Devotional Commentary on Isaiah 61


God has a special message to the remnant in this chapter. He says to Isaiah that He will not keep silent or quiet for the sake of Zion and Jerusalem which is the heavenly abode of the remnant when Christ comes a second time (v. 1a-b).


Scholars were wondering who is speaking here? Delitzsch named a number of them following the Jewish Targum Jonathan to the Prophets adding extra words in the texts to say it is the prophet himself. A. Barnes 1847 at page 382 cited the Targum in English reading: “[the prophet said] the Spirit [of prophecy from the presence] of Jehovah is upon me”. Judaism was my major at University when I started and my own experience with them is: if there are three Jews there are four views; if something in the Old Testament is too clearly Christ of the New Testament, they cut the text to omit some words or letters or put extra words in to camouflage the text or redirect attention elsewhere. They did it with Isaiah 53 in the Targum. The Trinity statements in the Old Testament like Psalm 110 and other passages were a big headache to them even today, so to get around these Old Testament logic of a Trinity or multiple God, they [secular Jews] invented an agnostic statement that first the Hebrews invented their pluralistic gods of which Asherah was the wife of God [that is why the Old Testament talks in the plural about God] and later it became monotheistic as Orthodox Judaism has it now. One must keep in mind that just like the Adventist members are divided in shades of conservative to liberal patterns, the same with Judaism. Ultra-orthodox, Orthodox, Reformed/Progressive, Liberal, Secular/Agnostic. All of them can be classified from the angle of what they think and do with the Scripture or Bible.


Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 pages 395-396 and others (although many liberal Rationalists as well) said it is impossible in Isaiah 61:1-2 to be the prophet or author himself. Among them was the Dutch Calvinist Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722) who was a follower of the Dutch Calvinist Johannes Cocceius, Cocceius who argued before Vitringa that the Sabbath was not instituted in the Paradise but in the desert (John Hurst 1864 page 337). In a book that was written in defense of Cocceius, Hurst cited Satan saying that “no one has done more harm to the power of darkness than Cocceius, not even Calvin.” Cocceius and Vitringa liked prophecies and Vitringa used to emphasize the New Jerusalem. [Nebuchadnezzar, an unbeliever, can also be given the truth about the image of kingdoms and metals]. Vitringa said of these first verses of Isaiah 61 that it must be Yahweh since this One not merely proclaims but also dispenses the new and great gifts of God (Delitzsch Vol. II 1890 page 396). Delitzsch concluded: “Thus, Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth, after reading the first part of this discourse, closed the book with the words, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears’ (Luke iv. 16—22).“ Adventists agrees with Delitzsch and Vitringa’s last statement.

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) said about this chapter of Isaiah: “Isaiah here speaks of himself, as the Cha'ldee [Targum Jonathan to the Prophets] observes; but in him we see not an obscure image of Christ” (Barnes 1847 page 382). Grotius said that he did not find Christ in the Old Testament! How blind can one be?


M. L. Andreasen said in 1929 in his Sabbath School Quarterly page 24: “The first sermon Christ preached in His home town had for its text Isaiah 61:1. Never should it be forgotten that our mission is the same as Christ's. We are sent in His stead. John 17:18. 2 Cor. 5:20.” Ellen White said about Christ’s sermon: “Jesus stood before the people [in Luke 4:16-20] as a living expositor of the prophecies concerning Himself. Explaining the words He had read, [Isaiah 61:1-2] He spoke of the Messiah as a reliever of the oppressed, a liberator of captives, a healer of the afflicted, restoring sight to the blind, and revealing to the world the light of truth. His impressive manner and the wonderful import of His words thrilled the hearers with a power they had never felt before.”— Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 237.


My own comments regarding this citation by Jesus is as follows: Jesus did not cite the words verbatim the same. It does not mean that when Jesus did not cite it verbatim the same that the words were not in the original. Although the so-called Septuagint has a similar appearance than the Greek of Luke 4:18-19, it does not follow that Jesus cited from the Greek Septuagint, the one that survived by Christian hands today. Jesus did not speak Greek in the Synagogue and neither did He read from a Greek translation of the Hebrew. Jesus read the Hebrew of the consonantal form of the Masoretic text on a scroll that was handed to Him. What exactly happened that day is that Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah in His hands and started to unroll it. He stopped at Isaiah 29:18 that reads “and the eyes of the blind shall see…” He stored the information in His memory and continued unrolling the scroll. He stopped at Isaiah 58:6 and read softly “and the eyes of the blind shall see.…” He stored this information in His memory. He rolled further and came to Isaiah 61:1-3. He stopped. He stopped at verse 3 and looked up. When He came to this verse, He started to speak (see Luke 4:17). What is to follow in the words of Jesus is a very special design. It appears to be Isaiah 61:1-3 but is actually similar to a genre that is also seen in the 4QTestimonia at Qumran. Jesus strings phrases together from Isaiah 61:1-3, Isaiah 29:18 and Isaiah 58:6.He omits the words “Lord” in 61:1a and b. He omits “to heal the brokenhearted”. The word aphesis has the same translation as “liberty” in BDB 204 for drwr and is listed in Liddell and Scott (abbreviated version 137) as “dismissal” or “letting go”. Jesus omitted the phrase in Isaiah 61:1f “and to those in bondage opening of waiting” or “and those in bondage, opening of ropes”. Jesus stopped the citation just after 61:2a. The very next part Jesus did not include in His citation: “and the day of the vengeance of our God”.


It was the same conclusion by R. Gane in his 2004 Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 101: “So, He deliberately and specifically avoided reading the next words in the same verse: "the day of vengeance of our God" (Isa. 61:2, NRSV). While His ministry of good news, liberty, and comfort was beginning to set captives free from Satan's tyranny, the day of vengeance was not yet to come.”


Did Jesus apple-shine His message for his audience sake?


The preterist A. Barnes 1847 page 385 said about this omission by Christ: “It is not to be inferred, however, that he did not consider the subsequent expressions as. referring to himself, but it was not necessary to his purpose to quote them.”


My own feeling is that this is eschatological and eschatological fulfillment at the Second Advent and He did not want His audience to mix what is Messianic fulfillment at the First Advent with eschatological fulfillment at the Second Advent. Does Jesus ignore the Hebrew of the consonantal text of the Masoretic text and substitute it for the so-called degenerated scholarship Septuagint? No. Does Jesus take what is eschatology and applied it to Himself at the First Advent? No. Does Jesus proclaim “Realized eschatology”? No. The use of the Old Testament in the New Testament is very unique. It is sometimes by memory, sometimes exactly literal, it is sometimes paraphrase but not for one moment is there citation that is in conflict with the Old Testament. This detour is necessary since there is not an article on this matter in publications by Adventists or non-Adventists.


R. Gane said in his 2004 Sabbath School Quarterly on Isaiah page 101: “So although Christ announced the beginning of ‘the year of the Lord's favor,’ its culmination is at His second coming.”


It is an established fact that righteousness will inherit the new earth “until her [remnant of Zion and Jerusalem] righteousness [now in perfection of their new resurrected bodies] goes forth like brightness and her salvation like a torch that is burning” (v. 1c-d).


The nations and kings of the unfallen worlds “will see your righteousness” and

your glory” (v. 2a-b).


They “will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate” (v. 2c-d). In their new perfection they will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hand of God (v. 3).


Then Isaiah used the key words indicating to us that the whole context is definitely eschatological: “It will no longer be said to you: ‘Forsaken’” (v. 4a).


Preterists apply the detail of the chapter to the land of Israel in the days of Isaiah and when they come to verse 4, they say it is metaphorical and that Isaiah is just overexcited. He makes it by words bigger than it really is. In essence, they do not want people to accept Isaiah seriously. They want to rationalize Isaiah’s words away as poetical creativity or emotions.


Delitzsch climbed out of his preteristic model in Vol. II 1890 page 399 and said on verses 4-6: “…the prophet predicts New Testament issues in Old Testament fashion.”


When God says “no longer” it means eternity and eternity is a reality not an imagination or dream. With the new earth created after the Millennium and after Hell the new earth will be called: “My delight is in her” (v. 4c). The earth will be called “Married” meaning the remnant is now inhabiting the new earth. The “Lord delights in you and your earth will be married” (v. 4f). The remnant girls will be married by the sons of the remnant and “as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride so your God will rejoice over you” (v. 5).


Four words were used to describe hell on earth and heaven on earth: Azubah or forsaken; Shemamah or desolate; Hephzibah or My delight is in her; Beulah or Married.


Two of them negative (hellish conditions on earth) and two positive (heavenly conditions on earth).


On the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem God will appoint watchmen but instead of silently spying the night or day for enemies, there are no enemies and “all day and all night they will never keep silent” (v. 6b). The remnant use to remind God not to take rest for Himself in history (v. 6c).


It is interesting that while Jewish scribes were working in the Library at Niniveh, fifty years later than this writing of Isaiah, they conflated Mosaic ideas of a worldwide flood and ship of Noah with the heathen gods of Assyria and concocted the cuneiform story that the flood came because the gods in heaven couldn’t sleep because the humans on earth were too noisy.


In history and now, in all generations the remnant “give Him no rest until He establishes and makes [the new] Jerusalem a praise of the [newly created] earth” (v. 7a-b). God is not sitting on a sofa watching Heavenly CNN or Fox News about conditions on earth. He is involved with every human being at every given moment. The Trinity has the ability to do it. A mystery but they can.


On the new earth the Lord has sworn that the grain and new wine will never be given to enemies and foreigners (v. 8a-c). The Lord sworn this “by His strong arm” because at the Hell before the new creation of the new earth, He will exterminate all evil (v. 8a). The gatherers will eat and drink and praise the Lord in the court of His sanctuary in heaven (v. 9a-b).


Then Isaiah moves the panel to the scene at the Second coming of Christ, before the millennium, the Hell event and the creation of the new earth. The remnant is taken up to heaven after resurrection and this scene will take place: “Go through, go through the gates; clear the way for the people [the remnant saved]” (v. 10a-b). “Build up, build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the people” (v. 10c-d). This is the triumphant entry of the saints in the new heavenly Zion.


Isaiah then moved one panel before the Second Coming event, to the Latter Rain event and says “behold the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth” (v. 11a) and His message is an Advent message “Say to the daughter of Zion [the remnant] ‘Behold, your salvation comes’” (v. 11b).


This salvation is the Second Coming of Christ for Isaiah continues in the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:12: “Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him” (v. 11c).


The unfallen worlds will call the remnant “the Holy people, the redeemed of the Lord and you will be called ‘sought out, a city not forsaken’” (v. 12a-c). Our world history is observed in detail by the unfallen worlds.


Dear God

The whole universe is watching with anticipation of what God will do in us and the rest of the remnant. We plead that you will bring salvation established in our lives to be part of the Holy people. In Jesus name, Amen.