In our Bibles GOD is printed thus in capitals because it is really the great name, Jehovah. So the opening words mention the Spirit of Jehovah, the Lord Jehovah Himself, and the “Me”, who is the Anointed One, or the Christ, who is sent to be the Proclaimer and the Minister of the grace. It is perfectly clear from Exodus 19 that the words of the law were not “glad tidings”. There was “the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.” The tragedy was that when a voice of exceeding grace was heard in the synagogue at Nazareth the people neither trembled nor rejoiced, but rose up with anger to kill the One who proclaimed “the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Hence the necessity of those words which our Lord did not read. The second advent of Christ in power and glory, and in judgment, is foreseen to be a necessity by the prophet here. The glorious state of things predicted will never be established till Christ comes again. He laid the foundations for it in the redemption accomplished at His first advent. He will bring it to pass in power, and with vengeance, at His second advent.
Vengeance is truly a terrible word when it comes from the mouth of God, and if we turn to verse 4 of chapter 63 we shall find it referred to again. It means retribution exacted for wrongs committed, and all the wrongs that men have committed are primarily against God. A day is coming when God Himself will bring retribution on the heads of sinful men; judging “the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained”, as Paul told the Athenians, recorded in Acts 17. When that comes to pass, it will “comfort all that mourn”, because their mourning will be not for their own personal troubles, but rather for the evil and chaos that will fill the earth, the sinfulness of men having then reached its climax. When men have filled the cup of their iniquity to the brim, God will strike by the advent of Christ. And to those who mourn, though few in number, what a comfort that will be!
Verse 3 shows us what comfort it will bring such. Their previous state is described by the words “ashes”, “mourning”, “the spirit of heaviness”. All will be changed for them. They will have “beauty”, “the oil of joy”, and “the garment of praise”. They will be planted as “trees of righteousness”, the trees of lawlessness and evil having been cut down, and in all this, and in them, the Lord will be glorified.
From verse 4 the description of Israel’s blessings is resumed. Not only will the land be renovated, the desolate cities be built up afresh, and strangers who formerly despised them be their servants, but the crown of all be their spiritual blessing. They will be the “Priests of Jehovah” and “Ministers of God” in the coming age, and as under the law the priests were supported by the offerings of the common people, so it will be for them, and that in abundant measure, for they are going to “eat the riches of the Gentiles”. In that day even the Gentiles will have abundance, and out of their riches will flow abundance to the priestly nation.
This is indeed a remarkable prophecy as to the end God is going to reach in His dealings with His earthly people. Verse 7 speaks of shame and confusion, and these things have been their portion under the strong hand of their God in holy government because of their manifold sins, but now all is to be reversed. Other passages have shown us how their whole condition spiritually will have been reversed under “the everlasting covenant”, of which verse 8 speaks. Based on the everlasting covenant will be the everlasting joy, predicted in verse 7. All will have to acknowledge that now, as a born-again people, they are “the seed which the Lord hath blessed.”
In the two verses that close this chapter the prophet himself speaks, as voicing the glad response that will spring from the redeemed and restored Israel of the millennial day. At last Jehovah their God will be known and gloried in with joyfulness. At Sinai and under the law their ancestors feared and trembled before Him, since all depended on what they could do. Now they are joyfully alive to what God has done for them and with them. Notice how at this point the prophetic strain drops down to the personal and individual. It is not “clothed us”, but “clothed me”. Not “covered us”, but “covered me”. The language is figurative, but the meaning is clear. The individual Israelite of that glad day will be clothed with salvation, as the fruit of standing before his God in a robe of righteousness.
Though there is so wide a difference between the character of Israel’s earthly blessing and that of the church’s heavenly portion, the basis on which both rest is evidently the same. For them salvation is to be founded on righteousness, and so it is for us today, as is made so plain in Romans 1:16-1716For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:16‑17). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation because in it the righteousness of God is revealed, not acting against us but on our behalf by the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is revealed “on the principle of faith to faith” (New Trans.). It is brought to us, not on the principle of works which we have to perform, but of faith as opposed to works. And it is revealed, not to our sight, but to faith, where faith exists.
The believer today stands before God in righteousness divinely wrought, and his faith apprehends this, though there may be nothing of an outward sort visible to sight, save the new kind of life he lives as the fruit of his conversion. But in this connection too there is contrast, for outward and visible things will be clearly manifested, as the robe of righteousness and garments of salvation envelop the sons and daughters of Israel in that day. There will not only be the transformation in the land and cities, mentioned in verse 4, but the righteousness will blossom forth in a way that will be visible to the eyes of all the nations to the praise of the Lord, who has brought it to pass.
So whether it be for the saint of today, called by the Gospel to a heavenly portion, or whether for the renewed Israelites of the future— salvation stands securely based upon righteousness. And because righteousness will be established, praise also will “spring forth before all the nations.” It will be so obviously the work of God that the glory of it and the praise will be His.