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 61:3
Last week, we talked about the time of favor and grace that Jesus came to proclaim. However, we also talked about the day of judgment that Jesus taught would come. While this is important to understand, it doesn’t tell us much about what we need to do in order to prepare for the day of judgment. Isaiah 61:3 has a little more information to help us.
First, this is a continuation of the previous passage. That is important because it tells us who will be doing the work for those who have found themselves out of favor with God. The speaker in this entire passage is the anointed One of God. Those who listened or read from Isaiah in the time it was written might have assumed this to be Isaiah. However, those who heard Jesus declare that this is fulfilled in Him, understand that He is the anointed one of God. Therefore, the one doing the work in this passage is not us, but the anointed one. The work that He is to do is, “to provide for those who grieve in Zion.” This means that if God’s people find themselves far from God and mourn the result of our sin, God has anointed Jesus to provide the answer for this problem. He then spends the next several phrases telling us how He will provide for us.
To those who mourn, Jesus has come to replace what we have with something better. He is to bestow or present us with a gift in place of our objects of mourning. Sackcloth and ashes were the common garments of those who mourn and grieve. Israelites knew how to make themselves extra miserable and make sure that everyone around them knew the depth of their misery. Jesus, God’s anointed one, will replace our objects of mourning with a crown of beauty, the oil of joy, and a garment of praise (likely much more comfortable than sackcloth).
They will be called
What is interesting is that many of us interpret the gifts of Christ and the grace that brings salvation as a gift of pardon without change. However, God clearly takes away the old in order to give us the new. Then, He tells us that we “will be called oaks of righteousness.” This can be interpreted multiple ways. One, we are often named by our fruit or outward appearance. Therefore, the assertion that we will be called oaks of righteousness suggests that something visible has changed in us that displays righteousness. Another interpretation of this is that this is a word of prophesy from the mouth of God. Often, Jesus occasionally called his disciples something that identified the change in their lives and the plan that God had for the future. For instance, in a moment of profound revelation, Jesus called Simon Peter and declared that He will build His church “on this rock.” In this way, being called an oak of righteousness by the very God who spoke the earth into existence still suggests a profound difference. If God says it, it happens.
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor
One thing is clear. The change in us will be so profound that it is not possible to give the credit to our own righteousness or hard work. It will be clear that what has grown out of our life has been put there by God Himself and it will therefore bring glory to Him and display His splendor rather than bringing glory to us.
I can’t wait to share the final message in this series with you this coming week. Join us for Easter Sunday.