Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Isaiah 61.
We are told in the New Testament that the Old Testament prophets many times wrote of things that they did not really understand. Earnestly desiring, really, to look into these things, but they wrote as the Spirit of God inspired them. And so we find that quite often, the Old Testament prophets did not clearly understand the work of God in creating the body of Christ, the church, from among the Gentiles. Paul the apostle in talking about the church and Christ in us, the hope of glory, said that it was a mystery that was hid from the beginning of time but is now revealed. And so it is something that was not revealed until the New Testament writings and the epistles. It was something that was more or less hid from the Old Testament writers.
Now in their prophecies concerning the work and the ministry of Jesus Christ, quite often both aspects of the coming of Christ would be more or less mixed together in a single phrase or in a prophecy. So they would be prophesying of aspects of the first coming of Jesus Christ and also would go right in and prophesy of the aspects of the second coming of Jesus Christ, right in the same sentence or paragraph. And they did not really clearly see the distinction between… Well, they really didn’t see the two comings of Christ. And thus it was a mystery to them the things that they wrote because they seem to be so incongruous. They spoke of the glorious reign of the Messiah and of the kingdom, sitting upon the throne of David and all of the earth flowing unto Jerusalem and all. And then they spoke about Him being despised, rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with griefs, and they just really didn’t themselves understand these things of which they wrote.
For they were written for our sakes. Now with Daniel, when he was seeking further understanding, the Lord said, “Just seal it up, Daniel. It’s for the time of the end. It’s not really given to you to understand these things. You just wrote them, you’ve done your job. That’s good now. But in the last days knowledge will be increased. I will give the understanding of these things. These things are written for a generation that is to come. Not written for your understanding, but for the generation that is to come and they will be understanding these things.” So that as we look now at the Bible prophecies with the advantage of our history, and we can look back now and see the coming of Christ, we can see Him despised and rejected, and we can now look towards the second coming of Christ and as we see these things beginning to take place in the world around us, we say, “Oh, well that’s what Daniel was talking about. Oh yes, I can see that now.” And it begins to unfold to us in these days. So as we get into the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, the prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, he actually just merges both the comings of Christ into one prophecy.
But Jesus, because He understood the two aspects of His coming, when He in the synagogue of Nazareth, turned to the prophecy of Isaiah and read this particular passage, stopped in what is right the middle of verse 2 in our Bible. And at that point, He closed the scroll and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your eyes” (Luke 4:21). He didn’t go on, because if you go on you are then dealing with the aspects of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Now that wasn’t fulfilled that day. That won’t be fulfilled until He comes again. So understanding and discerning His ministry in His first coming, He stopped right in what is the middle of the prophecy here in Isaiah for us and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your eyes.” So what was fulfilled and what is yet to be fulfilled? This is what was fulfilled:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek (61:1);
Now in a restricted sense, this prophecy is of Jesus Christ and His ministry, who was anointed by the Spirit and went about preaching the good tidings to the meek. You remember when John the baptist was in prison and John did not understand the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. John was expecting Him to establish the kingdom momentarily. And when John was sitting there in prison for a while, he started getting impatient and he sent his disciples to Jesus and he said, “Are you the One that we’re to look for? Or shall we start looking for someone else?” In other words, “When You going to get the show on the road? Tired of this prison life.” And he was… He knew that Jesus was the One because he testified of Jesus that the Lord had told him whoever he saw the Spirit descending upon and remaining, that that was the One. And John testified of the Spirit of God descending upon Christ and resting upon Him there at His baptism. So he knew He was the One, and yet because Jesus wasn’t moving right into the kingdom and setting up the kingdom and throwing out the Romans and all of this, he said, “Are you the One or shall we look for another?” And Jesus did not directly answer John’s inquisition. But instead in that same hour, He healed many of the sick and He opened up the blind eyes and caused the lame to walk and so forth. And then He said to his disciples, “Just go tell John what you have seen—how that the blind have had their eyes opened, the deaf hear, the lame are walking, and to the poor the gospel is being preached. I’m fulfilling the prophecies, John. You know the Word. You know the Scriptures. I’m doing the things that the Scriptures said. You don’t need a direct answer; yes, I am the Messiah. Just go back and tell John the things that you see. John knows the Scriptures well enough. He’ll know that I am the One. You don’t need to look for anybody else.”
“But the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me. For the Lord has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the meek.” As Jesus said, “He did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance. For they that are whole need not the physician, but they that are sick” (Mark 2:17). “The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
I am interested in observing the ministry of Jesus Christ, His attitude towards those who were acknowledged, confessed sinners, and His attitude towards those self-righteous individuals. To the woman that was brought to Him caught in the very act of adultery, He shows great tenderness, understanding and grace. “Woman, where are your accusers?” “Sir, I guess I don’t have any.” “Well, neither do I condemn thee, go thy way, sin no more” (John 8:11). Oh, how tender He deals with her.
To the woman of Samaria there at the well. Now she wasn’t the most moral woman around. She had been married to five different men. And then finally decided marriage wasn’t for her and so she was just living with a man. Some of those who think they are so modern today, that stuff has been going on for a long time. People have been immoral from the beginning. And yet Jesus in His dealing with her was so gracious, revealing to her His identity. For she said, “I know that when the Messiah comes, He’s going to teach us all things.” And He said, “Woman, I that speak to thee am He” (John 4:25-26). Oh, the attitude of Christ towards the sinner was always beautiful. He had good news for sinning man and those that confessed and were aware of their sinful state.
To those who were righteous in themselves, He had nothing but words of vilification. He was harsh with them. “Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!” Boy, did He denounce them. If you think, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child,” you better think again and read Matthew’s gospel twenty-two. And you’ll see His attitude towards the self-righteous, self-sufficient. But, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; He’s anointed Me to preach the good tidings to the meek.”
he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound (61:1);
Now I believe that this particular portion of the verse refers to the ministry of Christ to those who had died before He came. “To open the prison to those that are bound.” For we are told by Peter that Christ preached to those souls that were in prison. Paul tells us that He who has ascended is the same One who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. You see, from the time even before Abraham, there were those men of the Old Testament who were accounted righteous because of their faith in God. Abraham became more or less the figurehead for those who believe and had faith in God. And they were waiting for the promises of God.
Hebrews 11 tells us that “they all died in faith, not having received the promise, but seeing it afar off, they embraced it” (Hebrews 11:13). They held on to it. They claimed, “I’m only a stranger and a pilgrim here. I’m only passing through. This isn’t my life. This isn’t where it’s at. I’m looking for a city which has foundation whose maker and builder is God.” They were looking for the glorious kingdom of God. And they all died in faith believing the kingdom and God to establish that kingdom. They all died in faith not having received the promise. “God having reserved something better for us that they, apart from us, couldn’t be brought into the completed state” (Hebrews 11:40). It was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could put away their sin. That took the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. So the blood sacrifices that they had made according to the old covenant covered their sin, but did not put it away. And they had to wait for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ before they could enter in to that heavenly scene.
So we are told by Peter that when Jesus died He descended into hell. He tells us the purpose of His going there, to preach to those souls that were in prison that one time were disobedient. But they believed and trusted in God. And Paul tells us when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. And Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27, tells us that when He arose from the dead, many of the graves of the saints were open and they were seen walking in the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection from the dead. They were released from the prison. So a part of the first coming was to release from the prison those that were bound by death. For Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet he’s going to live. And he who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
We will have a transition that is necessary. This corruption must put on incorruption. This mortal must put on immortality. And I know that when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, I have a new building of God, a house that is not made with hands that is eternal in the heavens. And while I am still in this dumb old tent, I groan earnestly, desiring to move out.
You know, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning anymore. Dumb left foot of mine starting to pain first thing in the morning. I’ve got to walk for a few steps to get the thing operating. I never thought I’d reach this age. Hard to walk in the morning. What a tent. Wearing out. But oh, thank God, I have a building of God that’s not made with hands, that’s eternal in the heavens. One of these days I’m not going to die; I’m going to move from the tent into that glorious building of God. The mansion that He’s prepared for me.
So to finish the aspects of His first coming:
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD (61:2),
This is the accepted day. God’s accepted time for your salvation. At this point, Jesus closed the scroll because these things dealt with the first aspect of His coming. Now Isaiah, not really seeing the two comings, goes right on and he declares,
and the day of vengeance of our God (61:2);
Well, that’s not going to take place until yet future. God’s vengeance and wrath is going to be poured out upon this earth. As the seals are opened, the judgments of God are going to begin to fall and the earth will enter into that period known as the Great Tribulation. And we read where the men, the chief men of the earth and the captains and so forth, will call to the rocks and the mountains and say, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the Lamb, for His day of wrath has come” (Revelation 6:16-17). The day of the vengeance of our God.
Well, that won’t take place until a yet future time during the Great Tribulation, and I think that it is totally inconsistent with God and the nature of God and the work of Jesus Christ to think that the church would be here during the time that God pours out His wrath upon the earth. In fact, Paul tells us in Romans 5:9 that we have not been appointed unto wrath. He tells us again in First Thessalonians 5:9 that we’ve not been appointed unto wrath. And I think it’s totally inconsistent with the nature of God to think that Christ having borne the wrath of God for our sin, that we would somehow have to face the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation.
Now as a child of God, as long as I’m in this alien world, I’m going to have tribulation. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Now if you were of the world, the world would love you because you’d be a part of their whole system. Because you’re not of the world, they hate you. And if they haven’t received Me, they’re not going to receive you. They hated Me; they’re going to hate you. The servant isn’t greater than his Lord.
And so as a child of God walking in fellowship with God in this alien world, I can expect to have tribulation. It’s not going to be easy. However, I shall surely not face the wrath of God, the Great Tribulation. And the whole vast difference is the tribulation that I face comes from Satan. The tribulation that the world is going to face comes from the vengeance of God who has declared, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
So, “To proclaim the day of the vengeance of our God,”
and to comfort all that mourn (61:2);
Moving into the Kingdom Age.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them the beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called Trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. For they shall build the old wastes (61:3-4),
The rebuilding that will go on in that land.
they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations (61:4).
And, of course, we see a beginning of that today. But what we see today is not really the fulfillment of this particular passage in Isaiah, because Isaiah here is going on into the Kingdom Age. That which…so much of that which is being built up now is going to be destroyed. Unfortunately, Israel is going to be the central battlefield of two more major battles. Probably the biggest and bloodiest battles in the history of the world are yet to be fought in that land. And so much of that marvellous building that is going on there today will be destroyed in the wars that are yet to come upon this nation. But this particular prophecy goes out into the Kingdom Age as they rebuild the waste and the waste cities and the desolations of many generations.
And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks (61:5),
As God restores the nation Israel. Now you hear a lot of people and even ministers who talk about the final restitution of all things, “God is going to finally save everybody. Nobody will be lost. Even Satan will repent and be brought back as a child.” That is not what the Bible teaches when it speaks of the final restitution. In the final restitution, God is talking about His restitution of the nation of Israel as His people. They have been put away as an unfaithful wife and God is going to bring them back again, even as is depicted graphically in the prophecy of Hosea.
When God said, “Go out and take a wife,” and he married this wife and she bore him a couple of children. She bore another child and called it Loammi. “That’s not my kid.” And she finally just went out and became a prostitute. Her life was marred and ruined as she made love with anybody who would come along. God finally said to Hosea, “Go find your wife and take her again and buy her. Redeem her. She’s gone into slavery. Redeem her. Wash her up. Clean her up and take her as your wife again.” So God spoke then through that graphic illustration of how He would bring Israel again back into a relationship with Him. For He will love her as a wife and be a husband unto them. And this goes into that area, “The stranger shall stand and feed your flocks.”
and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God (61:5-6):
The word minister is servant. I think that it’s important that we remember that. We so oftentimes use that as a title of great distinction. “Oh, he’s a minister.” You’re saying he’s a slave. That’s great. We ought to think of it as that. Sometimes I think, “Well, I’m a minister, you know. Give me a ten percent discount, after all, you know.” And we think if I’m a minister I should have special privileges. I’m a minister. I should get in front of the line. Or I’m a… And that is totally incongruous with the true aspect of the word minister and the idea of ministry as Jesus spoke of it. He said if you’re going to be chief, then learn to be the servant of all. And He taught the servanthood. He took and put a towel around Himself. Tied a towel around Himself and He went around and washed the disciples’ feet. “If I being your Lord have become your servant, then learn to be servants.” And so the beautiful privilege we have of serving God by serving one another. “Inasmuch as you’ve done it unto the least of these My brethren, you’ve done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:40). Giving a cup of cold water, serving in the name of the Lord. God rewards us for His service. “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God” (Colossians 3:17). Do it as unto the Lord, knowing that of the Lord you’re going to receive your reward. And so the glorious thing to be called.
Now in the book of Revelation in chapter 1, as He is giving the opening remarks, in speaking of Jesus Christ, he said, “Who hath redeemed us with His blood. Who hath made us kings and priests unto our God” (Revelation 1:6). More literally, a kingdom of priests unto our God. So that is going to be a part of the ministry and the work of the church in the Kingdom Age is that we will be priests unto our God. In the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation, when Jesus takes the scroll out of the right hand of the Father and they sing the new song, it is, “Thou art worthy to take the scroll and loose the seals: for Thou was slain, and hath redeemed us by Thy blood out of all of the nations, tribes, tongues and people. And hath made us unto our God [again] a kingdom of priests: and we shall reign with Thee upon the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). And so looking forward to the glorious Kingdom Age, the place of the church will be as a kingdom of priests reigning with the Lord upon the earth.
And so, “You shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God.”
ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame [talking again to Israel, the shame that they’ve gone through] ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD has blessed (61:6-9).
The universal recognition of God’s grace and mercy as He restores the nation Israel to that favored nation status.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness (61:10),
This is the response, actually, to these glorious promises of God of restoration. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He’s covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels. For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causeth 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 (61:10-11).
Oh, that glorious day of the Lord. How we anticipate and look for it. As I look around the world today and I see the things that are happening, I pray with John, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
This week they’ll be sharing with you some of the things that the scientists are now dabbling in genetic engineering, and some of the goals that the chief geneticists have declared for genetic engineering. And some of the things that they’re starting to do now, shocking things. Some of the creatures that they’re beginning to create through genetic engineering. It’s really shocking things that are happening in the world today. And you wonder, how far will God allow these things to go? It seems that man in the past has perhaps had periods of genetic engineering. It isn’t... Man has arisen to tremendous scientific levels in the past. But whenever man seems to get to a point in development, especially as they move into the area of genetic engineering, God says, “That’s it,” and He cuts it off. Even as before the flood there were these creatures that were upon the earth, the giants, men of renown through genetic engineering, and God wiped them out and started all over again with Noah. You’ve got some very interesting things to consider this week as they share with us some of the past and some of the future from a scientific standpoint.
In chapter 62, God continues to speak of the restoration of Israel.
For Zion's sake [that is, Jerusalem] will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth (62:1).
God said, “I’m not going to rest until I have accomplished it.”
And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken (62:2-4);
And, of course, the people have felt forsaken. Just recently they had another commemoration for those who survived the Holocaust. And you talk to so many people in Israel today or those who are here who have survived the Holocaust, and so often their question was, “Where was God when our parents or our uncles were burned in the ovens in Germany? Where was God? Where was God?” And that is a common question that you hear asked by them. And they themselves feel forsaken by God. But, “You will no longer be called Forsaken.”
neither will your land be termed Desolate: but you will be called Hephzibah (62:4),
Which means the Lord delights in thee.
and thy land [will be called] Beulah (62:4):
Which means married.
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee (62:5).
As a bridegroom over the bride. So, again, this beautiful figure of speech that God relates to Israel as a bridegroom to His bride. Now in the New Testament, that same kind of relationship exists between Christ and His church, as Paul writing to the Ephesians writes about marital relationships. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. And wives, submitting yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. Now I speak to you,” Paul said, “of a mystery. For I speak concerning Christ and His church how that we have this beautiful, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as the bride to the bridegroom. And that love and all that is there.” So it is a figure of the Old Testament between God and Israel. In the New Testament of… That is, God the Father and Israel; in the New Testament of Jesus and the church.
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence (62:6),
In other words, calling for intercessors.
And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (62:7).
In other words, don’t stop praying until the fulfillment of this takes place and God makes Jerusalem that glorious praise of the earth once more. The Bible says. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper who will pray for your peace” (Psalm 122:6). And so we are encouraged here of continual intercession and prayer, giving Him no rest. Interesting phrase concerning prayer.
You remember Jesus made an illustration of prayer in which He used very unlikely types of figures. It was a judge who had this little widow woman coming in every day and saying, “Avenge me my adversary.” And every day she was there seeking to be avenged to her adversary. Finally, Jesus said, though the judge said, “I don’t fear God or man, but this little woman is going to drive me crazy.” And so he gave the judgment for her. And He was using that as an illustration to encourage us in persistence in prayer.
Now, I have great difficulty with this in my own mind and in the understanding of it. The difficulty lies in the man that Jesus chooses in a figure to represent God, for he was an unjust judge. The man says, “I don’t fear God or man.” And the persistence of this little woman. But the illustration is this. If even an unjust judge will yield to the persistence, how much more will a righteous, just Father in heaven answer the petitions of His children who call upon Him continually. So He’s not really using the judge. He’s using the judge in a sharp contrast to God rather than as a figure of God, but in sharp contrast. So even if an unjust judge will yield to persistency, how much more. And so much of the New Testament is in contrast. If this would happen, how much more then will God your Father. So don’t give God rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for your enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for that which thou hast labored (62:8):
Now, so often they found that… You remember, and it was something that persisted through their history. When their enemies had overrun them, they would come in and take their crops. You remember Gideon was threshing in a cave to hide it from the Midianites because the Midianites would watch them. As soon as they thresh the wheat, they’d come in and rip them off. And so you’d labor and someone else would take it from you. And they experienced this many times. They would build up the land and build up these places and other people would come in and take it. So God says that’s not going to happen anymore.
But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness. Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed to the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work is before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken (62:9-12). So God’s restoration of the people.