Every new year, God’s people have the opportunity to reflect on their times. We often spend the last days of the old year reflecting on the year that has passed with its adversities and blessings. And then we turn to the new year with anticipation and hope.
In Isaiah 61, we read a message of great hope for a new year. Isaiah promises a year that will be known as “the year of the LORD’s favor” (v. 2). The promises for this new year are rich. We read glorious words of comfort to those who are afflicted in their inward beings and in their outward circumstances. The message promises comfort to the afflicted of every stripe: the poor, the broken-hearted, the captives, the mourners, and the faint in spirit (vv. 1–3).
In Isaiah’s context, these afflicted ones are suffering the terrible results of the Babylonian exile. But as a word from the Holy Spirit to God’s people in every age, this condition of affliction describes all citizens of heaven living as strangers and exiles in this world.
To these afflicted ones, Isaiah announces the coming of an Anointed One, the Messiah. The Messiah will proclaim the good news of the blessings of the Lord, and He will also provide the blessings He proclaims. We can imagine those in Isaiah’s day asking, “Who is this Messiah who will both proclaim the Lord’s blessings and provide them to us?” The Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to this question, as Luke 4:16–21 reveals.
In this passage of Luke, we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1–2 and sits down to teach. Luke tells us that every eye was fixed on Jesus to hear what He would say about this passage. And here are Christ’s awesome words: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
We should marvel at Christ’s words every bit as much as they did that day in the synagogue (see v. 22). Jesus taught plainly that the year of grace that Isaiah foretold was now here. Jesus had come as God’s Anointed One to provide blessings to His people. Jesus had come to fix what sin had broken, to repair our inward beings and to restore our outward circumstances.
Isaiah prophesied not only the end to brokenness and affliction but the return of true joy and gladness (Isa. 61:3–7). Jesus Christ has repaired our inward beings by His death on the cross. He is coming again soon in glory to restore our outward circumstances by making all things new. The restoration of the faithful began when Jesus arose triumphantly over death. And Christ will finish His restoring work when He returns to raise us with Him for blessed life in the new creation.
So, as we contemplate the new year and what it holds for us, let us not forget Christ’s sure promise: This is the year of the Lord’s favor. Let us rejoice and be glad in Him.