Our reading today begins with the passage Jesus quoted when He began His ministry in Nazareth (see Luke 4:18-19). This is the Servant speaking. He says YHWH has anointed Him (61:1). This is the Hebrew word from which we get our word Messiah (Greek: Christ). Note that the anointing is paralleled with the Spirit being upon Him. And He has been anointed for a purpose. To bring “good news” to the afflicted. This is the Gospel message He preached and lived. We have again here the language of setting the captives free, a pointer to the remnant that had been held captive by sin and death. Jesus quotes the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) which has “recovery of sight to the blind,” which is another recurring theme in Isaiah.
In verse 2, we once again see that the Servant’s coming will contain both salvation and judgment. We also see again the idea of comfort, here for those who mourn. Jesus pulled from this and the poor of verse 1 (essentially quoting Himself) in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt 5:3-4). He was there identifying Himself as the Messiah. This comfort is for those in Zion (v. 3). This is the church – the place of God’s presence on earth. Notice that the anointed One will anoint us. This is quoted by the writer of Hebrews as happening to Christ. Our identification with Him and His with us is again in view. The headdress is the adornment of a priest (see below about our priesthood as another identification with Christ).
In verse 4, we have the language of those the Messiah saves building up what God has destroyed (the New Jerusalem compared to the physical Jerusalem – see 60:10). This contrast between the physical and spiritual people of God is continued in verse 5 where “foreigners” (non-Israelites) will be the workers in the Messiah’s vineyard (see Matt 21:33-41) and the shepherds of His flock (the church see Acts 20:28). But even though they are foreigners, they will be God’s priests (see 1 Pet 2:5-9, Rev 1:6). Instead of the shame of our rejection, we will receive double blessings as God’s people (v. 7).
In verse 8, this is again brought back to justice as God’s primary concern for His people. God will repay each for what they have done, and those in the covenant (v. 8) will have offspring that are known among the nations (v. 9). This is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (see Gen 12:3 – see Gal 3:7-9). Verse 10 is the Messiah speaking. He is dressed in righteousness. He is the bridegroom with the headdress (our High Priest). We see again our identification with Him. He is the true High Priest, and yet the bride is adorned like the bridegroom (see also v. 3). He is garbed in righteousness, and yet all of the nations that He calls have that righteousness (v. 11).
In chapter 62, we again see Zion and Jerusalem as pictures of the church. That righteousness that we receive from God (61:11) will shine forth as brightness. This is the light of YHWH in Christ (see 60:1-3) that continues to shine through God’s people. The nations will see our (Zion’s) righteousness – which is Christ’s! And we (Zion) will be given a new name by YHWH (which is applied to all Christians in Revelation 2:17). As those who were once outside the covenant but are now included, our name is no longer “forsaken” (see 49:14) or “desolate” (v. 4 – see 54:1). Instead, we are YHWH’s delight, and our “land” (the New Jerusalem, or the New Heaven and New Earth) is married to our bridegroom. Our offspring (see 61:9) will marry the bridegroom (become part of the church) and God, as our bridegroom, will rejoice over us (v. 5).
In verses 6-7, that Jerusalem has watchmen set (what Israel should have been [see 56:10] and what the church is [see 52:8]) points to our mission as the church to continue the expansion of the Kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The mighty arm (God’s salvation in Christ) will see to it that, unlike physical Israel, our inheritance is never taken away (vv. 8-9). In verse 10, we see that the gates of the city (the church) are open (see 60:11) and that the way to God should be prepared (see 40:3) and a signal should be raised to the peoples (see 11:10 and 49:22) to the end of the earth (v. 11 – see Acts 1:8). Christ will come to Zion (His church) and they shall be holy, redeemed, and not forsaken (v. 12). All because we will be sought by God (see Luke 19:10)!
Yet with this salvation comes judgement. The Messiah is again pictured as the Divine Warrior (63:1). He is the Redeemer Who saves, but the Avenger Who judges. He will tread the winepress of the wrath of God (vv.2-3 – see Lam 1:15, Rev 19:15). In verse 4, the vengeance and the redemption go together. In verse 5, the arm of the Lord (salvation in Christ) is mingled with wrath. Verse 6 is a vivid and horrible picture of the final judgment.