The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The book of Isaiah was written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s words were already ancient prophecies when the star appeared over Bethlehem. His words were read in the synagogues by the priests when Jesus was just a boy. Christ himself read from the scroll of Isaiah and proclaimed himself the fulfillment of its prophecies (see Luke 4:14-23). It seems, then, that these words should have significance to us. What does it mean to you when you read “bind up the brokenhearted”, “proclaim freedom for the captives” and “release from darkness for the prisoners”? Are you brokenhearted? Are you held captive by sin? Do you feel you are a prisoner of darkness? These words ring true for all of us from time to time. Who has not experienced a broken heart? Who has not felt trapped or lost in the dark? If you’ve been there, and now you are free, how did you get where you are? By your own power? Certainly not! Only Jesus Christ has the power to set you free.
Isaiah has more good news. Not only can our hearts be mended. Not only can we be released from a dark prison. We can look forward to blessings! Crowns of beauty, oil of joy, garments of praise. Strange terms, maybe, but the point is this: Christ not only sees to our needs, he also blesses us beyond what we could expect, certainly past what we deserve. He makes us new again and presents us to the Lord, a “display of his splendor”.
Of course we have to do something to get there. Believe. There are no jobs we must complete. There is no fee to pay. There is only this: “…declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Your heart can be made whole again. The darkness can turn to light. The chains can be broken. Only believe. Then, by the power of Christ, you can become an “oak of righteousness,” beautiful in the sight of the Lord.