Sunday, February 20, 2011

Isaiah 61 - The Year of the Lord's Favor

Opening thought:  Perhaps it was Christmas morning when you were a kid. Perhaps it was when you were 8½ months along. Perhaps it was waiting for the Chick-FilA to open. Perhaps it was the sale of your home. It was the moment you had been waiting for. Today’s passage of Scripture is about just that. Today’s passage is the moment we have been waiting for. Isaiah has talked about the Messiah. He has told us a lot about Him. Today is the moment we have been waiting for. Today the Messiah Himself speaks.

Contextual Notes:
Isaiah’s prophecy continues to focus on one Man. After 39 chapters of pointing to the coming Messiah-King who will judge sin, then chapters 40-55 point to the comfort (40) the Servant-Messiah will bring by suffering, dying, rising (53), and thus fulfilling all God’s covenants (54-55). This Messiah’s suffering changes our future despite our present sinful condition (56). His kingdom is open to all (56:1-8) despite our sinfulness (56:9-57:13) to those who will repent of their sin and find healing and peace (57:14-21). Not mere religious activity (58:1-5), but his Kingdom is about serving like the Servant Himself (58:6-10) in blessing and restoration (58:11-14). Yes, sin separates us from God (59:1-8) and others (59:9-15a), but the Redeemer’s intercession for those who repent (59:15b-21) results in hope (60:1-9), honor (60:10-14), and transformation (60:15-22).

This is the moment we have been waiting for. Now the Messiah Himself speaks! What does He say? He proclaims again his Royal favor for God’s people (61:1-3a), prosperity for the land (61:3b-9), and the joy of salvation (61:10-11).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 61 to let Israel hear the coming Messiah who brings favor, prosperity, and joy.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Messiah’s blessings.
Key Verse: Isaiah 61:1-2: In verse 2 note the comfort (chaps. 40-66) and vengeance (chaps. 1-39) of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 61

Sermon Points:
1.   Messiah proclaims favor for the peoples! (Isaiah 61:1-3a)
2.   Messiah proclaims prosperity for the Land! (Isaiah 61:3b-9)
3.   Messiah proclaims joy of salvation! (Isaiah 61:10-11)

Exposition:   Note well,

1.   MESSIAH PROCLAIMS FAVOR! (Isaiah 61:1-3a)
a.   He proclaims again His commission to avenge and comfort God’s people (61:1-3a), to restore the land (61:3b-9), and to clothe Zion in the joy of salvation (61:10-11).
b.   Isaiah, in his poetic genius, spirals prophetic sequences at us in order to make his point. Each time he runs the same sequence, he gives more information, making the picture clearer.[1] One of those patterns is in chapters 51-53. Isaiah announces the deliverance of the peoples (51), then the renewal of Jerusalem (52). The climax comes in chapter 53 when Isaiah reveals the Messiah as the Suffering Servant.
c.   There is a similar pattern in Isaiah 59-61. The Redeemer’s intercession (59:15b-21) brings deliverance from sin-caused separation from God (59:1-8) and others (59:9-15a). That deliverance of chapter 59 brings the restoration of hope (60:1-9), honor (60:10-14), and transformation (60:15-22) in chapter 60. Then chapter 61 comes. In chapter 53, Isaiah tells us about the Suffering Servant Messiah. In chapter 61, the Messiah Himself steps forward to tell us of Himself!
d.   The Suffering Servant of 53 is the same one in 61. That means he is the same Man prophesied in the Servant songs of 42:1-9, 49:1-9, 50:4-9. That means that he is the same as the Root of Jesse (11:1,10), the same Child Born and Son Given who will reign as a divine King on David’s throne (9:6-7), the same Child born of a virgin (7:14), the same holy seed (6:13) as the LORD high and lifted up (6:1-3).
e.   This is why it is so significant that in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus chose this passage of Scripture to read, the passage from Isaiah 61 where the Messiah Himself speaks for himself. He does just that in the synagogue in Nazareth.
f.    61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me - In a Trinitarian reference, the Messiah speaks saying the Father sent him with the power of the Holy Spirit. “He has mashach-ed (anointed) me,” here a direct admission that He is the Messiah that Isaiah has described (also 11:2; 42:1; 48:16; Psalm 45:7). And indeed the Spirit was upon him at birth (Luke 1:35); at baptism (John 1:32; 3:34). And he is to set prisoners free, the Hebrew text making sure we understand it is complete liberty, from slavery of blindness (6:9-10; 35:5; 42:7; 49:9; Psalm 146:8)
g.   61:1-2 The Year of the Lord’s Favor: This is a reference to the 50th Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25). Israel never seems to have observed a Jubilee year, but the Lord proclaims one here. The messianic prophecy was quoted by Christ in the synagogue in Nazareth, but only in part. He closed the scroll after reading the proclamation of the Lord’s favor and made no mention of ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ (Luke 4:17-21). This incident is significant for several reasons.
                    i.    First, Jesus was announcing publicly that He was the Messiah promised by the prophets, and he chose the passage where the Messiah speaks for himself. The Servant is Christ
                  ii.    Second, it suggests two comings of Christ here, the first to save, and the second to judge. This ‘day of the Lord’ that other prophets talk about – Jesus and the Apostles did too (Matthew 12:36; Luke 21:22; Romans 2:5; 2 Peter 2:9). The Judge will be Jesus (50:11; John 5:25-30).
                iii.    Third, it reveals how Jesus viewed the Old Testament (as the gospel) and illustrates interpretation of the OT. Predictive passages typically are not clear as to time and may link events separated by many years.
h.   This passage shows that 49:1-4 cannot be Israel, but is a Man who acts as an Intercessor on behalf of others. He gives
                    i.    Crown of beauty: Instead of ashes of mourning on the head, he sets not just a diadem, but a manifold gifting of royal favor.
                  ii.    oil of gladness: symbolizing a reward for having sought justice (61:3; Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9)
                iii.    garment of praise: symbolizing an inward purifying change which is expressed in praise (61:3b; Zechariah 3:1-5; Matthew 22:11-13).
i.    APPLICATION: Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He will proclaim favor over you if you will repent of your sin and come to him, asking Him to be your Redeemer, to buy you back from your bondage to sin and give you liberty – real liberty. Will you repent and let him save you? Will you submit your life to this King?
a.   Israel will experience reconstruction and restoration (49:22-23; 60:3-11) by the nations so that Israel can serve God (61:6). The nationality of Israel will not be swallowed up by the Gentiles flooding into the Kingdom (v. 7).[2] This is Paul’s One New Man of Ephesians 2. The Lord insists the work receive pay (61:8a; 1 Timothy 5:18).
b.   APPLICATION: We are called as priests with Israel. This is the precious doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. We can be priests only through the work of the Great High Priest. Through Him we have free access to the fountain of salvation and the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).[3]
c.   Blessing will be evident (61:7; Genesis 26:12-31; 41:37-41), confirming his covenant (61:8b). Oaks of righteousness – repeating 60:21
d.   Note also again our paired words of mishpat (judgment, justice) (61:8) and righteousness (tzedeq) (61:10). Here also tzedeq (robe of righteousness) is paired with yashuah (salvation), a word whose root is Hellenized into Jesus.
e.   APPLICATION: Messiah does not proclaim a prosperity that is rooted in greed, a prosperity that is linked to a faulty name-it-and-claim-it theology that focuses on material wealth. Messiah’s prosperity is greater and deeper, more powerful, and more profound. It is a spiritual prosperity. Colossians says that greed is idolatry.
3.   MESSIAH PROCLAIMS JOY! (Isaiah 61:10-11)
a.   There are various interpretations of who is speaking in these last two verses. The Jewish Targum, an Aramaic translation of the OT with its own interpretations, says the city of Jerusalem is speaking. Most Reformed/Calvinist interpreters say the speaker is the Church or the early Jewish Church based in Jerusalem, following the “Jerusalem” insertion by the Targum and making sense with their theology of the replacement of Israel with the Church. The masterful evangelical commentators Keil & Deilitzsch say this is the Lord Himself speaking, and I must agree.
b.   This is a Song of Praise sung by the Messiah. In 59:17, the Messiah puts on armor for battle (Ephesians 6:10-17), but there he gives festive clothes of a new order to celebrate salvation and righteousness (61:10). The Seed will produce its fruit, dying to provide salvation (61:11; John 12:23-24; 1 Corinthians 15:36, 42-44). Verses 10-11 picture the Messiah’s investiture as a Priest (Exodus 29:5-9; 39:28), even a High Priest and King, for the robes point back to 6:1 where the Lord is high and lifted up, and his train fills the Temple. Zechariah also understood that “Yeshua” the High Priest would be King, and there would be harmony between the two (Zechariah 3; 6:9-13).
c.   This is not the Church replacing Israel, as our dear Reformed and Calvinist brethren teach. God’s promises to everyone, especially Israel his chosen people, are irrevocable (Romans 11:26-29). For God to replace Israel with the Church makes his promises lies and impugns his character. It is not the early Messianic Jewish Church either. That view comes from the Targum which inserts the interpretation, “Jerusalem says” before verse 10, but the Jewish writers of the Targumim were intent on interpreting the Hebrew Bible in terms that refuted the way early Christians saw the OT. But it is understandable that it could be misunderstood, with the wearing of garments of salvation and righteousness (59:17; 61:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul says that marriage is a picture of a mystery, referring to the unique relationship between Christ and the Church (61:10b; Ephesians 5:32).
d.   “Clothed” Paul uses the image of salvation’s clothing in Romans 13:14 and Ephesians 4:22-24. Christ used it in several parables, such as where the guests were dressed in special garments provided by the host (Matthew 22:11-14). Being dressed in such garments showed the wearer to be an invited guest, with a right to join the celebration. The redeemed of Revelation 7:9 are dressed in robes of white.
e.   APPLICATION:  When we are clothed with the Lord’s righteousness, we also wear these garments of salvation and righteousness. Only by being clothed in Christ’s salvation and righteousness can we enjoy life in the future kingdom of the Lord.

[1] Moses does the same thing, e.g., Gen 1 and 2, Exod/Num and Deut, and the general shape of the Torah: (1) Narrative (Gen 1:1-2:22); Poetry (2:23); Epilogue (2:24-25); 2. Narrative (3:1-13); Poetry (3:14-19); Epilogue (3:20-24); (3) Narrative (4:1-23); Poetry (4:23-24); Epilogue (4:25-26); (4) JOSEPH: Narrative (Gen 37:1-48:14); Poetry (48:15-16, 20); Epilogue (48:21-22). (5) Narrative (Gen 1-48); Poetry (49:1-27) – Jacob prophesies over 12 sons of Israel); Epilogue (49:28-50:26). (6) Narrative (Exod 1 – Num 23:6); Poetry (Num 23:7-10, 18-24, 24:3-9, 15-24) – Balaam prophesies over 12 tribes of Israel); Epilogue (Num 24:25). (7) Narrative (Num 25 – Deut 31); Poetry (Deut 32:1-44 – Moses prophesies over the 12 tribes of Israel); Epilogue (Deut 32:44-52). (8) Narrative (Gen 1-Deut 32); Poetry (Deut 33) – Future of 12 Tribes of Israel; Epilogue (Deut 34).
[2] Says even Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae, 5:467-72; and Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 3:462.

[3] Alexander