Is. 61:1–4, 8–11
ESV Isaiah 61:1 aThe Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has banointed me to bring good news to the poor;1 he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and cthe opening of the prison to those who are bound;2
2 ato proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, band the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– ato give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, bthe oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; cthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, dthat he may be glorified.1
4 aThey shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
8 aFor I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong;1 bI will faithfully give them their recompense, cand I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed.
10 aI will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, bfor he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself clike a priest with a beautiful headdress, dand as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause arighteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
Where do you find joy? There’s a lot of happiness around us this time of year—in Christmas decorations, music, gifts, food, family, and friends. “Joy to the World,” we sing. We look for joy in similar ways all through the year—in fun experiences, by acquisition of material things we like, in the company of people we like and who like us. But that joy seems to leave us just as quickly as the parties end, the food is gone, the decorations taken down. Is that all there is? Is that what true joy is really all about?
Today God declares to us a deeper joy, a joy that does not come from the circumstances in our life. A joy that does not depend on the things of the world. A joy that does not depend on the people around us. A joy that really is only in the news that we proclaim during Advent.
By Proclaiming Our Salvation,
Christ Alone Gives Us True Joy.
Joy often escapes you. When you focus on the joy that comes from your circumstances or surroundings, that joy is illusive and passes as quickly as it came. You know you might not be focused on real joy when . . . at Christmas you define joy as the holiday elation you had before the onset of “January blues.” If you define joy as the celebrations, music, food, parties, and decorations. If you define joy as the gathering of friends and the special meals with family.
You know you might not be focused on real joy when. . . that Joy of Christmas evaporates the moment you return to your daily routine and life. When in your daily routine people or events make you frustrated or doubtful about God. Then you do not have the true joy of Christmas; the deeper joy that transcends this life, this world, your present circumstances. The joy that Christ alone gives.
Six hundred years before Jesus was born, God’s people of Judah severely lost joy when they were exiled in Babylon. Their homes and temple were destroyed, their friends and family killed. Their cities were burned, their fields made waste, their riches pilfered, and they were chained as prisoners and led away captive to foreign lands.
And why did this happen? It was their own fault for being attached to so many things other than the true God, Yahweh. They were attached to other gods. They were attached to their wealth, to their gold and silver, to their power and fame, to their status and positions of authority. They were attached to themselves and their life of luxury and comfort they had made for themselves.
Is that why you are missing joy? Are you attached to your life of luxury and comfort? To your wealth and possessions? To your family, to your friends, to your job, to your bank accounts, to your retirement funds? To your relative good health or your good looks? Then this sort of joy will not last, but will be ripped out of you like a tornado rips apart a house. Disaster will strike. Illness will come. Death will take away those people you love. This is not an option, but will happen. So if these things are the foundation of your joy, then joy will vanish in a heartbeat.
Joy is restored in Jesus! When your joy is ripped out of you, cling to these words of God from the prophet Isaiah. They are words of good news to the poor. They are words to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors that entrap you in sin and despair. Then you will greatly rejoice in the Lord; your soul shall exult in your God.
The people of Judah were promised joy again. God would return them to their land (vv 4–5); they would again be his priestly people (v 6). Judah’s joy would come through the bringer of the good news who was speaking at the start of our text. (vv 1–3), The Messiah! Isaiah 61 is a prediction of Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.” Yes, the Holy Spirit was seen on him at his Baptism in the Jordan River (Jn 1:33). Yes, Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 when he read this section of the Scriptures in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4:16–21).
Christ brings true joy—joy in, joy at, Christmas and always! (vv 1–2). This joy comes when . . .the good news is heard—as the Scriptures are resounding in your daily life. The good news of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ, God’s Son, born a man of flesh and blood who walked as a man under the authority of the Law of God. A man who fulfilled every command God has given to you. A man who has obeyed every Law of God to its fullest. A man who has fulfilled the Law and accomplished all righteousness that you never could. He brings you the joy of the Law fulfilled. All is accomplished for you. All is done for you. There is nothing more you must do; nothing more you can do. It is DONE!
This joy comes when. . . your brokenness is bandaged—your greatest pain caused by your sin is covered with the balm of Jesus’ blood. The blood that is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sin. That blood that washes you clean.
This joy comes when. . . captivity turns to freedom—Christ’s Spirit liberates you to live as God wants you to live. Christ’s Spirit frees you to love others instead of being turned inward into yourself.
This joy comes when. . . God’s favor is assured—the whole “year” of your life you have God’s loving acceptance by Christ’s righteousness in your stead. That means, the Law which he fulfilled with all its demands on you, he fulfilled on your behalf. He did it for you! It is DONE!
This joy comes when. . . evil and death are conquered—there’s no greater elation than at God’s victory over this world’s greatest problem—death.
Picture this joy (v 3)! “To those who mourn a beautiful headdress is given, the oil of gladness is given, the garment of praise is given.” Christ’s joy means . . . his beautiful grace is covering repented sin—he took upon himself the terrible grief of your eternal damnation. He was beaten, smitten, afflicted, jeered, ridiculed and put to death on a cross all to take your place in the suffering and torments of eternal punishment for your sins. He took your place. He was punished for you. He did it! It is DONE!
Christ’s joy means. . . actual happiness instead of the sadness of this death-filled world—the same Spirit that’s upon him gives you the fruit of love, joy, peace, and so on (Gal 5:22–23).
Christ’s joy means. . . stability and growth from God—your joy is no longer contingent on earthly things! Your joy no longer has to be tied to the circumstances of your life. Your joy does not depend on other people, other things, not even upon yourself. Your joy is tied to Christ and found in God alone and nothing else. “Jesus Joy” is spreading and it’s real! The word “Offspring” in v 9 is literally “seed.” This word is used as a reference to Christ in both the Old and New Testaments (Gal 3:16). Christ is the seed that is “sown” in your joyful family and in other Christian relationships. He is the seed that sprouts and grows into the fullness of joy. He is sown in your hearts in the Word of promise and brings forth the fruit of joy, that multiplies 60 fold, 80 fold, and 100 fold. Others see him as the source of your joy. The joy of Christ spreads around the world to new lands and peoples, new languages, new nations and races through missions both here and abroad. The joy of Christ sprouts like seeds planted in the field; the field is the entire world.
Your life is one big celebration of joy, like a wedding (v 10). It is often described as a wedding feast or wedding banquet in Scripture. At a wedding, there is a beautiful couple, like Jesus and you hand in hand, day-by-day. At a wedding, love and unity is the cause of the celebration, just as our righteousness in Christ brings forth our daily praise.
Good feelings based on earthly things do not last. In fact, sinful and selfish pursuits often associated with those things and people and events cause the destruction of godly joy. At Christmas and always, your focus is to see and hear a voice producing true joy—the saving Word of Jesus! Amen.