God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2024

If we read Isaiah 61 without any knowledge of Jesus Christ we would most likely conclude that it is talking about the people of Israel and their return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, and perhaps beyond that to an as yet future glorious restoration of the nation. We would consider that this chapter was high in expectation of the Messiah, the ‘anointed’ one, for whom the Jews are still waiting.

But Luke 4:16 – 20 reports that early in his ministry Jesus went to the synagogue in his home town, Nazareth, and stood up to read the Scripture. The scroll of Isaiah was handed to him, and he unrolled it to what is called Chapter 61 in our Bibles, and read verse 1 and the first statement in verse 2. Luke tells us:

‘Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”’ – Luke 4:20, 21.

As Jesus continued speaking, the people appear to have been impressed by his teaching – ‘amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips’ – Luke 4:23. But Jesus’ response when they said ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ shows us that he was not impressed by them and their response – Luke 4:23 – 27. Despite their amazement and spoken affirmation, Jesus exposed underlying unbelief, and offended them by likening them to unbelieving Israel in the days of the prophets Elisha and Elijah, when it was Gentiles, not Israelites, who received miraculous help from these prophets.

So furious were the people of his home town when he said this, that they attempted to kill him there and then.

The important thing for us as we study Isaiah 61 is that Jesus said that verses 1 and 2a – ‘this scripture’ – had been fulfilled in their hearing. That is, Jesus identified himself as the one whose words Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 61. Just as there is no more sacrifice for sin now that he, the one true sacrifice, has died for us; and just as he, as our great High Priest, renders all the priests of the old covenant redundant; even so, he, in fulfilling this prophecy of Isaiah, means that there is no one else who can come and claim to be the one speaking these words of Isaiah. Jesus himself said that it is fulfilled in him. There is no one else coming. No one else to wait for. Jesus has come and has done what Isaiah here foretold. As Paul states in 2Corinthians 1:20, all the promises of God are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Christ.

These words that Jesus read introduce a chapter that is rich with references to him and the salvation he brings.


A.1 ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me’ – verse 1
This statement is similar to others that Isaiah made about Jesus, and is also affirmed by the New Testament.

What do these verses say about this relationship between Christ and the Spirit of God?
Isaiah 11:2

Isaiah 42:1b (compare Matthew 12:18)

Isaiah 59:20, 21a

Matthew 3:16

Luke 4:1, 14

John 1:32 – 34

John 3:34, 35

Acts 10:38

Hebrews 9:14

1Peter 3:18

We need to be careful here that we do not fall into heresy by assuming that this relationship of Christ and the Spirit was the same, for example, as the relationship between Peter and the Spirit when Peter, filled with the Spirit, preached the message about Jesus Christ boldly and effectively. Yes. It was the same Holy Spirit who ‘filled’ and enabled Peter and others as the Holy Spirit who was ‘on’ Jesus Christ. But the nature of the relationship was quite different. There is an eternal unity and synergy between the Son of God and the Spirit of God, just as there is between God the Father, and Jesus the Son. Where one is, there the other is. The words and work of one involves the other two. Although each is distinct, they are not divided. As Paul teaches, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ in bodily form (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). As John stated, God does not give the Holy Spirit ‘by measure’ to Christ (John 3:34).

A.2 ‘because the LORD has anointed me ...’ – 61:1
The name ‘Christ’ is the English equivalent of the Greek Christos, which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew mashiyack – which refers to a consecrated person, and specifically to the ‘Messiah.’ This word is derived from mashach – which is the verb ‘to anoint, to consecrate’. It is this verb that Isaiah uses here. (The English ‘Christ’ is from the Greek christos, derived from the verb chrio – to anoint.)

By referring this verse, with its concept of being anointed by God, to himself, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. The anointed one. The one consecrated, set apart, by God for a specific purpose.

Note these other occasions when Jesus stated that he was the Messiah/Christ/anointed one:
Matthew 11:2 – 6

Mark 14:61b – 62

John 4:25 – 26

A.3 ‘...to preach the good news ...’ – 61:1
Hebrew poetry employs parallel thoughts; it states the same truth repeatedly using different words. So when we look at each of the several purposes for which the Christ was anointed we need to keep this in mind and not try to make too much of a distinction between them. They are each, in their own words, referring to the salvation Christ brings to the lost – to those who are alienated from God by sin.

Each of them, also, involves preaching the good news; predominantly they involve a spoken message – Christ was sent to preach, to proclaim, to comfort. It is his words that contain the salvation; and it is believing and holding to his words that brings freedom and life.

Consider what Christ affirmed about his words:
John 5:24

John 6:63

John 8:31, 32

John 15:3

It is the truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ (and subsequently by those who pass on that teaching – John 17:20) that accomplishes the purpose God defined here in Isaiah 61.

A.4 ‘...to the poor’ – 61:1
The word ‘poor’ is not specifically about financial poverty. It is translated ‘meek’ in the KJV, ‘afflicted’ in the NASV. It refers to a person pressed down by their circumstances, whether physical or spiritual, in which there is no way out, and they know there is no way out. Left to themselves, they have no hope. They are the people of whom Jesus said ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit ... Blessed are the meek’ (Matthew 5:3, 5). Jesus came, and preached the good news, but only those who were aware of their own spiritual destitution received it. Those who felt themselves to be able to establish their own righteousness did not.

A.5 ‘...to bind up the broken hearted’ – 61:1
‘the broken hearted’ parallels ‘the poor’. They are those who are aware of their own sinfulness and of their inability to get themselves right with God, and their hearts are broken because of it. This binding up is obviously not a physical bandaging or healing. It is a spiritual thing. It parallels Jesus words ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’ – Matthew 5:4.

What do you learn from these texts?
Psalm 34:18

Psalm 51:17

Psalm 147:3

Isaiah 57:15

Isaiah 66:2b

Jesus Christ, by his substitutionary death, heals our brokenness (see Isaiah 53:5 – ‘by his stripes we are healed’) – our broken relationship with God, our inner brokenness, and our broken relationships with each other. The first, is instantaneous and complete – our relationship with God is restored (even if we don’t realise it); the second and third are on-going and increasing, as we learn more of the implications and application of what Jesus Christ has done for us.

A.6 ‘...to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners’ – 61:1
By preaching the good news Christ proclaimed freedom. Whenever we see the word ‘redeem’ or ‘redemption’ we are reading about freedom – freedom obtained by the payment of a price. That ransom price is the blood of Christ (see Mark 10:45; 1Corinthians 6:19b, 20; 1Peter 1:18, 19). This redemption, this release, is multi-faceted:

It is freedom from our ignorance of God (our spiritual darkness) – John 1:18; 8:12; 1John 5:20.
It is freedom from the just penalty of God’s law – Romans 7:6; 8:1, 2; Galatians 3:10, 13.
It is freedom from the wrath of God – Romans 5:9; 1Thessalonians 1:10.
It is freedom from our separation from God – Ephesians 2:18.
It is freedom from our fear of death – Hebrews 2:14, 15.
It is freedom from the jurisdiction of the evil one – Hebrews 2:14, 15; Colossians 1:13.
It is freedom from slavery to sin – Romans 6:11 – 22.

A.7 ‘...to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour ...’ – 61:2
This is a reference to the Year of Jubilee, described at length in Leviticus 25. In that year all debts were cancelled, and all property or personal freedom that had been forfeited because of debt was restored. Predominantly, the two key features were release and freedom. This year, like all the rituals and festivals of the Mosaic Law, was a prophetic symbol of Jesus Christ and the saving work that he would do. Here, in Christ is the real ‘year of Jubilee’, the real year of the Lord’s favour. Here, in Christ, God cancels our sin debt. Here, in Christ, God restores to us what we had lost because of our sin:

The sin that prevented our access to God is taken out of the way, nailed forever to the cross of Christ – Colossians 2:14. The debt, all of it, has been paid – 1Peter 2:24. Never again will our sin be held against us – Romans 4:8; Jeremiah 31:34b.

The relationship with God for which he had created us is restored; we are reconciled to God, with permanent present access to him, never again to be turned away, never again to be rejected – Hebrews 4:14 – 16; 10:19 – 22.

Our identity is restored; no longer are we children of the devil and slaves of sin; we are now called children of God – John 1:12; Romans 8:14 – 16; 1John 3:1.

A.8 ‘to proclaim ...the day of vengeance of our God’ – 61:2 [see also 66:5, 6)
Jesus Christ spoke quite frequently of his return in power and glory and judgement. He spoke of the Judgement Day, and of himself as the Judge.

What did he teach in these verses?
Matthew 16:27

Matthew 19:28

Matthew 24:27 – 31

Matthew 24:36 – 51

Matthew 25:31 – 46

But, we might wonder, why does Isaiah 61 refer to the Day of Judgement as ‘the day of vengeance of our God’? The answer to this question is found in Revelation. There we find that on the Day of Judgement, the most terrible judgements are meted out to those who have mistreated God’s people, to those who have mistreated believers from both the Old and New Testaments. This is something that Jesus himself anticipated when he said to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees:

‘...upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar’ – Matthew 23:35.

What insights do these verses from Revelation give into this concept of God’s ‘vengeance’?
Revelation 6:9 – 11

Revelation 16:5 – 7

Revelation 17:6; 18:20 – 24; 19:1 – 4

[Note: We have already looked at God’s judgement in Study 10.]

A.9 ‘...to comfort all who mourn ...and provide for those who grieve...’ 61:2b – 3
In his first coming, by his teaching and through his sin-bearing death, Jesus Christ brought comfort to us. He bound up our hearts, broken and despairing because of our sin (verse 1). But that comfort, while re-establishing our relationship with God, and assuring us that never again will we be banned from God’s presence because our sins and guilt have been totally dealt with, is not complete. We still suffer pain and grief. And, although accepted by God as perfect in Christ, we are still imperfect people.

This day of God’s vengeance – when Christ returns as Judge – is the final thing that happens before the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. On this day all that is opposed to him to disempowered and removed. This day is part of the message of Jesus Christ, part of the big picture of salvation that transcends our personal redemption and extends to the created universe (Romans 8:18 – 23). Beyond this day our salvation becomes totally complete. Beyond this day there is no more sin, no more suffering, and no more possibility of sin and suffering. Beyond this day of God’s vengeance, because of this day, there is total comfort, there is nothing to cause any sadness, ever again.

A. 10 ‘... to bestow on them ...’ – 61:3
Isaiah describes what Jesus provides/bestows this way:

A crown of beauty, instead of ashes.
The oil of gladness, instead of mourning.
A garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair.
We will be called ‘oaks of righteousness’, in which God’s splendour is displayed.

All of these are true now; they are all ours in Christ, because of his death. God already relates to us as perfect and holy in Christ. Already we rejoice because of him, no longer mourning because of our lostness and alienation from God, because already we are credited with the perfect righteousness of Christ. We no longer despair, because God’s grace in Christ has done for us what we know we could never do.

But, as we have seen, we are still sinners who sin, and we live in the context of sin and suffering. There is a sense in which our joy, although it is immeasurable, is not yet complete.

But, after the day of vengeance, these words of Isaiah in verse 3 will be absolutely complete. Total beauty, total gladness, total praise. We will then totally reflect the glory, the splendour of God. John refers to this - ‘we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ – 1John 3:2.


In amongst statements that obviously refer to the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem, are further statements that apply to the salvation that is given to those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

B.1 ‘...you will be called priests of the LORD’ – 61:6a
According to the Law of Moses, only men from the tribe of Levi, and descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, were qualified to fill the roles of priest and high priest. But God had also said, conditional on their faithfulness, ‘you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ – Exodus 19:5, 6. There is thus a distinction between the official role of priest, and God’s vision that everyone who believes in him is a ‘priest’ – with access into his presence, and set apart for his service. To be a priest was to be ‘holy’ – dedicated to God and his service, no longer common.

The New Testament takes up this concept and applies it to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

What do these verses teach about this?
1Peter 2:5, 9

Revelation 1:6

Revelation 5:10

Revelation 20:6

B.2 ‘...everlasting joy – 61:7
Instead of shame, instead of disgrace, there is everlasting joy.

Isaiah has spoken of this joy before:

It is the joy that comes to people walking in darkness when they see the light of Christ (9:1 – 7).

It is the joy that comes to the humble (same word as ‘poor’ in 61:1), when they hear the words of the Lord (29:18, 19).

It is the joy of people who have returned to the Lord and rediscovered his grace (30:18, 19, 29).

It is the joy of those who have been redeemed (35:9, 10; 51:3, 11).

It is the joy that comes because of the work of the Suffering Servant (42:10 – 12; 49:13; 54:1).

It is the joy of those who have responded to the Lord’s invitation and received pardon (55:12).

Instead of the shame, the disgrace and the guilt of sin, instead of the fear of God and of his judgement, there is joy – joy grounded in his compassion, joy made possible by the work of the Servant, Jesus Christ.

The New Testament speaks of this joy:

It is the good news of great joy announced by the angel when Christ, the Saviour was born – Luke 2:10.

It is the joy of finding the greatest treasure – the kingdom of God – Matthew 13:44.

It is the joy of being found, of returning home to the Father – Luke 15:3 – 32.

It is the joy of knowing the truth that Jesus taught – John 15:11; 17:13.

It is the joy of knowing the risen Christ is present with us by his Spirit – John 16:20 – 22.

It is rejoicing in God because of the reconciliation with God accomplished for us by Jesus Christ – Romans 5:11.

It is having complete confidence in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us – Philippians 3:1 – 9.

It is the joy of knowing Christ and his salvation – 1Peter 1:8, 9.

It is the joy of knowing that our salvation is utterly secure – Jude 24.

B.3 ‘...an everlasting covenant’ – 61:8
Hand in hand with the everlasting joy of those the Lord has redeemed is the ‘everlasting covenant’ that he makes with them. This covenant is grounded in the work of the Servant.

In Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 God says to the Servant ‘I will make you to be a covenant for the people’.

In 61:8 and 49:8 this covenant is associated with the day/year of the Lord favour (61:2; 49:8).

In 54:10, following the extended description of the Servant and his work in 52:13 – 53:12, God affirms the everlasting nature of this covenant – ‘my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed’.

In 55:3 the ‘everlasting covenant’ is described by God as ‘my faithful love promised to David’, again connecting this everlasting covenant with Christ, the Son of David.

This covenant established by Christ includes those excluded from the blessings of the former covenant (56:3 – 8). As we have seen frequently in Isaiah, people from all nations are included.

This is the new covenant of which both Old and New Testaments testify.

What do these verses teach about the new covenant?
Jeremiah 31:31 – 34

Ezekiel 16:60 – 63

Ezekiel 34:25a

Ezekiel 36:25 – 27

Ezekiel 37:26 – 27

Luke 22:20

Hebrews 8:6, 10 – 13

Hebrews 10:16 – 18

Hebrews 12:24

Hebrews 13:20

This ‘new’ covenant is the ultimate and final covenant. It fulfils the statement made about a descendant of the woman (Genesis 3:15); it fulfils the promise made to Abraham that through a descendant of his all nations would be blessed; it fulfils the promise made to David that a descendant of his would be the eternal King of an everlasting kingdom; and it fulfils the detailed requirements of the Sinai Covenant – both in its requirements of positive righteousness, and the penalties it prescribes for sin. Jesus Christ accomplishes all of it – in him, through him, the goal of all the covenants, and of all the promises of God, is accomplished. As Paul puts it ‘no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God’ – 2Corinthians 1:20.

Isaiah, speaking of Christ, speaks also, of necessity, of this ‘new’ covenant, this everlasting covenant of peace.

B.4 The gift of righteousness – Isaiah 61:10
Often when Isaiah speaks of righteousness it is a reference to its absence. It was something that the people lacked; indeed, even what they thought was personal righteousness was, in God’s eyes, ‘filthy rags’ (64:6).

There are, however, a number of times when Isaiah links ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’, not in a cause/effect relationship, but as parallel concepts.

What do these texts say about this gift?


51:5 – 8


59:16, 17

Here in 61:10 Isaiah speaks of the reason for his great delight in God and his rejoicing in God: that God has clothed him in garments of salvation, and dressed him in a robe of righteousness. It is not his own doing. It is something God has done to him.

Look at these other Old Testament verses. What do you learn about this amazing gift?
Genesis 15:6

Psalm 98:2

Psalm 119:123

Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16

Habakkuk 2:4

This concept of righteousness as a gift from God, as something that God does, as paralleling salvation, is a key aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Study these New Testament verses and note what you learn about this amazing gift: (Note that in the New Testament the words righteousness, justify, justification, declare righteous, acquit are all from the same Greek root.)
Romans 3:19 – 31

Romans 4:1 – 25

Romans 5:1

1Corinthians 1:30

Galatians 2:15 – 21

Philippians 3:1 – 9

[For extended studies on justification/righteousness go to studies 7 & 8 in these studies.  ]


How has Isaiah 61 increased your understanding of the salvation you have in Christ?

How might this increase or stabilize your peace and joy?

Which aspect of Christ’s work gives you most encouragement?