The Lord’s favour

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We now arrive at one of those big hitter chapters in Isaiah, one of the best-known parts of Scripture and the bit that Jesus takes and makes his manifesto at the outset of his ministry.  Having seen how Isaiah has built up to focus on the Servant as the one who ushers in God’s reign, stands in the place of God’s people in bearing punishment and brings about restoration and renewal and now seeing how the servant’s voice is now heard, we can see how obvious it would be for Jesus to start here. 

Read Isaiah 61

The servant speaks, these are his words.  He announces that he is the anointed one,  this is a Messianic claim.  He has been anointed with God’s Spirit.  This speaks of God’s intimate and empowering presence with him and God has given him a specific task to do (v1a). The anointing is a commissioning and enabling to do something, to proclaim good news for the poor, vulnerable and disposed.  In fact, it’s the proclamation of a specific event, The Year of The Lord’s Favour.  This is a explicit reference to the year of Jubilee, which would normally take place every 50 years and was a kind of “sabbath of sabbaths” when slaves were freed, debts cancelled and property returned.  This was to be a Jubilee on a grand scale, a jubilee of jubilees marking the end of exile and slavery, the cancelling of Israel’s debt of sin and the return of their inheritance, the land to them. So as well as being about favour, it’s also about judgement or vengeance, wrongs are righted (v1a -2a).

This means that the proclamation has an effect. It brings comfort to the distressed and grieving, their ritual mourning clothes and symbols such as ash on the head are replaced with beautiful wedding garments and their own anointing, the oil of gladness.  They become like “oaks of righteousness” instead of the broken, burnt stump that they had become (v2b-3). They then are able to return and rebuild the cities of the land including Jerusalem. This prophecy is intended to have an initial fulfilment so that on one level, the prophet speaks as the one who is anointed and commissioned, there will be a physical return to the land which will be like a Jubilee year under Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. However, there is a greater fulfilment to come in Jesus (v4).

As in the last few chapters, we see that return from exile will mean a complete reversal of fortunes. Instead of being strangers in another land, serving their captors, strangers will come to their land to serve them and tend to their crops and flocks (v5).  The idea is that if responsibility for day to day work is taken on by others then God’s people are freed up to be called priests, the responsibility for intercession, worship and proclamation is no longer the preserve of one tribe (v6). Shame and dishonour and replaced with blessing and honour (v7).

God explains why this will happen.  Notice that there is some blurring of lines here. Is it the same person speaking who is both “The Servant” and “The Lord”?   God will do this because he loves justice and hates wrong doing. He acts because he is faithful, a covenant making and keeping God (v8-9).

The right response to this is delight and praise.  We can speak of God’s actions as being one of reclothing us.  God’s people are his bride and where this bride has been in mourning, she is now clothed in her wedding garment.  Those garments represent justification or righteousness. We are now seen to be right with God (v11-12).


Meditate on these words from v10.

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;

 he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

  1. How do you see yourself?
  2. How does God see you?

Lord God, we praise you.  You have been so good to us. You have redeemed us, bought us back, set us free from sin and death and you have clothes us with salvation and righteousness.  Thank you Lord.

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