SIXTY ONE : THREE
DEEPLY DISCOVERING THE DECLARATION OF ISAIAH 61
There isn’t a way I could ever decide on my most favorite verse in the Bible, but there are without a doubt some that rock me more significantly than others. Isaiah 61 is my daily declaration, the passage I feel most like my intimate Father crafted just for me. Recently He whispered in my ear as I read it to myself that He wanted me to break the passage down into bite-sized pieces and share it in this easier-to-chew form with the rest of the world. I immediately said “no thanks” (politely, I should add). I am not a Bible scholar and am therefore underqualified for any assignment to further explain this profound book. Then He led me straight to 1 John 2:27: “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” Now, I don’t believe this means that we don’t need Bible scholars and educated pastors to help guide us and make us understand, because we do. I believe this verse is in this book to clarify to us that after we accept Jesus Christ and rely solely on His Spirit, should He call us to a task, we needn’t fear whether or not we know all there is to know because He knows all there is to know and will share it with us. As a matter of fact, I could do an entire separate series discussing all the underqualified believers that He uses. It’s kind of His style.
So here we are. This eleven(ish) week study will break down the verses of the bold and brilliant declaration that is Isaiah 61. I am praying for clarity, understanding, and inexplicable Holy Spirit guidance so that together, we can uncover the truth about who we are called to be once we receive the Holy Spirit.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to..." (Isaiah 61:1)
PROVIDE FOR THOSE WHO GRIEVE IN ZION—
Let’s define “Zion” before we move any further. While there is no explicit definition about exactly what/where Zion is, the best deduction I can make is that it is a name for the throne of God. Revelation 14:1 describes it as the throne of the Lamb, who is Jesus, and Acts 7:56 records that Jesus is “standing at the right hand of God”. To further prove the whereabouts of Zion, Psalm 9:11 declares that we “sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion”. Along with these, there are many more verses that reference Zion that I would encourage you to seek out for yourself!
It is confusing to think that there would be people grieving in Zion, being that it is the throne of God and we know for certain that heaven is perfect. I believe there are two explanations for this. One is that there is such thing as righteous grieving, just as there is righteous anger or righteous jealousy. Grieving for sin and the death that it brings is a holy and good emotion, given as a gift from God as a means to cope with the fallen world and chase after Him. The second explanation could be that the people are not physically in Zion grieving, rather they are grieving in the world and will find their provision once in Zion—or, more plainly, the Throne of God.
TO BESTOW ON THEM A CROWN OF BEAUTY INSTEAD OF ASHES,
After tragedy, there is ash. Ash is the remnant of destruction. After a raging fire, a devastating volcano, a lost life, comes ashes. But this ashen state, this remnant of destruction, this is not the end for believers. Our identity is our royalty and when we see a sister or brother in Christ wearing ash in place of their crown, we must bestow on them this beautiful truth: their father is king, and they are alive in Him. We are to walk people out of their darkness and lead them into the marvelously warm light that emanates from the throne of God, their rightful Father. Ash is all that is lost, but we receive our crowns through the victory of Christ.
It is written in James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” We see from this verse that often the trial comes before the crown. This is true for Jesus. It is true for Joshua. It is true for David and it is often true for us. We replace the ashes with crowns as we step into obedience to God by living out the royalty He bestows upon us. (If you find yourself struggling to find life among the ashes, I would encourage you to read “Getting In The Pit”, another recent blog of mine)
THE OIL OF GLADNESS INSTEAD OF MOURNING,
Mourning is a byproduct of loss, a deep sorrow that we partake in when something close to us is gone forever. In biblical times, when a person passed away, oils were used to embalm the body, covering their skin before they were laid to rest. This oil is the oil of mourning, most certainly a scent that people would automatically associate with death and sadness.
But there is joy in richly scented oils.
I remember being a child and smelling my mom’s Issey Miyake “L’eau D’issey” perfume mingled with my dad’s Ralph Lauren “Polo” cologne and knowing that they were headed out for the evening. Just thinking of those smells takes me back to being young and absolutely awestruck at how lovely my parents looked, myself so happy that they loved one other and spent the effort to impress each other.
This is the oil of gladness. Smelling the oils of my mother and father as a child brought me joy and warmth, a deep sense of home. It is said that smell is our sense most closely related to memory. Gladness is getting a whiff of home and settling into the comfort it brings.
AND A GARMENT OF PRAISE INSTEAD OF A SPIRIT OF DESPAIR.
Much of a first impression is based on the clothing a person is wearing. The colors and words and styles proclaim, “of all the options there were, this is what I chose.” When we lay our eyes on a person covered in the spirit of despair, we are called to replace it with garments of praise! It is this different garment that sets us apart so that when people see us for the first time, they recognize that we are not the same as the despair around us and are inclined to wonder what it is that makes us look so different. In the kingdom of Christ, there is no death or sadness and we are to help others to cast off the funeral garb they are wearing and step into their beautiful wedding attire, their robes of righteousness (Job 29:14), and introduce them to the true joy awaiting them in Christ.
The crown, the oil, and the garments altogether represent whole and total mind, soul, and body healing. The crown is placed upon the heads of those who receive Christ, displaying the renewal of their minds (Romans 12:2). The oil is rubbed on the skin, soaking into their senses and renewing their spirits in whatever way they need. The garments cover their bodies, purifying the earthliest aspect of their lives and covering all their sin in righteous praise.
You see, God doesn’t just call for our hearts. He doesn’t just ask for our minds or our prayers. God wants it all. He wants to cover us head to toe and receive every aspect of our lives in order to protect us in our entirety. God doesn’t force His way in, He waits for us to accept the gifts He offers—the crowns, the oils, the garments—and our job as believers is not only to accept these gifts but to bestow them upon those who have not yet received them.
THEY WILL BE CALLED OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
What a glorious and overwhelming way to hear yourself described. You are an oak of righteousness. Oaks are enormous and beautiful trees, but they cannot be described in only one sentence because here is the most amazing thing about them: there are 600 different species of oaks. SIX HUNDRED! They grow in a whole range of environments, from cool regions to tropical climates. You just can’t put a label on what an oak should look like because each oak lives just where and how as it was intended to.
Believers are no different.
A PLANTING OF THE LORD FOR THE DISPLAY OF HIS SPLENDOR.
We are created specifically and uniquely, planted intentionally where and when we find ourselves, called to different and unique paths because God calls us to be like oaks of righteousness. All different, all lovely and pure not because of where or how we grow but because we are God’s and we are covered in Him and filled with His dreams—the distinct ones He crafted just for us.
Our righteousness isn’t earned. An oak tree doesn’t fight tirelessly to become like the trees around it; it simply grows as God directs it, trusting in His direction and intention and displaying itself in the only way it knows how. The only way an oak can truly thrive is by God’s will. We are no different.
When we lay our eyes on the beautiful magnificence of an old, strong tree, our hearts burn for the creator. The greatest achievement we could ever strive for is that people’s hearts would burn in the same way when they look at us.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I urge you this week to cover yourself from head to toe in all the extravagant gifts that God has for you. I commission you to be boldly set apart and courageous in sharing these gifts with others, bestowing on them all that you have received. Knowing that you are called an oak of righteousness, I pray you have the strength and spirit to live in such a way that you are worthy of this name.
May the Holy Spirit cover you in all the beauty of the Kingdom.