Jesus Sets Us Free

Isaiah 61:1-11
P.G. Mathew | Sunday, October 09, 2005
Copyright © 2005, P.G. Mathew

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Isaiah 61:1

The Mystery Savior

In Isaiah 61 we are introduced to a mystery Savior. This unnamed person speaks with authority in the first person, claiming to be anointed by the Sovereign Lord of the universe, claiming to be an apostle of the heavenly Father, and claiming that the Holy Spirit is upon him, empowering him to do everything he is supposed to do. In essence, he is claiming to be the Messiah and describing the sevenfold Messianic task he is to perform in behalf of God.

Who is the Messiah? We read about him throughout the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 9:6-7 says that he is the child to be born, the son that will be given, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. In Isaiah 11:1-2 we learn he is the Son of David, the “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Isaiah also refers to him as a servant in four places-Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-9; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12-as well as here in Isaiah 61.

This Messiah has certain tasks to perform. Isaiah 42:7 declares he is to open eyes that are blind, free captives from prison, and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Isaiah 49:9 says his task is “to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!'” In Isaiah 50:4 this Messiah is given “an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” And Isaiah 53:4-5 says of him, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

In Isaiah 61 the mystery speaker says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Thus, this mysterious speaker clearly is the Messiah. In the Hebrew the word Messiah simply means “the Anointed One.” In the Greek it is Christos, and “anointing” is chrisma. So this one speaking is the Messiah, the Davidic king, the Mighty God, the Suffering Servant, the Apostle of the Lord. And he defines his sevenfold task in verses 1-3.

The first task of the Messiah is “to preach good news to the poor.” Good news is news that gladdens our hearts. Imagine hearing that Sarah became pregnant, though she was ninety years of age, or Hannah became pregnant, though she was barren. That is good news! Imagine placing your son on an altar as a sacrifice, as Abraham did, and then hearing God say, “Don’t do it; use the ram I have provided instead.” What great news! Imagine asking a girl to marry you, and having her say, “Yes,” or applying to a top school and receiving a letter that says you were admitted. Imagine going to the doctor after a severe illness and hearing him say, “You are going to be all right.” All this is good news!

So the first job of this Messiah is to preach good news. In fact, the Hebrew text says he is anointed for this particular task alone. For the rest of his work, the word used is sent.

What else is the Messiah to do? His second task is to heal the brokenhearted. Third, he is to announce liberty to the captives. Fourth, he is to announce the favorable year of the Lord and the day of the vengeance of God. Fifth, he is to comfort all who mourn. Sixth, he is to give dignity and authority to those who mourn in Zion. Finally, he is to give to his people a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of tears of weeping, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 52 and 53 also speaks in detail of the work of the Messiah. From there we learn that this Suffering Servant would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and familiar with sufferings. We discover that he will suffer for our transgressions, iniquities, and sins, and that his punishment will bring us peace and healing. We learn that this Messiah/Servant will die, be buried, and raised from the dead, and that he will be our mediator. He is called the Righteous Servant-meaning he was sinless-who by his knowledge will justify many people. We also learn that he will have offspring, the people of God.

– Who Is He?

But while much was revealed to us in Isaiah about this mystery Savior, the world had to wait many centuries to find out his name. In the first century A.D., Jesus went into the synagogue of Nazareth one day, as was his custom. The service included reading a portion from the Pentateuch and a portion from the Prophets, reading first in Hebrew and then translating it into Aramaic. There was great freedom in the service for the ruler of the synagogue to ask any qualified visitor to read a portion of Scripture and give a brief exhortation. On this particular day, the ruler asked Jesus to read from the Prophets. So Jesus stood up, unrolled the Isaiah scroll, read from chapter 61, and sat down. Then he made a surprise announcement: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21).

What did this mean? It meant that the mystery speaker of Isaiah 61 was none other than Jesus, the son of Mary, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Jesus was thus identifying himself publicly as the Davidic king, the Messiah, the Mighty God, the Righteous One, the covenant-keeper, the only sinless man. Jesus is the Suffering Servant who died for our sins, was buried and raised again. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, the one who justifies many by his knowledge. Jesus is the preacher of good news, the healer of all broken hearts, the announcer of liberty to captives, and the comforter of all who mourn in Zion. He is the giver of dignity and authority to his people, the one who gives us a crown of beauty instead of a head covered with ashes, the oil of joy in place of tears of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Jesus is the Messiah!

Messiah/Servant Jesus is powerful to save because the Holy Spirit is upon him without measure. He is our mighty Savior who accomplished salvation for us by his suffering. And this salvation is applied to all those who are characterized by certain traits.

– Whom Does He Save?

To whom is the good news preached? To the poor (Isaiah 61:1). This Messiah sets captives free, but only those who recognize that they are poor, brokenhearted, and in prison, and who know that no one else can save them. He says he will comfort those who mourn, give a crown of beauty to those who suffer, and save those who despair (v. 7).

Whom does the Messiah/Servant Jesus help? He helps the economically poor and socially oppressed, for whom there is no justice. He helps the hopeless, the sick, and the lonely, the prostitutes, the publicans, and the prodigals. He comforts the weary and the heavy-laden and delivers the demon-possessed. He saves sinners who are aware of their lost condition and are looking to God alone for help.

Isaiah 57:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says-he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” And in Isaiah 66:2 we read, “‘Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.'” The high, lofty, transcendent God is also the immanent God. But he dwells with those who are poor, weeping, and brokenhearted, not with those who are arrogant, rich, and comfortable.

Isaiah 1:27 says that God will save those who are penitent, and Isaiah 59:20 declares, “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins.” Most modern Christian books do not even speak of repentance and sin. But the Bible is full of these words. Isaiah 55 speaks about a great, grand feast that is available, but verses 6-7 say it is only for those who repent: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

– How Does He Save?

This mighty, anointed Savior saves any sinner who repents. At his first coming, Jesus inaugurated “the year of the Lord’s favor,” the acceptable year, also called the Year of Jubilee.

We read about the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25. Every fiftieth year, on the Day of Atonement, the ram’s horn was to be sounded to announce good news to all slaves and debtors, and to all who had given up their ancestral lands. What was the message the ram’s horn would proclaim? “This is the year of grace, the acceptable year of the Lord, the Year of Jubilee. All slaves, you are free! All debtors, your debts are canceled! All who have lost your family estates, you can go back now and take possession of your inheritance once again!”

Thus, at the sound of the ram’s horn, great rejoicing and thanksgiving would break out in the land. The people would exclaim, “No more poverty! No more disgrace! No more misery! No more shame! No more loneliness! No more fear! No more depression! The year of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Even so, Jesus announces the Year of Jubilee to us, preaching the good news that gladdens our hearts. Isaiah 1:6 describes the bad news: “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.” But the work of the Messiah is to bandage the wounds of his people. So he gives each of us personal attention, just as the good Samaritan personally attended to the man who was beaten up and thrown out on the road. The Messiah knows our wounds and our hurts. He knows every problem that we have, for he sees all things and understands our thoughts before we think them. And he pours upon our wounds, not oil and wine, but his own blood. By his stripes we are healed.

The final section of Isaiah begins, “Comfort, comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1). Someone is supposed to comfort God’s people; who is able to do so? In Isaiah 52:9 we read: “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Our comfort comes from the Lord, from the Messiah who died on the cross for us. We deserved the worst, but he gives us the best.

Verse 3 says this Messiah bestows on his people “a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” The idea is of someone sitting in the dust with ashes on his head to express overwhelming sorrow. Jesus comes and removes all the ashes, and in their place he gives a crown of beauty. Verse 3 says his further task is to give us “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Additionally, he gives us reconciliation in place of alienation and eternal life in place of eternal death. He gives us justification in place of condemnation: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). How can he do this? He can do so because he is not only a preacher of good news, he is good news! He not only announces the fact that we can be healed, but he performs what he announces: he heals the sick, raises the dead, and saves the lost.

Additionally, this Messiah is able to give us life in place of death because he himself destroyed death and sorrow, as we read in Isaiah 53. This was announced earlier in Isaiah 25:7: “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations.” Because all have sinned, all will die, and here we are told that death covers the entire world from end to end. Yet Isaiah continues, “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” And then there is a signature: “The Lord has spoken” (v. 8).

Jesus Christ alone gives life to the dead. How can he do so? Through his incarnation. Hebrews 2:14 tells us, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil.” In 2 Timothy 1:9-10 we read, “[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus is able to give us life because he destroyed death by his death. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 15:54 Paul triumphantly declares, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Not only has this Messiah defeated death, but he has also prepared a feast for us, as we read in Isaiah 25:6 and Isaiah 55:1-2. He invites all needy people-the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, the captives, the lonely, the oppressed, the suffering, the despairing, and all penitent sinners-to this feast.

But how can sinners feast with a holy God? We must be clothed in the robe of the righteousness of the Messiah/Servant. Thus we read in Isaiah 61:10, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” The penultimate purpose of God is to make us holy, to give us righteousness. The ultimate purpose is that we may have fellowship with him.

Our salvation is achieved by the righteousness of Christ, who covers us in the robe of his own righteousness. Salvation is by good works so that it may be by grace. But whose good works can be acceptable to God? Only those of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:17 declares, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed.” The justice of God is satisfied by the punishment that the Messiah/Servant received in his body. He fulfilled the covenant of works so that a covenant of grace could be established and extended to us. That is how God can be just in justifying wicked sinners like us. Thus can salvation be given freely to the poor, the wretched, the miserable, and the lost-to guilty sinners. Christ clothes us with his own righteousness in place of our shame, disgrace, and guilt.

When the Messiah proclaims freedom for the captives, he is not just speaking about captivity in Babylon; he is pointing to our greater captivity to sin and Satan. In Isaiah 45:1 Cyrus is called a messiah, for he allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. (PGM) But Cyrus could not save anyone from sin, death, or condemnation. There is another Messiah, Jesus Christ. He alone is able to declare freedom from sin, guilt, and death.

The Messiah Sets Us Free

Jesus understood our captivity very clearly. In John 8:31-36 we read, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'” This statement is the key to understanding Isaiah 61. Jesus continued, “‘Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.'” The Messiah is not only responsible to liberate us, but he alone is also able to do it.

Luke 13:10-14 illustrates this liberating activity of Messiah Jesus: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”

The Jews were indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. But Jesus rebuked them, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (vv. 15-16) Jesus alone can set us free.

Jesus was well aware that his ministry was fulfilling the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah. When John the Baptist’s disciples came to ask him if he were the Messiah, Jesus responded, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5). And throughout the New Testament we see Jesus fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah. Thus, he gave living water to the sinful Samaritan woman (John 4:10), forgave the woman caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:11), and told the town harlot, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). He heard the prayers of the publican, who cried, “Lord, have mercy upon me, the sinner,” and he sent him home justified (Luke 18:14). He heard the prayer of the repenting thief on the cross and assured him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). He welcomed the repentant prodigal, forgiving him, embracing him, clothing him, and making a feast to celebrate his homecoming, saying, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). He cast out thousands of demons from a man and sent him to Decapolis to preach the gospel (Mark 5:19), and stopped outside Jericho to heal blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52). Peter summarized these Messianic activities of Jesus, saying, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and . . . he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Jesus is the Anointed One. He is the Messiah, the Savior, the Mighty God, and he alone can help us.

The Saved Will Serve

Before Messiah Jesus sets us free, we are under the dominion of sin and Satan. That condition can be called non posse non peccare-not possible not to sin-meaning we can only sin. But when Jesus sets us free, our condition becomes posse non peccare-possible not to sin. And not only are we given freedom not to sin, we are also given freedom to do the will of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If we have been set free by Christ, what then should we do? The answer is given in Isaiah 61:4: “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Those who are redeemed by Christ are to serve him by repairing ancient ruins. When the captives of Israel returned from the Babylonian exile, they rebuilt the physical ruins of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, as we read in Haggai and Zechariah. But we are to serve God by rebuilding the people of God, his church. Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church,” and he does so through us.

This does not mean that there may not be a physical temple built sometime in Jerusalem. But when we look at the Scripture, we see that the apostles understood this “rebuilding” to refer to the preaching of the gospel to all people.

In Acts 15:13, James, the Lord’s brother and pastor of the Jerusalem church, applies a passage from Amos to the evangelization of the Jews and Gentiles. James says, “Brothers, listen to me. Simon [Peter] has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written,” and here he cites Amos 9:11-12: “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,'”-referring to the Jewish people-“‘and all the Gentiles who bear my name.'”

Peter also spoke of this rebuilding ministry in 1 Peter 2: “As you come to him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ . . . You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (vv. 4-5, 9).

The point is, we are not saved to rebuild ancient physical ruins, but to rebuild people whose lives have been destroyed by sin and Satan. We do so specifically by bearing witness through our words and lives. Hebrews 2:3 says, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” The gospel was first preached by Jesus Christ, then by his disciples, and now by us who have been saved. Yes, our lives were in ruins. But, thank God, some human being preached the gospel to us, and we were rebuilt, and now we must preach the same gospel to others that they may also be rebuilt.

We serve by proclaiming the whole counsel of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul declared, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And in 4:1,2 Paul charged Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage. . . .” Psalm 141:5 speaks of this corrective aspect of the word: “Let a righteous man strike me-it is a kindness; let him rebuke me-it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” Children, you must thank God when you have a father who rebukes you and corrects you. Do not refuse it. Receive it, embrace it, and love it. But very few churches are preaching the word today, and even fewer ministers will correct and rebuke those under them. Yet 2 Timothy 4:2-3 says we are to preach the word of God “with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

In 1 Corinthians 1:21 we are told, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” How do we restore ancient ruins? How do we repair ruined lives? Through the preaching of the word. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. That is why it is essential that the saved must serve by declaring the gospel.

Romans 10:14-15 makes this very clear: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” That is how we serve, by bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ through declaring the gospel.

The other way we bear witness is through our lives. Isaiah 61:6 says, “You will be called priests of the LORD.” First Peter 2:9 also speaks of this great doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. We serve God as his priests by living holy lives and preaching the gospel. This ministry is not only for pastors; all of us are called to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How can we do this? He who justified us also enables us to live righteous lives in the world. We are justified by this imputed, alien righteousness, which then enables us to live holy lives. We are not saved to sin more; we are saved to sin no more! Jesus forgave the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery and then told her, “Go and sin no more.” Paul asks in Romans 6:1, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” When the Holy Spirit works in us, we will live holy lives so that ruined cities may be rebuilt through our witness-bearing.

In Isaiah 61:3 we are called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord.” The picture is of big, sturdy trees and refers to those who persevere in holiness. Notice, it speaks of being individually planted by the Lord. Do you think that trees that God himself plants will wither away? No, they will thrive and flourish. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).

In Isaiah 60:21 we read, “They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.” The purpose of our life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God saved us and made us righteous “for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:4). How do we display God’s splendor? By our holy confession and conduct.

Psalm 92:12 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord.” Each of us is an oak tree, a palm tree, a cedar of Lebanon, all planted by the Lord himself in his house. At one time we were not in the house of the Lord; we were in the groves of paganism. But God brought us into his house, rooting us in him. Psalm 92 continues, “They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.'”

The Saved Will Sing

Not only do the saved serve, but they also sing. In Isaiah 61:7 we read, “Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.” And verse 10 says, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.” This is what Hannah prayed after God gave her a son (1 Samuel 2:1) and what Mary prayed in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-47). In the Hebrew it is, “Rejoicing, I will rejoice.” Then the reason for such rejoicing is given: “For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Just as the Lord killed animals and covered Adam and Eve, so now he has covered us with the divine, unimpeachable righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is always good to look back at our past. Once we were poor, hopeless prisoners, covered with ashes, full of shame, disgrace, and sorrow, slaves of sin and Satan. But God, because of his great love and rich mercy, set us free and made us alive with Christ. Now we are children of God! He has comforted us, healed us, and given us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of weeping, and the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

If this has happened to us, what should we do? Sing for the glory of God! We should rejoice, exult, and dance as we worship God and celebrate this great salvation. We should rejoice as we would on our own wedding day (v. 10). This is a foretaste of what we will be doing in heaven. The entire book of Revelation is filled with singing. Even now, those who are in heaven sing with joy because of the One who is in their midst. So too shall we be in the presence of this great God one day, and we shall sing his praises forever and ever.

Verse 7 says we will rejoice with “everlasting joy.” Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, nothing can destroy the joy that God gives us-not even death. As Paul says in Romans 8:38, neither death nor life nor anything else in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God. Nothing! That is why it is called everlasting joy.

Verse 8 says God will make a new and everlasting covenant with us. Isaiah identifies this covenant as Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Because Jesus Christ kept the covenant of works, he can now extend the covenant of grace to us, which we are made partakers of by faith.

This covenant is not only for us, but also for our children: “Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge they are a people the Lord has blessed” (v. 9). When the world looks on us, their conclusion will be, “These people are blessed by the Lord.” Thought they may want to curse us, the Lord will reply, “You cannot curse them because they are blessed” (cf. Numbers 22:12). Suppose our children are unbelievers? We must keep on praying for their salvation: “The promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:39).

In verse 10 we read, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.” Notice, we are not to rejoice in ourselves or in our possessions, but in the Lord. Circumstances always change; the only thing that never changes is the immutable God. That is why we can rejoice even in tribulations. God has made us partakers of his everlasting covenant and given us eternal life and everlasting joy. How can we not sing!

What, then, is the ultimate reason that we worship God and sing his praises? The Messiah/Servant died for our sins and gave us the robe of his righteousness. Clothed in this, we can now enjoy fellowship with God forever, and nothing in all creation can separate us from his love. Therefore, let us rejoice! Let us rejoice greatly! Let us rejoice even in tribulations, for this everlasting joy is based on an everlasting covenant.

Has the Messiah Saved You?

The first advent of Jesus Christ inaugurated the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of mercy, the year of grace, the year of God’s favor, and it has been going on ever since. We may think it will go on indefinitely. But let me tell you, each of us must die, and there is no certainty that any of us will live out the remainder of this day. If you do not heed this message of grace, the Messiah has a different message for you: “the day of vengeance of our God” (v. 2). The Father has given Jesus the authority to judge, and he will do so, as we read in Revelation 19 and 20.

The Messiah did not come for the healthy, the righteous, the powerful, the wise of the world, the comfortable, or the controlling. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. He came to heal the sick and save sinners.

We have no excuse to be without everlasting joy, for Jesus himself calls us through the preaching of his word, telling us, “I am the Messiah, the apostle sent by the Sovereign God. I am the servant who worked righteousness and accomplished salvation. I am the one who destroyed death by my own death. And I have prepared a grand, great feast for all who are hungry and thirsty.”

In Nazareth, Jesus cried out, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” He still cries out today. “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This very day Jesus cries out to all poor and miserable sinners, to all who mourn and weep, to all captives who are without comfort and without hope, to all who are sick and lonely: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus not only preaches the gospel; he is the good news. He announces that which he will perform. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts; turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.