In Isaiah 61:1-3, The prophet Isaiah speaks on behalf of “The Anointed One” to offer mercy to the broken, judgment to the unbelieving and comfort to the exiled. He offers the hope of restoration to a people who have lost home, unity and a sense of identity. Here’s that well-known passage:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.”
According to Luke (4), Jesus read this passage from Isaiah in the synagogue, at the very start of his ministry, and claimed that the words referred to Him. The words form a statement of intent, a mandate for action, and a description of the role of the Messiah. When Jesus was asked if He really was the Christ, He referred to them again (in the words of Matthew 11:5): “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
But what of us? How does Christ’s declaration connect with us? Quite simply, as Paul insists, if every believer is “in Christ” then His mandate becomes our own.” It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1: 21-22). Further. “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.”
The passage in Isaiah 61 begins with an explanation of the nature of the anointing on the people of Christ. Let’s pick up a few of the aspects of this anointing, rather like turning a diamond over in your hand, and watching as the light catches a different aspect. But don’t forget that this is one marvellous reality, one anointed life. What is it to live in the anointing? What is it to experience the fullness of the Spirit of God as a corporate people? There are nine aspects of the Messianic anointing I want to consider, as we ask the question “How do we operate in the anointing?”
First, it’s an anointing of freedom.
The initial word that springs to mind in Isaiah 61 is the word “Freedom.” According to Jesus (in John 8) “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed”! And “If you know the truth, the truth will set you free.”
But what is the truth that sets me free; and what is the nature of freedom that that truth creates?
Second, it’s an anointing of deliverance.
There’s something more here. “The anointing breaks the yoke.” Isaiah 10:27 carries the idea of a yoke no longer fitting the slave. Our necks have grown too “fat” for it! Once you know whom God intends you to be, you can no longer be subject to the “yoke” of oppression, chronic illness, clinical depression. Who shall deliver me? Only Christ!
Third, it is an anointing of revelation.
The Anointed One will open prisons and blinded eyes. The Hebrew has “the most complete opening.” I have to see for myself. I have to see for real.
Fourth, it’s an anointing of favour.
This is the “acceptable year.” It is the time of grace, for which we think of the idea of Jubilee which underpins the whole speech in Isaiah 61.
Fifth, it’s an anointing of division.
Jesus spoke of a future division –a “day of vengeance” –between sheep and goats (Matthew 25), but it’s important to note that Jesus “closed the book” before this clause (Luke 4:21 ); for the interval from His first to His second coming is “the acceptable year“; the “day of vengeance” will not be till He comes again (2 Thess 1:7-9).
Sixth, it’s an anointing of beauty.
The “Anointed One” promises “beauty for ashes” There is a play on the sound and meaning of the Hebrew words, peer and epher, literally, “ornamental headdress” or tiara worn in times of joy, instead of a headdress of “ashes,” smeared on the forehead as a sign of mourning.
Seventh, it’s an anointing of joy.
How could it not be? Wherever God goes, joy attends. It is impossible to be sad in His presence. There’s a witty and profound passage by Steve Brown: “If there is no laughter, Jesus has gone somewhere else. If there is no joy and freedom, it is not a church: it is simply a crowd of melancholy people basking in a religious neurosis. If there is no celebration, there is no real worship.”
Eighth, and similarly, it’s an anointing of praise.
He promises “garments of praise,” party clothes, indicative of thankfulness, instead of those that indicate sadness, such as sackcloth.
It’s a time of love, life and laughter songs, music and celebration.
Ninth, it’s an anointing of integrity.
This anointing is built to endure. The “Anointed One” will plant “trees of righteousness,” symbolical of people strong in righteousness, instead of being bowed down with sin and failure.
Finally, let’s share a dream for an anointed people. What would happen if we became all that intended for us to be?
This is a clip from Ken’s book The Liberating Anointing available here