ISAIAH 61:1 – 63:19 and JAMES 1:1–27
This chapter opens with a familiar verse that the Lord will later quote during the time of his earthly ministry. It has meaning for Israel at the commencing of the millennial reign of Christ when they are restored as a people. It is very much a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ as He comes forth from the Jordan River at the commencing of his 3 ½ year public ministry. The anointing to preach the Good News begins with the Spirit of the Lord. It is the first of the seven spirits of God mentioned in Isa 11:1-2. It is the anointing that enables one to preach and minister in the name of the Lord. The primary ministry of the Lord was to minister to the people who were broken hearted and poor. It is to the meek or poor of the people whom the Lord will both teach and guide in judgement. This verse was quoted by Christ in Luke 4:17-20 when He was presented the Book of Isaiah. When Jesus read from this verse He stopped after the speaking on the acceptable year of the Lord (Luk 4:19). The reason is that the acceptable year of the Lord was a reference to Himself while the “day of vengeance” speaks of the Tribulation period. So the Words of the Lord have a dual fulfilment just like many other passages that have been seen throughout Isaiah. This ministry is sorely needed today when looking at the hurts in people’s lives. The breakdown in marriages, homes and churches is escalating at an alarming rate. Countries are being pulled apart at the seams due to the unleashing of lawlessness. We need this anointing of the Spirit of the Lord to come upon the church as it came upon Christ so as to minister the oil and the wine to the hurts and wounds of people.
The fruits of Zion and its message are seen in verse 3. There is a price to pay in ascending the hill of Zion. The Lord deals with heart issues for the purpose of having a people who can become priests of God who then intercede on behalf of families and the nations. The quality of those in Zion is that they become those who are planted and rooted as trees of righteousness. It is God who does the planting and it is for the purpose of Him being glorified. The problem is that people tend to resist being planted. We seek out our own way of serving God and doing church. There is an old charismatic chorus that has the following line: “I will bloom where I’m planted, in His great vineyard…” We must come to the place of allowing God to do the planting in the vineyard and place of His choosing. The following verses in the psalms speak to this issue:
Psa 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Psa 92:13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
Psa 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Another one of the fruits that become evident is the ministry of rebuilding and restoring the waste places (vs 4-5). This is a ministry of restoration and reconciliation. It is a follow up to a theme that was covered in Isa 58:12. One of the privileges and responsibilities given to the church is to represent the Lord’s arm of restoration. This is followed by the priestly calling referred to in verse 6. Once again there is much emphasis on ruling and reigning as kings alongside Christ in the millennium but we must never forget the priestly role.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
There is the sobering reminder in verse 8 that God is a God of justice and equity. The connotation here is that a sinner or backslider thinks that they can atone for their sin by excessive giving via tithes or perhaps by excessive fasting or sacrifice. God is Truth and we are exhorted to serve in Truth and love the Truth. The Lord will make an everlasting covenant to those who choose to uphold and walk in His steps. There is the added blessing of the spiritual seed being blessed to those who walk uprightly before God. Their seed will be known and have a name that makes an impact upon the kingdom. This is the ultimate joy of any spiritual father or mother; to see their spiritual seed multiply and becoming a blessing. The last few verses give hope to what the church can look forward to in the lead up to the millennium. These verses speak of the preparation of the bride for her bridegroom; a bride that is adorned with salvation and garments of righteousness. It is a people who have paid a price and have allowed the Lord to do a work of grace in their lives. The same anointing that came upon the Lord to aid in His earthly ministry, allowing Him to be prepared for the Cross is the same anointing being made available to us. It is an anointing that gives the ability to preach the Good News and minister to the poor and afflicted. It is this same anointing that can help prepare for us to be the planting of the Lord in righteousness in preparation for becoming His (Christ) bride.
There is another dual fulfilment that Isaiah speaks of in verse 1. The Lord will not Rest until Jerusalem becomes a praise amongst the nations which will not take place until the millennium. Jerusalem also speaks of the church of the New Testament age. The theme of righteousness is again emphasized as that which shines in glory. The church has this mandate now in the midst of a crooked and perverse world but it will be the privilege of Jerusalem throughout the millennium after she is restored back to God. The Gentiles shall see the righteousness and glory of the Lord upon those who have allowed God to plant them. It is a picture of what was seen back in Isa 60:1-2 where the glory of the Lord is arisen upon a people in the midst of gross darkness. There is a picture of an overcomer due to a new name that is given. Jacob came into this experience when he was changed from Jacob to Israel (A deceiver to a man who has power with both God and man). It is a promise given to the overcomer in the Book of Revelation (Rev 2:17). In verse 3 it speaks of being like a jewel in the Lord’s crown which speaks of the church being His inheritance (Deu 32:9).
We can see that Isaiah is projecting far into the future with the promises that are being brought forth. There will be a time when Jerusalem will no longer be forsaken or termed to be desolate. There is a period of about 2750 years that has passed by and these promises have yet to be fulfilled. Through the millennia Israel was constantly under siege while enduring several different captivities. The Lord’s promise will be fulfilled at the time of his 2nd coming. Before that there will be further demarcation of its borders as spoken of in Joel 3:2. It will be the antichrist that makes the final demarcation of Israel in his bid to present himself as God at the time of the abomination of desolation (Dan 11:39).
In verse 5 we see the blessing of spiritual sons and daughters looking after the welfare and care of their spiritual parents. Here we see the blessings of sowing faithfully through many years and producing spiritual children which then results in their being looked after (being married) in their later years. The spiritual children are found supporting and building upon the vision of their spiritual fathers. It is one of the blessings of the kingdom.
In verses 6-7 the ministry of intercession is highlighted. True intercessors are likened to watchmen who are set upon the walls praying through the purposes of God. This is especially true when things are coming to a climax. This truth is illustrated powerfully through the prophetic ministry of Elijah when he prayed for rain. The ministry of intercession is going to become more prominent in the days ahead in the lead up to the 2nd coming of Christ. Now is the time for vigilance and being watchful; to be like the faithful men of Gideon who distinguished themselves as watchmen from the multitudes (Jud 7:6-7).
One of the fruits of this period will be the restoring of cities that have been broken down (vs 10). Jerusalem itself is a good example of what will be seen in many places. The city was once flourishing but became desolate and broken down as a result of their Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah and other restorers would one day carry the heartbeat of God back to the city and restore it. The standards of God will again be exalted and that which was broken down will arise to even greater heights. Will we answer the call to be the Nehemiah’s of our day? Will we be those who hear the heartbeat of God and intercede for a city or nation like Nehemiah and be among those who willingly go through the gates of strongholds with the standards of God? This is the opportunity that the Lord is placing before us.
The judgments upon Edom are picked up again. There were a series of judgements spoken over Edom in chapter 34. Edom is the habitation of Esau which is the modern day kingdom of Jordan. God has a perpetual anger towards Edom that will come to a climax at the time of the 2nd coming. The judgment is descriptive in that their garments are mentioned as being dyed in blood. The thought of the winepress as seen in verse 3 is descriptive of the judgement upon nations that will befall Edom and others who are opposed to the Lord at the 2nd coming. The winepress of God’s wrath is also referred to in Joel 3:13 and the Book of Revelation (Rev 19:15). The winepress is mentioned on a number of occasions and it gives a descriptive picture of what God’s wrath will look like upon the enemy nations. The day of vengeance is again referred to in verse 4 which can be linked to Isa 61:2. Remember where we see the Lord reading from Isaiah in Luke 4? He set the Book down before mentioning the “day of vengeance” because the event had not yet taken place. It is fulfilled at the 2nd coming. There will be no other nation that will come to the aid of Edom due to the totality of God’s judgements upon her.
The prophet now changes gears and begins an intercessory prayer for Israel. In verses 7-9 we see the tender loving care the heavenly Father has for His children Israel. He felt their pain, anguish and afflictions. He had high expectations for them in the beginning stages of their relationship. The children (Israel) rebelled and turned their back upon their Father in spite of all that was done for them. He then had to side with righteousness against His own children. From an eternal perspective it was for their good. This is a failure in many family relationships today. Parents often seek to find common ground with offending children at the expense of righteousness. What results is often a compromise that never gets to the root of the problem. It may be camouflaged for a season but its ugly head will surface in future. This is a painful process for any parent and it certainly was for the Lord. Still, God remembers the intercessory prayers that have gone up on behalf of his people from leaders like Moses. This turns the Lord’s anger to compassion. It is a truth that can be seen throughout scripture such as through the reigns of the Kings of Judah. God intervened on behalf of Judah due to the covenant of the sure mercies of David that was established (1 Kings 11:13, 15:4, 2 Kings 8:19). The mercies of the Lord and His compassion never end however we must never forget that there is a limit to God’s extension of mercy. In verse 13 we see an example of His gentleness towards Israel and the church as He leads and guides us in our Christian journey. We come to know and appreciate the blessings of Rest in our journey (vs 14). The Lord knows when to lead and when to bring His people into Rest. We oftentimes violate this principle due to our busyness and sense of presumption in how we live our lives for God. It is God who leads and we must learn to let Him. The above is a beautiful picture of Psa 23:2 where the Lord leads His people to green pastures besides still waters. How often we miss and bypass these seasons of refreshing that God makes available for His own. If we rob ourselves of this Rest due to our presumption, we will become weary and frustrated. This is one of the missing components in much of today’s Christianity. It is no wonder that many are burned out. It is God’s desire and pleasure to lead His flock besides still waters.
In verses 15-16 the prophet makes clear is that He is their Everlasting Father (Isa 9:6). Yet, even as their Father He allows them to err in their ways because of their disobedience. Why would a loving Father do such a thing? It is not because He wants to but it is allowed due to the uncircumcised areas of their hearts. In other words, He answers them according to what they want. This is after a prolonged period of pleading with His children to turn from their evil ways. There are a couple verses in Ezekiel that captures this thought in more detail.
Eze 20:24 Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols.
Eze 20:25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
Finally, in verses 18-19 there is the sad commentary of how Israel only possessed their inheritance for a short period before being overrun by the adversary. This event is better described in Psa 74:3-4 where the enemy roars in the midst of the congregation. The enemy referred to would be the Babylonians. This event is soon forthcoming for Israel. Isaiah then reminds the Lord that the Babylonians are not His chosen ones and that Israel is the nation that has this honor and privilege. As this chapter concludes you can feel the burden that Isaiah is carrying for Israel. His revelation of what is to come concerning the Babylonians seems to overwhelm Him to the point of pleading with God to remember Israel. We marvel at Isaiah’s prophetic insight but there is no denying the pain and burden that he carried. The cost in being such a prophet is very high indeed.
James was a brother of the Lord who was born after Jesus was conceived. He was martyred for his faith in 62 AD. He describes himself as a servant of God which means he could be likened to a slave who was totally dependent upon His master. It was an unconditional service that he willingly brought to God. His letter was addressed to the 12 tribes who were scattered throughout the provinces.
James immediately delves into the subject of trials in verses 2-12. It is clear that there are tests and trials for all believers. What is the purpose? It is so that we might become useful for the master’s work. The pressures that come upon a minister or church leader are intense. Trials help to see what kind of mettle one has so that in times of pressure such a person will be able to stand. James is trying to present a healthy perspective regarding trials. There are times when God is the author of a trial with the intent of making us better. There is that often heard expression that speaks of trials making us either better or bitter. There are times however when we may suffer due to our sins and disobedience to God. Still, if we repent and have a tender heart these situations can work together for good (Rom 8:28). We must see trials and testing’s as stepping stones to greater realms of glory. This is why it is important to know the ways of God as Moses did (Psa 103:7). The best way in persevering and overcoming these seasons of testing is to maintain a rejoicing heart. How we approach each and every day is so important. A joyful spirit is a tremendous weapon in the arsenal of an overcomer.
Trials help to produce the fruit of patience (vs 3-4). James gives insights to the importance of being able to wait and see through the promises of God. This is an important truth when considering the “instant gratification” society that we live in today. This tendency is so prevalent in today’s church in the need to have it now. If we do not see instant results, we tend to think something must be wrong. It becomes increasingly difficult when others are flourishing which only adds more consternation. We must not understate the value of patience and how it is produced. The Apostle Paul saw his imprisonments as something he could actually rejoice in because it was bringing forth the fruit of patience. James elaborates to help make this understandable by speaking on its (patience) ability to make one perfect. What we need to watch carefully is how we respond to trials because it will help determine whether there will be long term fruit.
James then dives into the subject of wisdom. If any man lacks let him ask. Wisdom is not just given to any man; it is given to the wise who value this precious commodity. The Bible speaks of wisdom as being the most important thing one can have in life (Pro 4:7). If God is giving the invitation to ask for wisdom, then we must take Him at His Word and believe that He will answer. The motive of heart must be clear and upright. If we waver in our asking it could well limit God in answering. The darts of doubt are powerful weapons that the enemy is constantly attacking the people of God with. Doubts and fears will make a believer unstable in his or her walk. We must not waver but take God at His Word.
We become strengthened as we read and meditate upon the Word of God. This time of intimacy helps to develop the inner core of a believer that can believe God in the most difficult of situations. James speaks concerning the double minded man who is unstable in his walk and ways (vs 8). In verse 12 there is the promise to those who endure and overcome temptation. If there were no testing’s there would be no need for grace. It is in the arena of trials where we have opportunity to respond to God’s grace so that we can triumph over our trial. The more one suffers in going through trials the more opportunities for overcoming that can be gained through grace. This is why Paul could learn to rejoice in the midst of his tribulations (Rom 5:3). It’s not like Paul was saying “bring it on” rather it is seeing times of testing as opportunities to be an overcomer. No one likes to have to suffer but if one is in that situation they can learn to respond with thanksgiving and joy knowing that God can bring forth something good through it. This helps us to appreciate one of the primary characteristics of each of the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation. The promises that were presented to them were given to those who were overcomers.
In verses 13-18 James now addresses the source of where temptations originate. The purpose of temptation is to draw out the hidden impurities that lurk within our lives. There were times in the life of Jesus when Satan tempted the Lord so as to bring Him off the appointed course of his life. He has the ability to speak to hidden latent areas in our lives. The Lord was able to say that the prince of this world was able to find nothing in Him that could be exploited (Joh 14:30). What a testimony and it needs to be the standard we go after in our lives. The enemy seeks to find hidden areas that can be exposed and brought out. If we do not allow the Spirit of God to deal with issues in our lives the time will come when there will be exposure. Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered but it was through these testings’ that He was clean and untainted. This is where the washing of the water by the Word comes in and why the Word should never be minimised.
In verses 19-27 James touches on the interesting subject of faith and good works. He begins by emphasizing the need in being a good listener (vs 19-20). This is a key for each of us. We as a people have lost the art of being a good listener. Depending on the situation we are in or the people we are talking to it is interesting to note how people listen. The problem is we often listen through pre-programmed filters. I see this in many leaders. They will give an obligatory ear but in reality they are not really listening and taking in what is being said. You can sometime see it in the eyes; they are hearing but not listening and you can see them looking beyond you. Good listening requires a certain discipline; especially when it comes to hearing the voice of God. We carry a certain presumptive mode that often hinders God in that which He looks to speak. Remember the testimony of the servant psalmist?
Isa 50:4 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
In verse 22 we are exhorted to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. It is the doers of the law that are justified not just those who hear (Rom 2:13). We are justified by faith but we are also justified by works, meaning we are justified as we apply and do that which we have heard. In the Book of Romans, we see these two modes at work. In Romans 4-5 we come to know that we are justified by his Faith. He is the justifier; our part is to receive Christ into our lives by faith. “The just shall live by faith”. In Romans 6-8 there is the working of the Law which is perfected by works. There is a choice required on our part as to whether we will take up our Cross, walk the path God has ordained while learning to yield our members to do and perfect the working of the law by works. The point the Apostle James is trying to make is that it is not enough to be a hearer of the Word only, there must be an appropriating and doing of what we have heard. This is how one can come into a position of true liberty (vs 25). James is demonstrating what true religion is all about. It is about doing what we hear and being what we say. This can be done practically in serving widows and those who are fatherless. In doing these things we position ourselves unto the pathways of holiness. James will further develop these truths as we progress through the chapters.