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The Good News of Deliverance

61

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

2

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

3

to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.


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1. The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah. As Christ explains this passage with reference to himself, (Luke 4:18) so commentators limit it to him without hesitation, and lay down this principle, that Christ is introduced as speaking, as if the whole passage related to him alone. The Jews laugh at this, as an ill­advised application to Christ of that which is equally applicable to other prophets. My opinion is, that this chapter is added as a seal to the former, to confirm what had hitherto been said about restoring the Church of Christ; and that for this purpose Christ testifies that he has been anointed by God, in consequence of which he justly applies this prophecy to himself; for he has exhibited clearly and openly what others have laid down ill an obscure manner.

But this is not inconsistent with the application of this statement to other prophets, whom the Lord has anointed; for they did not speak in their own name as individuals, or claim this authority for themselves, but were chiefly employed in pointing out the office of Christ, to whom belongs not only the publication of these things, but likewise the accomplishment of them. This chapter ought, therefore, to be understood in such a sense, that Christ, who is the Head of the prophets, holds the chief place, and alone makes all those revelations; but that Isaiah, and the other prophets, and the apostles, contribute their services to Christ, and each performs his part in making known Christ’s benefits. And thus we see that those things which Isaiah said would be accomplished by Christ, have now been actually accomplished.

On that account Jehovah hath anointed me. This second clause is added in the room of exposition; for the first would have been somewhat obscure, if he had said nothing as to the purpose for which he was endued with the Spirit of God; but now it is made far more clear by pointing out the use, when he declares that. he discharges a public office, that he may not be regarded as a private individual. Whenever Scripture mentions the Spirit, and says that he “dwelleth in us,” (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16) let us not look upon it as something empty or unmeaning, but let us contemplate his power and efficacy. Thus, after having spoken of the Spirit of God, the Prophet next mentions the “anointing,” by which he means the faculties which flow from him, as Paul teaches that the gifts are indeed various, but the Spirit is one. (1 Corinthians 12:4)

This passage ought to be carefully observed, for no man can claim right or authority to teach unless he show that he has been prompted to it by the Spirit of God, as Paul also affirms that “no man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) But, it will be said, we see that almost all men boast of having the Spirit of God; for the Pope, and the Anabaptists, and other heretics and fanatics, have his name continually in their mouth, as if they were governed by him. How, then, shall we judge that any man has been sent by God, and is guided by his Spirit? By “anointing;“ that is, if he is endued with the gifts which are necessary for that orate. If therefore, having been appointed by the Lord, he abound in the graces of the Spirit and the ability which the calling demands, he actually has the Spirit. And if he wish to make profession of enjoying that teacher, and if he have no doctrine, 165165     “S’il veut contrefaire le docteur, et n’a doctrine ni savoir.” “If he wishes to counterfeit the teacher, and has not any doctrine or knowledge.” let him be held as an impostor.

He hath sent me to preach. The Prophet does not claim for himself right and authority to teach, before he has shown that the Lord “hath sent him” The authority is founded on his having been “anointed,” that is, furnished by God with necessary gifts. We ought not to hear him, therefore, as a private individual, but as a public minister who has come from heaven.

To the afflicted. Some render it, “To the meek;“ and both ideas are conveyed by the word ענוים (gnanavim). But I preferred to adhere to the former signification, because the Prophet is speaking of captives and prisoners. Yet I think that he includes both; for he means those who, while they are altogether forsaken and abandoned, are also wretched in themselves. Christ is promised to none but those who have been humbled and overwhelmed by a conviction of their distresses, who have no lofty pretensions, but keep themselves in humility and modesty. And hence we infer that Isaiah speaks literally of the Gospel; for the Law was given for the purpose of abasing proud hearts which swelled with vain confidence, but the Gospel is intended for “the afflicted,” that is, for those who know that they are destitute of everything good, that they may gather courage and support. For what purpose were prophets, and apostles, and other ministers, anointed and sent, but to cheer and comfort the afflicted by the doctrine of grace?

To bind up the broken in heart. Numerous are the metaphors which the Prophet employs for explaining more clearly the same thing. By “binding up,” he means nothing else than “healing,” but now he expresses something more than in the preceding clause; for he shows that. the preaching of the word is not an empty sound, but a powerful medicine, the effect of which is felt, not by obdurate and hard­hearted men, but by wounded consciences.

To proclaim liberty to the captives. This also is the end of the Gospel, that they who are captives may be set at liberty. We are prisoners and captives, therefore, till we are set free (John 8:36) through the grace of Christ; and when Christ wishes to break asunder our chains, let us not refuse the grace that is offered to us. It ought to be observed in general, that the blessings which are here enumerated are bestowed upon us by heavenly doctrine, and that none are fit for the enjoyment of them but those who, conscious of their poverty, eagerly desire the assistance of Christ, as he himself says,

“Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,
and I will relieve you.” (Matthew 11:28)

2. To proclaim the year of the good-pleasure of Jehovah. Here he expressly mentions the time of bestowing such distinguished grace, in order to remove the doubts which might arise. We know by daily experience how numerous and diversified are the anxious cares which distract the heart,. He affirms that he is the herald of future grace, the time of which he fixes from the “good­pleasure” of God; for, as he was to be the Redeemer of the Church by free grace, so it was in his power, and justly, to select the time.

Perhaps he alludes to the Jubilee, (Leviticus 25:10) but undoubtedly he affirms that we must wait calmly and gently till it please God to stretch out his hand. Paul calls this year “the time of fullness.” (Galatians 4:4) We have likewise seen that the Prophet says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (Isaiah 49:8) Paul applies this to his own preaching; for, while the Lord addresses us by the Gospel, the door of heaven is thrown open to us, that we may now, as it were, enter into the possession of God’s benefits. (2 Corinthians 6:2) We must not delay, therefore, but must eagerly avail ourselves of the time and the occasion when such distinguished blessings are offered to us.

And the day of vengeance to our God. But those expressions appear to be inconsistent with each other, namely, “The day of good­pleasure,” and “The day of vengeance.” Why did Isaiah join together things so opposite? Because God cannot deliver his Church without showing that he is a just judge, and without taking vengeance on the wicked. He therefore employs the term “good­pleasure,” with reference to the elect, and the term “day of vengeance,” with reference to the wicked, who cease not to persecute the Church, and consequently must be punished when the Church is delivered. In like manner Paul also says, that “It is righteous with God to grant relief to the afflicted, (2 Thessalonians 1:6) and to reward the enemies of believers who unjustly afflict them;” and the Jews could not expect a termination of their distresses till their enemies had been destroyed.

Yet we ought to observe the cause of our deliverance; for to his mercy alone, and not to our merits, or excellence, or industry, must it be ascribed, he appears, indeed, as I briefly remarked a little before, to allude to the Jubilee; but above all things we should attend to this, that our salvation lies entirely in the gracious will of God.

To comfort all that mourn. We ought to keep in remembrance what we formerly remarked, that the end of the Gospel is, that we may be rescued from all evils, and that, having been restored to our former freedom, and all tears having been wiped from our eyes, we may partake of spiritual joy. And if we are not partakers of so great a benefit, it must be ascribed to our unbelief and ingratitude, by which we refuse and drive away God, who freely offers himself to us.

3. To appoint to the mourners in Zion. He proceeds with the same subject; for he means that the punishment which was to be inflicted on the people shall be such as still to leave room for forgiveness. And, in order more fully to convince them of it, he says that the Lord has charged him with this office, that he may proclaim this deliverance; and not to himself only, but also to others, till the chief messenger arrive, namely, Christ, who actually bestows and exhibits what God at that time commanded to be made known for a future period. Yet he means that the “mourning” shall not hinder God from giving ground of joy, when he shall think proper; for “to appoint” has the same meaning as “to fix the time,” that the tediousness of delay may not discourage them.

That I may give to them beauty for ashes. By the word, give he speaks with commendation of the efficacy of the prediction, that they may be fully convinced of the event. The allusion is to the ancient customs of the Jews, who, when any calamity pressed hard upon them, sprinkled ashes on their heads, and wore sackcloth. (Esther 4:3) By these he denotes the filth and mourning which necessarily attend the wretched condition of the people, and contrasts them with the joy and gladness which they shall have when they are restored to liberty. I think that we ought not to pass by the allusion contained in the words פאר (peer) and אפר (epher;) for, by the mere transposition of letters, he intended to denote very different things, and, by an elegant inversion, a change of condition.

Trees of righteousness. By these words he points out the restoration of the people; as if he had said, “Whereas they had formerly been rooted out and resembled a dry stock, they shall be planted and settled.” Thus he reminds them that they ought to contemplate the divine power, so that, though they are slain and dead, still they may confidently hope that they shall be restored so as to take root and to receive strength and increase. From this ought to be drawn a universal doctrine, namely, that there is no other way in which we are restored to life than when we are planted by the Lord. We are indeed called his “planting,” because he elected us from the beginning. (Ephesians 1:4) But there is also another kind of “planting” which follows the former, namely, the Calling, by which we are ingrafted through faith into Christ’s body. The Lord does this by the agency and ministry of the Gospel; but it must be wholly ascribed to him, for “it is he alone that giveth the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:7) We must always bear in mind the emblematical meaning of the first deliverance as illustrating the spiritual kingdom of Christ,.

He gives the appellation of “trees of righteousness” to those in whom the justice of God or good order shines forth. Yet let us know that the Lord adopts us on this condition, that we shall become new creatures, and that true righteousness shall reign in us. And hence it follows that we are by nature depraved and corrupted, and cannot yield fruit in any other way than by being changed and planted by the Lord. This sets aside the vain and haughty opinion of the Papists, who, by contriving either preparations or the aids of free will, claim what belongs to God alone; for if we are planted by the Lord, it follows that we are by nature dry and unfruitful.

To glorify him. This is the design of our “planting;“ but we have already spoken of these things in expounding the twenty-first verse of the preceding chapter.




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