The Messiah Announces Good News (Isaiah Sermon 74 of 81)
December 11, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Christ's View of Scripture
"Today… This Scripture is Fulfilled"
So this morning as I was thinking about this text, I was closing my eyes and just trying to picture in redemptive history, when Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth after having, it seems, already done some miracles, already done some healings, and the report had gotten back to his hometown, and he went to the synagogue there. And the town was abuzz with the reports, I'm sure, and they were wondering what was going on about Jesus. And the Sabbath day had come and everyone assembled in the synagogue and the time for the reading of the Scripture came in that worship service. And Jesus rose and went forward and the scroll of Isaiah was given to him. And he unrolled into the very place we're studying this morning, this very text of Scripture, Isaiah 61. And he read the ancient words powerfully and with spirit-endowed passion. And I think you probably could have heard a pin drop. Perhaps the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was a powerful moment as he read these words to the enthralled assembly there in the synagogue. "The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted and to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for prisoners, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And after he finished reading most of verses 1 and 2, he rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant and then he sat down, and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he opened his mouth and spoke these words. "Today in your hearing this Scripture is fulfilled."
Fulfilled. I think if I had been an average neighbor of Jesus, I would have been stunned at that word. Fulfilled. That word "fulfilled" must have hit everyone there like a thunderbolt. After all, the passage that Jesus had read had been around for centuries, 700 years. And now this man, who they'd watched grow up from a little boy in their community, was saying that as they listened to him read that Scripture, the Scripture had been fulfilled, this prophecy. This was a Messianic prophecy. And he was claiming to be the fulfillment of that ancient prophecy. Now our faith, our Christian faith, is a supernatural faith. It's unlike any other religion in the world. It's different. And what sets it apart from every other religion in the world is just this, fulfilled prophecy, specifically fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. That's what makes Christianity different. No other religion has this. Through the prophets, God told the human race ahead of time what he would do. And then in Christ, he did it. He fulfilled those words. No other religion in the world has this element of fulfilled prophecy, just as no other religion in the world has Jesus. Isaiah has talked about this again and again, how God alone can do this, God alone has the power to do this.
Isaiah 46:9 and 10. "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is yet to come. And I say, my purpose will stand and I will do all that I desire." That's the God of the Bible. Or again, this, Isaiah 42:9. "Behold, the former things have taken place and new things I declare. Before they spring into being, I announce them to you." No prophecies in Scripture are as significant as those centered around the person and work of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, the Anointed One, the Messiah. These prophecies set Jesus apart from every other religious leader. Mark that well. Use that to share the Gospel with people who think Christianity is like every other religion. It's not. They set Jesus apart from every king that's ever lived, every prophet or priest that's ever lived. They set him apart as the unique savior of the world sent from God on high to a world that desperately needs him, a world drowning in sin. Now, this morning, we get to look carefully at this prophecy, go word by word through it, verse by verse. This prophecy, written by Isaiah seven centuries before Jesus, 27 centuries before us. And we get to thrill at every word in this ancient scroll.
We get to find light and life and health and peace and vigor and hope from considering the mission that Jesus has now accomplished, I want to say fulfilled, and that he is still fulfilling by the power of the Spirit of God. So let's look at it together. We're going to just unfold this line by line.
I. The Messiah and His Mission (vs. 1-3)
Look at the beginning at verse 1. "The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." So here, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is anointed with the Spirit. Now, for me as I was writing my commentary on Isaiah, I was thinking about, I had to deal with issues of interpretation all the time. It's possible that Isaiah himself is saying these words. He's talking about his own ministry. But I think, as a believer in all 66 books of the Bible, all of them equally inspired, Jesus has settled forever what this passage is about, amen. It's not about Isaiah. It's about Jesus. And so that settles it, and so Jesus is speaking to us, he's talking to us. And so the coming Savior, this text says, he said, was anointed by the Sovereign Lord. The title "Sovereign Lord" in some of the translations is literally "Adonai Yahweh," so it's a doubled-up expression. Adonai is "my Lord." Yahweh is the covenant name for God, the creator of the ends of the earth, the creator of the nation of Israel. So this, this God of the universe who is also my Lord, the personal King of all the redeemed the creator of the ends of the earth.
This one is addressed in this text or spoken of in this text, the Spirit of this God, says the text, "is upon me." As I said, the text is written in the first person. Jesus, I believe, is speaking directly through the prophet Isaiah about His mission. And the Holy Spirit of God made plain this mission centuries before Jesus was born. This is the essence of predictive prophecy that I'm saying is completely unique in Christianity, there's no other religion like. It says in 1 Peter 1:10-11, "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ, in them, was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. So that's the essence of prophecy. A prophet has the Spirit of Christ in Him and He makes predictions about Christ, the predictions of the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that would follow.
And again in 2 Peter 1:21, Peter writes this, "No prophecy ever had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." That's the essence of predictive prophecy. The Holy Spirit comes upon a prophet, and he writes down words about the future. Revelation 19:10, says the, "Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy." In other words, the point of it all, is to give a testimony about Jesus. So it was the glorious work of the Holy Spirit of God to put into the mind of Isaiah the prophet, the words that Jesus wanted to speak to the human race. To speak on behalf of our Savior, Jesus Christ. These words therefore are really Jesus's words spoken by the Holy Spirit seven centuries earlier.
Now the prediction here is that the same Spirit of God that came upon the prophets, and wrote, that same Spirit has anointed Jesus. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for the Lord has anointed me. So there's a link between the word anointing and the work of the Spirit. They go together. So what then is this anointing? Well, the verb anoint has to do with the pouring out of oil on a key individual in Jewish society, to set them apart for their office and it's a representation of the Spirit of God descending from heaven, to earth onto that individual. Equipping them supernaturally for the task they would fulfill. Prophets were anointed with oil, priests were anointed with oil, kings especially anointed with oil. So we have the story for example, of Saul who was anointed with the oil and the Holy Spirit came on him and made him a different man.
Recently at the advice of a church member, I was watching a historical depiction of the monarchy of Britain, and the anointing ceremonies, the key of the coronation, the key holiest moment, when the Monarch is anointed with holy oil and the Archbishop of Canterbury, puts the oil on the head and on the chest representing the heart and on the hands of the monarch. It seems like a fervent prayer that the Holy Spirit would descend and enable the monarch, to think after the manner of the Holy Spirit and to love after the manner of the Holy Spirit and to act also after the manner and by the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
Sadly, the monarchy of Britain has hardly ever lived up to that. I asked a friend of mine, "Do you think any of the kings or queens have been born again?" And he didn't know, he's an expert in monarchy and also a believer. Well, for them individually for all eternity, it will matter but the symbolism is powerful. Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. Now, this is absolutely mind-boggling. You came here this morning to have your mind boggled, whatever that means, nobody hardly ever use that word boggles, except mind-boggling. But this stretches our minds and our imaginations to the breaking point, how do we understand the infinite mysteries of Christianity? It's a mysterious religion, we believe in the doctrine of the trinity, that one God has eternally existed in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of the persons of the Trinity are co-equal, co-eternal, but each person of the Trinity has different offices to carry out in the plan of redemption. For example, God the Father came up with the plan of redemption, it was His plan, the Father makes the plan. The Son mysteriously takes on a human body, does mighty miracle speaks perfect words, lives a sinless life, dies an atoning death and rises from the dead.
The redemption was planned by the Father, accomplished by the Son and then applied by the Spirit of God. So the Holy Spirit applies it but the Spirit we're finding here is intrinsic to Jesus's mission. The Holy Spirit enables Jesus to do all those things that he did. It is by the Spirit that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. It is by the Spirit that he was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. It's by the Spirit that He conquered all of the temptations of the devil. It was by the Spirit that He did great signs and wonders and miracles, it was by the Spirit that He taught perfect teachings. It was by the Spirit that He was strengthened in the Garden of Gethsemane, against that final temptation to turn away from the cross, so therefore by the Spirit he went to the cross, and certainly by the Spirit he was raised from the dead.
Peter says this in preaching to Cornelius the Roman Centurion. In Acts 10:38, these are just amazing words, "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." So therefore Jesus did nothing apart from the Spirit's power. Just as he did nothing apart from the Father's plan. He says in John 5:19, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself, He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does." Now, what I'm saying is concerning this anointing with the spirit, the same is true of the spirit that Jesus could do nothing apart from the Spirit of God. Now that's where your mind gets boggled. I understand why we need the Spirit to come on us for us to do great things for God, but Jesus is God. And so go ahead, just let your mind be boggled I don't have an answer to this. But it seems that we are instructed here that only by the Spirit of Jesus do all of these great signs and wonders in this great preaching. It's by the Spirit that Jesus fulfilled his office to be the Savior of the world. And after Jesus rose from the dead, it is now by the Spirit of Christ that the gospel is spreading to the ends of the earth, only by the Spirit that this redemption is applied to people as Acts 1:8 says, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth."
Now, specifically in verse 1, the Spirit anointed Jesus with power to preach, power for preaching power to preach the gospel, to preach the good news. That's the focus here to preach good news to the poor. Jesus was the greatest preacher of all time. And only by the power of the Spirit could he do it now, how great a preacher was Jesus? Do you remember the time when the rulers of the Jews, the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus remember that? And some time later, the temple guards came back empty-handed, they said, "Why didn’t you bring him in?" And they said "No one ever spoke the way this man does." They were just totally captivated by Jesus the preacher or at the end of the Sermon of the Mount, arguably the greatest sermon that's ever been preached.
It says when Jesus had finished saying all these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught them as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law, Where did that sense of power that encounter with the living God, come from, but by the Spirit as Jesus spoke? And it says The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. Meaning those who are destitute, they're beggars: They have nothing to offer. And so, that great sermon, I just mentioned a moment ago, the Sermon on the Mount, begins with these words. Blessed, happy rich eternally rich blessed are the poor in spirit or a good translation, the spiritual beggars for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. You have nothing in your hands, you have nothing to offer nothing to give. And Jesus says You're blessed if you realize it and you bring that emptiness to God and He will give you a Kingdom. So that's who he's going to preach to the good news.
The Messiah’s Mission to Poor Prisoners
Now, look at the mission. By the way, before I go on to the mission do you not see therefore the eternal importance of preaching? I'm not in any way saying anything about myself, just the office and the function of preaching it is eternally significant. This is exactly what the spirit anointed Jesus to do is preach. And frankly, without the preaching none of the other things would have been effective later the Apostle Paul said, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"
And faith, the faith to call on the name of the Lord comes from hearing the message even the message of Christ. And so it's by the preaching of the message that souls are saved all over the world, is the most significant thing that happens at, on any given day is the preaching of the Gospel, it's more significant than all of the movements of the nations. And so, the significant of the preach now look at his mission, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion. To be stolen them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." This is the fullness of Jesus's mission. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit first and foremost, to preach to proclaim the word of God, the word of the good news, the gospel to all people, Gospel of salvation a message in words.
So it's a message of joy for the broken-hearted, it's a message to freedom for the captives. It's a message of release from those sitting in dungeons of darkness, a message of the recovery of sight to those who are blind, a message of the gracious forgiveness of Almighty God, to those who deserve vengeance. This is the essence of the gospel, freedom from slavery to sin, from the chains, the dungeons of sin. Jesus said in John 8 "you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." But then Jesus's Jewish enemies said, "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". 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'll be free, indeed truly free." This is the freedom that Jesus preached. Satan has enslaved the entire human race in invisible chains that we are powerless to break. We're held in chains of sin, bad habits that flow from corrupted hearts, evil actions that consummate, previous lusts, wicked lusts. This is the nature of Satan's dark realm, his evil kingdom. We all sat in the gloomy dungeons of sin, and we could not break out, couldn't break free.
So, Jesus was sent to proclaim liberty, freedom for the captives, to lead us up and out of Satan's dark dungeons. Now that's incredible good news. That's what we Christians celebrate. Not just Christmas, but year-round, that we've been set free. We don't ever need to sin again, ever. We're set free. And we're free from the penalty and the vengeance that we deserve, God's vengeance against our breaking of his most holy laws; we are set free from all that by Jesus. Set free. Jesus said in John 5:24, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life." Isn't that a great verse? I think it deserves to be memorized along with John 3:16. Go ahead and memorize John 3:16. But John 5:24, "Crossed over from death to life."
Beyond that, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to perform mighty works of healing. "He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted. This binding up is literally related to shattering. So picture a piece of pottery that's been thrown to the ground and shattered on the rocks, just shards everywhere. That's what sin does to people. So, it does it to their bodies, their bodies are racked with disease and pain and suffering and ultimately, death. Does it to our souls, we are shattered by sin. Jesus comes to bind up, to put the pottery back together so you can't even see that it was ever cracked. It's a miracle of binding up of the broken-hearted. And he did literal, physical miracles. The recovery of sight to the blind, to show that he could do the far greater work of the healing of our souls and the reconciliation of our status with God, our heavenly judge and our Heavenly Father. That's the greatest work.
And so, he did miracles in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. He said to the paralyzed man, "Rise and walk." Or the same thing with the man born blind. No one ever heard in the history of the healing of a man born blind. Jesus did that. The recovery of sight to the blind, as a physical, real, actual display of power. He actually did it in space and time. Yes, I believe in the miracles. They really happen. But there are also symbols of a far greater spiritual healing that Jesus alone can do. Now, this message of healing and grace and power for sinful captives changes everything. We were mourning and we were powerless and now we are forgiven and rejoicing and we have been embraced and adopted.
Verse 2-3, "To comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion." As Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted." We get eternal comfort now. This message is as relevant today as it was in Jesus' day. Sin leaves people's lives shattered, our heart's breaking. Think about the incredible comfort that Jesus has brought to people trapped by chemical addictions, enslaved by pornography, struggling with emptiness and desperation, darkly allured towards suicide, and Jesus steps in with light and changes everything and brings joy where there was such grieving and sorrow and brokenness. Jesus alone can do that. And he can step in, even to a funeral and bring a ray of eternal glorious sunshine. Even at a Christian funeral. So, we don't grieve like those who have no hope. We actually ultimately walk out mocking death saying, "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." So we don't grieve like those who have no hope, even at the face of the grave. So we can say goodbye to Christian spouses and Christian friends and all that, even at the grave and know we'll see them again in Christ. He provides for those who grieve and mourn in Zion. So Isaiah 61 predicts the comfort that Jesus will bring to a mourning world, a world ripped apart and ruined by sin and death.
The Year of the Lord’s Favor
Now, pretty dramatically and some have noted this, some have talked to me about it even this week. In Nazareth Jesus stopped the reading right in the middle. Just stopped. Didn't read the whole thing. What do I mean? Well, this is what he said, this is Luke 4:18-20, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," and he stopped there. Rolled up the scroll and gave it to the attendant, sat down and began to speak. Today, this Scripture is fulfilled. Okay, so he ended at the proclamation of something called the year of the Lord's favor. I can't hear that except that I think about the year of jubilee, like in the Book of Leviticus, where you get pretty much once in your lifetime a year unlike any other year. I mean, somebody's like, no working. Alright? Slaves set free. All of them go back. It's like this huge massive Sabbath rest for the fields and vineyards. And people are released from slavery and bondage then they go back to their ancestral properties and it's the year of jubilee. Once in your lifetime. What an incredible picture. A whole year of that.
So it's the year of the Lord's favor. The word favor would be like grace. The year of grace, an extended period of grace for all us sinners. A once in a lifetime opportunity because of its infinite value. But it goes on for a full year, so it's a very vast window of opportunity, but it is finite. It doesn't go on forever, this year of the Lord's grace. That time is now to quote an earlier passage from Isaiah, Isaiah 55:6-7, "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 them turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him and to our God and he will freely pardon." That's the year of the Lord's favor. And He is near now or as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:2, "In the time of my favor, I heard you in the day of salvation, I helped you. I tell you now is the time of God's favor. Now is the day of salvation. This is the time.
I can't help but stop and just wonder, and I prayed this morning that God would bring people here who needed to hear this message who are presently sitting in dark dungeons of sin and chains, and I'm just telling you that the door is thrown open if you just run through it through faith in Christ. And this is the time, now, you don't know that you'll ever hear this gospel message again. This might be the last time you hear the gospel, you don't know. But this is the year of the Lord's favor, this is the opportunity for amnesty for all sinners who hear this message to run into forgiveness and reconciliation with God and eternal life. I would grab it if I were you, I already did grab it back in 1982. I'm saying this is the gospel, Jesus died on the cross for sinners like you and me, but why did he die? Well, because of the next part that Jesus didn't read; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God. Vengeance. God has a day of vengeance for those who will not receive the grace of this gospel.
He has a day of vengeance for people all over the world who do not fulfill his holy law as written in their hearts and evidence in creation. He has a day of vengeance coming for sinners all over the world. That day is real and it is coming. Romans 2:5-8 says this, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you're storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath. When his righteous judgment will be revealed, God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good, seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But, for those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, there'll be wrath and anger." That's The day of God's vengeance. It's spoken of in many places in Scripture. Honestly, without understanding The day of God's vengeance, you won't understand what you're being saved from. Salvation won't mean anything. You have every right to ask, "Saved from what?" Well, saved from the day of God's vengeance, saved from being punished for your law violation, punished for your sins. All of us, we're under that death sentence.
Jesus regularly warned about the coming day of God's vengeance. He said, "I tell you that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Matthew 13, "The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all those who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25, the sheep and the goats. "Then he will say to those on his left [the goats], 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.'" So, why did Jesus stop the reading at that point? Clearly, at other times he did preach and warn about the day of God's vengeance. Well, I think it has to do with the word "fulfilled," it has to do with what he was there in his first coming to do. He was there to fulfill salvation. He didn't need to come to earth to pour out vengeance. Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed from heaven down, there didn't need to be an incarnation to do that. But for salvation, he came from heaven to earth. The first coming was to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and salvation. But there will be a second coming.
Now in John 3:17, Jesus said, "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world will be saved through him." So he didn't come for vengeance in the first coming. But there will be a second coming. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, "When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels, he will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." That's what the second coming will be like. That's why I think he stopped the reading.
II. The Transformation of the Messiah’s People (vs. 3-9)
Now, in verses 3-9, we see the transformation of Messiah's people, not only does Jesus proclaim and heal but he also transforms the people he saves. We become different, essentially changed, transformed.
Look at verse 3, "To bestow on them... " And I love the NIV's translation here, so I'm going to stick with it. "To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor." Now, this is really cool. It wasn't till I practiced this sermon this morning that I noticed this. So here, these three words are highlighted in my outline: Crown, oil, garment. What does that speak to you of, but a coronation? It's amazing. These are emblems of royalty. These are emblems of royalty, as though Jesus came to take wretched dungeon dwellers like us and make us into royalty, and put a crown on our heads, and anoint us with the oil of his spirit, and cover us with righteous robes to make us royalty, kings and queens under his ultimate kingship. He will be King of kings, and he will be Lord of lords, and we will reign with him forever. And so Peter calls us a royal priesthood. It's just amazing.
And so the transformation is of our heads, so that we think differently through repentance and through the teaching of the Word of God, and our hearts, so that we love differently by the transforming work of the Spirit, and then our lives, so we live different kinds of lives, and look how he describes it, "A crown of beauty instead of ashes." We were ugly in God's sight, but through the imputed righteousness of Christ, we're now radiantly attractive to him, he actually likes looking at us in Christ. And then the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, Christ is everything. These exact words were spoken of Jesus's affections. In Hebrews 1:9, it says of Jesus, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore God your God has exalted you or set you above your companions," listen, "by anointing you with the oil of joy." It's the exact same thing it says here. We are then in him transformed, loving righteousness, hating wickedness, anointed with the oil of joy instead of mourning.
So Jesus changes our hearts and then a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, apart from Christ, life was hopeless, it was bleak and empty and purposeless. We had nothing to look forward to except the just wrath of God in death. But now, in Christ, we have a joyful life in which we can do service to God that's worth doing. We can actually do good works, not to pay for sins, but to build up his kingdom and it says, "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isn’t that marvelous? Oh, I want to be an oak of righteousness, wouldn't that be marvelous? We were bruised reeds, weren't we? Swaying back and forth with public opinion, every temptation swayed by it, powerless to resist. Now, in Christ, we can become mighty oaks of righteousness, no longer double-minded but able to withstand all of Satan's attacks.
After I graduated from college, I took a trip, a cross-country, with a friend of mine, probably one of most fun trips I ever made. We were two free guys. He was driving to a job in LA, I had one waiting for me back in Massachusetts, he paid for all of my expenses, which I thought was pretty cool, cause his company paid for his. And it was just, it was pretty amazing. We went to Yellowstone, we went to Grand Teton National Park, but one of the most memorable places was Pacific Coast 1, this highway that went along Northern California. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. But in Northern California, it's the Redwood Forest and these massive redwood trees, I'll never forget them. These trees can live as long as 18 centuries, we're told. 1800 years old. Their trunks can be as wide as 30 feet. You could drive a car through one of those tree trunks. They can reach 379 feet high, almost a 40-storey building. Massive. Wonder what the root system is like.
And this road that you drive through is called the Avenue of the Giants, and you can just drive through it. To me, that's what church history is like. We can just drive for 20 centuries, through the Avenue of the Giants and think about brothers and sisters in Christ that led gigantic lives. They were oaks of righteousness, rooted in Christ, rooted in the truth of the Bible, not easily swayed by lust and temptations, and by the opinions of their age, they were rooted in Christ and in the Word of God, the unchanging Word of God, and they just grew up and bore fruit for God. It's a massive display of life and power and stature. Like in Ephesians 3, Paul prays that they would be rooted and established in love, and would have power together with all the saints to grasp that infinite dimensions of Christ's love. Rooted in Christ, or again in Colossians, "So then just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him."
The Root System for the "Oaks of Righteousness"
So what's your root system like? Are you rooted in Christ? Are you rooted in the Bible? Rooted in the Word of God? Rooted in the work of grace in your life? Are you stable in Jesus? Stable? I love studying about this royal priesthood that is church history, these are brothers and sisters in Christ. Think about the Roman martyrs, the ones that had their blood shed in the sands of the Colosseum. They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Nero made some of them torches for his garden parties, and they would not shrink back. Think about the missionaries that went courageously in the centuries that followed to win the pagans of Germania or the Scottish forebears known as the pits or think about those that evangelized the Vikings. How would you like to evangelize Vikings and lead some of them to Christ before they killed you? I mean, think of the courage of these brothers and sisters that did these great things or think about the reformers like Luther that he took his life in his hand for doctrine justification by faith alone, he was willing to literally die at the stake, burn at the stake for that. They didn't get him, but they wanted to. Took his life in his hand, these oaks of righteousness.
And think about the missionary movement of the 19th and 20th centuries, those that have taken the gospel to the inland regions of China and Africa, and to the jungles of the Amazon rainforest and Irian Jaya, they've gone as far as you can go to take the gospel. Work's not done yet, but they have done... Don't you want to be an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor? Don't you want to live that kind of a life? I do. And the point of all of this is the display of His glory. Not for us, not to us, but to Your name be the glory. For the display of God's splendor, that they can see how great God is by looking at our lives. Verse 4, "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore places long devastated. They'll renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." Obviously, the immediate context here is the rebuilding of the City of Jerusalem, but the words go far greater than that. Small city in Palestine rebuilt after the exile, it's bigger than that.
The people of God in every generation have been involved in rebuilding ancient ruins. I think about Luther and Calvin, how they rebuilt the ruins of godly New Testament theology on the wreckage of centuries of false teaching by the Medieval Roman Catholic church. They rebuilt doctrinal buildings on wreckage. Or I think about even missionaries who elevated Paul's passion for the unreached, for those who have never heard in regions beyond. It's always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ wasn't named. So I wouldn't be building on someone else's foundation, rather as it is written, those who have not heard will hear and those who have not seen will be told of Christ to the ends of the earth and missionaries in 19th and 20th century, they rebuilt the ancient ruins. The commitment to missions.
Now Satan's a destroyer, and he ruins works that one sowed for the glory of God. Churches that were once really radiant and on fire for Christ become cold and lifeless and ruined. Colleges and seminaries established openly and clearly for the glory of God get taken over somewhere in there and become ruined by Satan's deceptions. Wreckage, those institutions lay in ruins. God calls on every generation to look at this wreckage, these ruins and say, "What can we rebuild by the power of God, to the glory of God? What can we rebuild?" Now obviously we Christians, we should go where there's literal physical destruction. We can go in the path of hurricanes with the Baptist men and go help rebuild houses, but you just must know that this is bigger than all that. The biggest, most glorious building projects say every week is the building of the church of Jesus Christ. This spiritual structure rising to become a temple in which God lives by his Spirit. That's the building project, and it's out of the ruins that Satan has left in the world.
Enriched, Not Enslaved, by the Nations
Verse 4, now very quickly, we're not going to go as carefully through all these verses, we'll just read them and look at them with me. "Aliens will shepherd your flocks and foreigners will work your fields and your vineyards and you will be called priests of the Lord." That's awesome. You'll be named ministers of our God. You'll feed on the wealth of nations and in their riches you will boast. Here's that royal priesthood, that holy nation, that people belonging to God called out of darkness into light so that we can declare his marvelous praises. We're priests for the Lord and we're going to feed on the wealth of the nations, not like that prosperity gospel stuff. We don't believe in that. The wealth of the nations here is definitely spiritual, people converted. People who are treasures and they are converted. You'll feed on that and they will become shepherds in the Lord's house. And look at the transformation, verses 7-9, "Instead of their shame, my people 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. Everlasting joy will be theirs."
You as a Christian can read those words and say, these are true of me. I'm not ashamed anymore. My shame has been covered by the blood of Christ. I've received a double portion for that. I'm not disgraced anymore. I'm now honored in Christ and I'm going to rejoice in my inheritance, God himself, and then the new heaven, the new earth. We're going to inherit the earth and that's my inheritance and I'm going to rejoice in that. Verse 8, "For I the Lord love justice. I hate robbery and inequity and in my faithfulness I will reward them and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, the new covenant. And their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed."
Oh, that's powerful. Oh, I want to put that on display. I want everybody to see how God has blessed us, how richly we are forgiven and loved and secured and filled with hope and looking forward to eternity. We're a people the Lord has blessed.
III. The Messiah’s Garments of Joy, Righteousness and Salvation (vs. 10-11)
Finishes in verses 10 and 11, "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 as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Who is speaking here? Is it Jesus? Is it Isaiah on behalf of all the redeemed? How about yes and yes, why not? We step up into the radiant beauty of garments of righteousness and we get covered with Christ's righteousness that he won first for us and then gives to us. Verse 11, "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations."
Applications, first, just stand in awe of the amazing moment when Jesus stood up and said this has been fulfilled. Stand in awe of that. Just stand in awe of God's ability to predict the future. Just worship him, worship him. Just say, "Thank you God for being such a God to figure all this out before the foundation of the world, predicted centuries before it happened." And then Jesus steps into time and says, "Today in your hearing, this Scripture is fulfilled." Praise him.
Secondly, meditate on the amazing grace that leads him to elevate degraded sinners like you and me from the dungeons, the satanic dungeons of darkness to be under him, kings and queens of glory, princes and princesses in his kingdom. That's incredible. Never get tired of thanking him for saving you from the day of vengeance. You deserved it. So did I. We were covered with stinking clothes, and instead we have this rich garment of praise now on us.
Thirdly, we should yearn to become what the text says we will be, mighty oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his glory. Grow up in Christ. Don't be blown back and forth anymore by false teaching or by lusts and temptations. Don't be weak. Be an oak of righteousness to display God's splendor. Resolve in 2017 to be holier than you've ever been before by the power of the Spirit. Say, "I want to be an oak. I want to be a planting. I don't want to be weak anymore in this weak area. Give me strength to fight."
Fourth, be energetic in the mission that this, like just about all of these last chapters Isaiah talks about, worldwide missions, nations coming to the light of the glory of Zion. Let's be energetic in it. Let's care about it.nI loved hearing Amanda's story. I was so excited, she was willing to share that story. You should ask her for details. The lives that were changed by her and her team. It's a great story. We're going to hear it in heaven, but it's great to hear it now. Let's love these stories. Let's send out more and more missionaries. Let's raise more money. Let's more than meet our goal. $150,000 to send out missionaries like that. Let's care about it. Let's pray for missions and be passionate and then let's make missions happen right here at home. We can do that with unreached people groups here in our area with the Gujarati, but we can also evangelize people who are just like us, same as us, same culture, same language but they need Christ, let's talk to them.
And then finally, if you are struggling with depression and discouragement, Isaiah 61 is for you. God is able to comfort those who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion. He's able to bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Don't weep anymore. Rejoice in Christ, talk to other people. Get together. Don't be alone in your sorrow. Get together with other people and talk about Jesus. It's a great topic. Close with me in prayer.