In the Book of Isaiah, his prophetic declarations included distinct references to the Jewish Messiah as the Warrior, the Servant-King, the Suffering Commoner, the Sacrificial Lamb, and the Anointed One. These are metaphorical human attempts to describe the Second Person of the Trinity, given our rather limited vocabulary of heavenly affairs. Hence, this narrative (viz., Isa 61) alluded to how these Messianic pronouncements play out in His economy. It can be separated into two parts: the first fragment is spoken by the Messiah prophetically (Isa 61:1-9), while the second, is a canticle of exaltation from Isaiah himself (Isa 61:10-11). In a synagogue in Nazareth, at the commencement of His ministry, Jesus chose the first two verses from this passage to announce the inception of God’s favour to His people, the Jews (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-22), by focusing His good news towards the poor, the broken-hearted, those held captives by darkness and the spiritually blind. Following that is a remarkable set of glorified transformations involving the physical, emotional and spiritual realms (Isa 61:3); where the human sinful predicament that brought about spiritual death (viz., ashes) is totally reversed into steadfast righteousness that glorifies their Creator.
Turning His attention towards those who belong to Him, He declared that rebuilding and restoration of cities and villages destroyed earlier will occur, and together with others who are ‘strangers’ to His spiritual community, a shared labouring responsibility will endure (Isa 61:4-5). It is significant to note that God intends to restore not just our souls and bodies but the world and all relationships, including the whole of the created order (c.f., Isa 65:17-25; Rom 8:19-25; Rev 21:5). This renewal by Yahweh is purposefully juxtaposed with the devastating presence of sin, as the latter’s existence created a relational dichotomy between God and man, contrary to our His intended design and leading to a collapse of humanity at every level. Although sin’s visibility may be hidden from our fellow humans, it can never escape the all-seeing God, in His pervasive holiness and omniscience. With the restoration comes not only a new beginning in relationship with the Almighty but also new responsibilities in the created order; in Christ, we become His representatives on earth and into eternity (Isa 61:5-9).
Therefore, our response to God is critical during this interregnum where grace abounds and His mercies through the age of the gospel are still extant. Isaiah then breaks into a hymn of worship in thanksgiving for the irrevocable promises of Yahweh (Isa 61:10-11). Unmistakably, the allegory of fertile soil is introduced (Isa 61:11), giving us a clue as to what our Lord seeks from His people. Our devotion to God is fuelled by our obedience and surrender to His sovereign will; for unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24-26; c.f., Matt 13:3-9, 18-23). With the advent of the Messiah, we are presently within this timeframe of His promises, albeit its complete fulfilment only to be achieved after His Second Coming. And as such, our high calling as ‘ministers of our God’ in the here-and-now, is to express Christ-likeness in every sphere of our lives to all around us (2Cor 3:3; Eph 5:1-2; Phil 2:1-11) – an onerous and challenging responsibility! But if Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him (C.T. Studd; c.f., John 14:20-21).