"Inexpressibly Full of Joy"
God’s message to the world was distilled into one essential drop by the angel at the birth of Jesus: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:9). A bit of joy will do. But “great joy”? It’s almost too much to hope for.
Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? Why is real joy such a hard commodity to find this time of year?
Simply telling people to be happy won’t work. That’s annoying. The gospel doesn’t do that. It gives us a hope beyond everything that beats us down. The Apostle Peter called it “an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).
Isaiah 61 has been called the John 3:16 of the Old Testament. It tells us why God sent his Son and what his mission is going to be. On top of that God shows us what our role will be and what promise he makes to us. He describes a life of joy that he desires for his followers—a joy which isn't dependent on our circumstances.
This morning we are going to see what God intended when he sent his Son. We are going to see the power of the Gospel in action. And we are going to see the fruit that comes from a changed life.
The Messiah’s Mission vss. 1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
is on me,
His mission is to bring good news to the poor and to bind up the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives and to comfort all who mourn and anoint them with gladness, so that the Lord may be glorified. And he has made us partners with him in that mission.
Vs. 1a The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me:
Here, Isaiah prophetically speaks for the Messiah, and the Messiah announces that He is blessed and empowered by the Spirit of the Lord GOD. In Luke 4:16-22, Jesus spoke in the synagogue of Nazareth, his hometown. he opened the scroll to Isaiah 61 and read from the beginning of the chapter through the first line of verse 2. Then he sat down and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21).
Jesus is the person described in Isaiah 61 and He is the one the Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon. The Spirit came upon him after John baptized him. Everything that Jesus did on earth, he did because the Spirit was upon him. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed the Spirit of the Lord GOD, how much more do we! We would be wise to head this and not try to live under our power.
Vs 1b because the Lord has anointed me:
This identifies the speaker as the Messiah, because Messiah means “Anointed One.” The word “anoint” means to rub or sprinkle on; apply an ointment, or oily liquid to. Kings and priests in the Old Testament were literally anointed with oil. Oil would be applied, but as a sign of the Holy Spirit upon their lives and service. The oil on the head was the outward representation of the spiritual work going on inside them.
As Christians under the New Covenant, we also have an anointing.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth (1 John 2:20).
In the New Testament, anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to.
Jesus was given the greatest anointing of the Spirit in the history of humanity for one reason: to bring good news to the poor.
Vs. 1c the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor
He defines his ministry as helping people in trouble, people in bondage, people whose hearts are broken. Whose heart hasn’t been broken? Into our age Jesus says, “I came to bear your guilty despair, and to replace it with joy inexpressible and filled with glory.”
He does it single-handedly. He has the Spirit. He has the Word. That’s all he needs to remake the whole world, beginning with you and me.
How does he do it? By preaching the good news. The gospel announces that Christ has won the victory over everything that’s against us. The Messiah announces that he is here to heal the damage that sin brings. Sin has done great damage, so there needs to be a great work of redemption.
Because sin impoverishes, he will preach good tidings to the poor.
Because sin breaks hearts, he will heal the brokenhearted.
Because sin makes captives, he will proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
Because sin oppresses, he will proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. He continues to free people today through the preaching of the gospel.
To Usher in a New Era (vs. 2)
When Jesus came on the scene, he ushered in a new era.
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2).
But what is “the day of vengeance of our God”? When Jesus read this passage at that service in Nazareth, he didn’t read these words. He stopped reading at the end of the first line of verse.
Christ fulfills all the prophecies, but not all at the same time. At his first coming, he inaugurated the year of the Lord’s favor. At his second coming, he’ll bring in the day of the vengeance of our God, when the door of grace will be closed forever.
It’s as if Isaiah looks into the future and sees two mountain peaks far away, one beyond the other. But he can’t see how much distance there is between them.
So, there is a year of God’s favor and a day of vengeance. Why? The year of favor is the time where Salvation is available to everyone. The Day of vengeance is the wrath of God being poured out on the earth for judgement. You can't have favor without a looming judgment. And a day of judgment is coming.
In the meantime . . .
God is growing his people (v. 3)
They will be called oaks of righteousness.
The restored people of God’s are glorious.
Not only will they be comforted but beauty will rise out of the ashes. God is not just interested in rescuing us. He is interested building us up and clothing us in majesty.
Why do we sit in the ashes, why do we mourn, why do we indulge the spirit of heaviness when Jesus gave us something so much better? In mourning, ashes would be cast upon the head. Here, the ashes are replaced with a beautiful crown.
Most importantly he wants to plant something in us that grows into a mighty oak. He wants us to be as strong, beautiful, and useful as trees - and trees of righteousness at that.
Most wonderfully, when people look at the trees, they see they are the planting of the LORD. Isaiah wants to inspire in us such admiration for our Messiah that we gladly exert ourselves for his cause in our generation.
So, Jesus' mission was to preach the Gospel to the poor, rescue the brokenhearted, usher in a new era, and build His church and then give us the ability to do it
A Priestly People vss. 4-7
will rebuild the ancient ruins
of your shame
God’s people will rebuild what is ruined (vs. 4).
The mourners of verse 3 become the repair experts of verse 4.
They will rebuild the
Historically, this is a reference to what Ezra and Nehemiah will do when they return, but it has a broader, symbolic meaning, as well. They shall rebuild the ancient ruins: God loves to restore ruins. He wants to use His people to restore and rebuild things that are broken down and ruined.
Under the empowerment of the Spirit, and the ministry of the Messiah, God’s people will be rebuilders.
they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations:
Even if the rubble has stood for many generations, God can still use His people to rebuild. We need this; because that’s what sin does. Sin destroys, but God restores. And God uses his people in the work of restoration.
God’s people will be set apart to serve the LORD (vs. 5-6).
And you will be called
priests of the Lord,
God’s people, under the anointing of the Spirit and the ministry of the Messiah, have a holy occupation. They are Priests of the LORD, and Servants of our God. God works not despite us or instead of us but in us and through us.
Serving God isn’t punishment; it’s nourishment. God is as concerned about the servant as he is the service. If all God wanted to do was get the work done, he could send His angels, and they would do it better and faster. But he not only wants to do something through us, he also wants to do something in us.
God’s people will rejoice at God’s great blessings (vs. 7).
Instead of your shame
What a change under the anointing of the Spirit and the ministry of the Messiah!
No more shame. Now, you shall have double honor.
No more disgrace. Now, they shall rejoice in their portion.
Indeed, everlasting joy shall be theirs, a joy that can never be taken away.
An Everlasting Covenant vss. 8-11
I, the Lord, love justice;
delight greatly in the Lord;
The heart behind the covenant (vs. 8)
For I, the Lord, love
This is who God is: He loves what is right and he hates what is wrong with all the intensity of the divine being. He desires for his people to be holy, but he makes a covenant with his people saying he will keep them
The covenant brings visible blessings (vs. 9).
Their descendants will be
known among the nations
In fact, all who see them shall acknowledge them.
The covenant brings salvation and righteousness (vs.10-11).
I delight greatly in the
For he has clothed me
There are two things here that we are given: First are the garments of salvation:
He has clothed me with garments of salvation (vs. 10b)
He takes our tattered rags and replaces them with a garment suitable for a wedding
All of us have become like
one who is unclean,
Second is a robe of righteousness
He has . . . arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness:
The granting of salvation and righteousness to God’s people is represented by the picture of clothing them.
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil 3:9)
These are glorious garments.
As a bridegroom adorns his head as a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (vs. 10c).
These are given garments: For he has clothed me . . . he has arrayed me.
Finally, we see that the blessing of God grows. It isn’t manufactured, but it grows.
For as the soil makes the
sprout come up
There is a sense in which we can never make something grow. No one can get inside of a seed and “turn on” the genetic component that makes the seed spring forth, and bud. The blessing of life and growth is miraculously within the seed. But we can provide the right environment for the seed to bud, grow, and be fruitful. That’s also how we receive and flourish in God’s blessings. We can’t “make” or “manufacture” them. But we can put our hearts and minds in the right environments of faith, fellowship, and obedience, to see blessing grow and flourish.
God’s blessing for us is a joy that isn’t dependent on the circumstances of our life. It is a joy that we cannot manufacture or “gin up” but that grows naturally in the life of one who has been clothed with salvation and robed with righteousness by God.