And a Day of Vengeance of Our God

61: 2b-3

   DIG: During times of grief, people would put on sackcloth and cover themselves with ashes as a sign of their mourning. What will God clothe the Jews with?

   REFLECT: How do these verses relate to your experience of the Good News? Do you feel as though you are “wearing ashes?” Or are you “trying on new clothes?” Why? In what way do you especially want to see God being this freedom to you?

    The Second Coming (Revelation 19), and the many lesser events leading up to and following it, is primarily what prophecy is all about. It is without a doubt the greatest story of the future to be found anywhere in our world. No religion, no culture, and no literature offers anything comparable. In fact, the Bible’s teachings about the future have inspired many to turn from their sins to find Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    Where is the bride of Christ, the Church, at the time of the Second Coming? At the Rapture (see my commentary on Revelation By – The Rapture of the Church) Jesus will come for His holy ones (Psalm 16:3). Before the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ, the Church will be caught up together in the clouds (First Thessalonians 5:17). The Church is not appointed to suffer the wrath of the Tribulation (First Thessalonians 5:9 and Revelation 3:10). Therefore, at the end of the Tribulation and at the Second Coming, Yeshua comes with His Church made up of Jewish and Gentile believers (Ephesians 2:14). Believers, or the armies of heaven, will be following Christ, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:14).

    While the purpose of the First Coming was to preach the Gospel, to conquer sin, and to bring a spiritual redemption, the purpose of His Second Coming was to bring physical redemption to a restored Israel. So when He comes a second time it will be the day of vengeance of our God (61:2b). This phrase is one of the many names in the Bible for the Great Tribulation and follows His First Coming. The day of vengeance, a sharp, quick, day of judgment, contrasts the year of ADONAI’s favor (61:2a).

    He will comfort all Jews who mourn at the end of the Great Tribulation (Zechariah 12:10-14). Those who mourn for their own sin and for the sin of the devastated condition of Jerusalem will hear words of comfort from God. This theme goes all the way back to the song of praise in 12:1-6, where its clear that their grief is over the fear they had committed unpardonable sins that would banish them from the LORD’s presence forever (also see 40:1-2 and 49:13). But here, ADONAI declares a time of favor, where He will accept them despite their sin. That is the Good News! But how can a holy God accomplish this fact? It is the ministry of the Servant (see Iy – The Death of the Suffering Servant). But God has reconciled His people on the cross and they didn’t need to mourn any longer.

    More specifically, He was anointed to provide for those who grieve in Zion (61:2c-3a). So Messiah was anointed to accomplish three things for the Jews in His Second Coming. Note the downward movement of heavenly outpouring (psalm 133); from the crown (Exodus 39:28; Isaiah 3:20, 61:10), to the head of oil, to the garment on the body.

    First, He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes (61:3b). In 60:17 Isaiah promised the best (gold) for the better (bronze), but here the Servant promises the best for the worst. Mourners, like others in distress, sprinkled ashes on their heads (Second Samuel 13:19 and Jeremiah 6:26). But the crown of beauty will replace the symbols of mourning and misery. Isaiah makes a play on words with beauty and ashes. It would be like saying in English that God will exchange a song for a sigh. After the sighing and mourning there will be joy and singing.

    Secondly, the oil of gladness instead of mourning (61:3c). This wording is used in Psalm 45:7, the Messianic Psalm where the Messiah is anointed with the oil of joy. Thus, the Anointed One replaces mourning with new life.

    Thirdly, instead of a spirit of despair, He will bestow on them a garment of praise, another sign of joy (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8). And the reason for it all is that Israel will be called the oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor (61:3d). Israel will be righteous (54:14, 58:8, 60:21, 62:1-2) and like stalwart oak trees will display God’s splendor (35:2, 46:13, 49:3, 55:5, 60:9 and 21, 62:3). In other words, that God may be glorified so that Israel’s establishment in the Kingdom and all that God said would happen in Chapter 60 will come to pass in Chapter 61 by means of the Servant of the LORD, the Messiah.

    Speaking earlier of Israel during the messianic Kingdom, God had said:: Then your people will be righteous and they will possess the Promised Land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of My hands for the display of My splendor (60:21). So here ADONAI says that the reason Israel will be called the oaks of righteousness, symbolizing stability, permanence and abundance, is precisely for the display of His splendor (61:3e).

    But what are the oaks of righteousness? When we look back at the beginning of the book, Isaiah chastised Israel for her spiritual adultery: You will be ashamed because of your sacred oaks in which you delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together with no one to quench the fire (1:29-31). There, the sin and rebellion of glorifying idols over God would cause the oaks to burn up like tinder. The idols would be nothing more than seared leaves. Only faith, trust and belief in Jesus Christ produces righteousness (First Corinthians 15:3-4). This is one of the great paradoxes of Isaiah and the Bible. If we try to glorify anyone but ADONAI, we are doomed. But if we admit our helplessness and dependence upon Him, God gives us His righteousness.

    So Chapter 61:1-3 tells us the means by which Chapter 60 is to find its fulfillment. It will be by the means of the ministry of the Messiah, both in His First and Second Coming.


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