1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
Jesus stood up in a synagogue and quoted this passage at the beginning of His ministry (well at least up until the second to last phrase of the passage). Check out Luke 4:16-30 :-
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
I have heard foolish preaching on this passage. In one instance, the preacher stated that because Jesus did not quote the line: "And the day of vengeance of our God" that He was declaring that there was no longer a Day of Vengeance; we live in an era of open-ended grace. This is utter non-sense. Jesus did not quote this line at that moment, but He certainly alluded to the Day of Vengeance in many ways at the end of His ministry (Luke 21:21-23):
21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.
... and the Day of Vengeance came for the apostate inhabitants of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The interesting thing is that the passage in Isaiah goes on after the mention of the Day of Vengeance:To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
And the sons of the foreigner
Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD,
They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
And in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
8 “ For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth,
And will make with them an everlasting covenant.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles,
And their offspring among the people.
All who see them shall acknowledge them,
That they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed.”
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:2b-11)
It seems to me that Isaiah 61 speaks of three things: one, of the period of Jesus' ministry to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; two, the Days of Vengeance that mark the end of the Old Covenant; and three, the people of the New Covenant ("...an everlasting covenant..."). Note, however, that the people who walk in the New Covenant are people who:
1. are trees of righteousness
2. rebuild the old ruins
3. raise up the former desolations
4. repair the ruined cities
5. (repair) the desolations of many generations
6. are called "priests of the Lord"
7. are called "servants of our God"
8. love justice
9. hate robbery
10. work in truth
11. live in the balance of righteousness and praise
Those of us who call ourselves 'Christians', is this the kind of people that we are? We need to search our hearts, and truly ask the Lord that we may be fully sanctified by the work of His Spirit in our lives. I need to search my own heart. Lord begin with me. Help me to truly be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I may be all that You have ordained me to be in Him, lest there need to be another day of vengeance upon those who are apostate and take not seriously the call to sanctification. Amen!