(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
Isaiah 61:10-62:3 – I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God
Chapter 61 of Isaiah begins with a prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah records for us the words that Jesus read when he was at the Synagogue in Nazareth. Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (61:1). As Jesus would later say, these scriptures are fulfilled in him. Jesus was anointed for a very special purpose. He proclaimed the gospel message to all those who were poor in spirit. Through Jesus there is freedom for those who had been held captive by sin. He takes away the darkness of sin.
For a number of verses in chapter 61, Isaiah talks about the comfort that Jesus brings. This message about the Messiah is leading up to the text printed above. Isaiah first proclaims the gospel message of the Messiah and then he talks about believers who understand that this message of the Messiah applies to them. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel message to create faith. Through the faith that the Spirit has given us, we can declare the same thing that Isaiah declares.
Isaiah says, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (61:10). Just like Isaiah said, we rejoice greatly in our Lord. We rejoice because of everything that God has done for us. God has saved us from our sins. Jesus earned us righteousness through his perfect life and sacrificial death. Now he gives us the gift of his righteousness.
When the Holy Spirit created faith in our hearts we were clothed with the garments of salvation. We were given that robe of righteousness – the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The reason that pastors wear a white robe for most of the year is to symbolize the fact that all Christians have been given a robe of Christ’s righteousness. This robe is not based off of anything we have done. Isaiah assures us that this robe is a gift. He says that God has clothed us with this robe. Isaiah further expands the picture by saying that this robe is like the elegant things that a bride or groom may wear to get ready for their wedding.
The robe of Christ’s righteousness is a wonderful gift that the Spirit gives to us when he brings us to faith. For many of us, we were brought to faith through our Baptisms. When the water was applied to us in connection with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit entered our hearts and began working faith in us. At that moment we were given many wonderful gifts. We were given forgiveness and eternal life. We were made a part of God’s family and we were clothed with the robe of righteousness. The Apostle Paul says it like this, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
It is a wonderful privilege to be part of God’s family. Baptism welcomes us into that family. Being clothed with Christ’s righteousness is incredible. It is a reminder that Jesus has done it all for us. He obeyed the law for all the times that we have failed. He paid the penalty that we should have paid by dying on the cross. He rose from the grave and therefore we too will rise. Even when it comes to us believing all of these things, Jesus did that for us to. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create faith.
We have these wonderful gifts from baptism. Why would we ever want to take off that robe of Jesus’ righteousness? Why would we ever want to think that we are the ones who earn our way into heaven? The answer is that we would not want to take off the robe of righteousness. We would not want to try to earn our way into heaven. This would be rejecting the free gift of God’s grace that he has given to us in Christ. This would be telling God that Jesus’ sacrifice was not good enough and we need to add something to it.
The message of God’s law is that our many sins deserve death and eternal punishment. The law does not say, “simply try your best and God will be pleased.” The law is harsh judgment. The gospel is where we see God’s love. That is where we see that he has done it all for us and he has given us the robe of his righteousness. We now live a new life of faith. Paul writes, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4).
Baptism gives us the gift of Christ’s righteousness and gives us credit for his death. We now live a life which gladly serves our Lord. Our new righteousness of faith displays God’s glory.
Look at verses 2 and 3 of chapter 62. There Isaiah talks about how our righteousness of faith is displayed. He says, “The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (62:2-3). Once the Holy Spirit has worked faith in our hearts, we produce fruits of faith. These fruits of faith are what Isaiah calls “our righteousness.” When the world around us sees these good deeds that we do, they may wonder why we do them? They may start to ask questions about our motivation?
If people do ask us about our lives of faith, we most certainly would not want to take the credit away from our God. We would not want to pat ourselves on the back and think that we’re so great because people are praising us for what we do. We want to point them to Christ. Our fruits of faith, our deeds of righteousness are wonderful evidences of the faith in our hearts. They give us opportunities to share this faith. The only way that unbelievers can have the faith that we have is through the Holy Spirit working in their hearts through the gospel of Christ. When people ask about our deeds of righteousness, we point to the source. We point to Jesus.
This is why we take people back to the scriptures. We want everyone to see God. We want everyone to see God as the God of full and free forgiveness which his Word proclaims. Of course to do this we need to display his glory in our lives. If people view our lives as being no different than that of the sinful world, they will see nothing special about Christianity. If people see that we live differently, it can give us opportunities to talk about Jesus. Jesus and his cross is the message that reveals what God is all about.
When the Holy Spirit works in us to give us faith it is a free gift. Paul says in the book of Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God’s grace saves us. Baptism reminds us that it is not anything we have done. No one thinks a baby has done anything to save themselves. We can’t boast about our salvation and we can’t boast about our works of faith. God has worked in us to produce works of righteousness.
It is a relief to know that everything about our faith is a gift of God. If it depended upon us we would be lost. Thankfully Christ has done it all for us. Even when we display his glory through the good works that we do, it is again a gift from God. This too is a relief because if we really examined our hearts, we would see that many times we do things for the wrong reasons. Many times we have sinful motivation. However, when God sees us clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, he sees past our sins and he sees us as holy. God sees his glory displayed in us because he has put Christ’s righteousness in us by working faith in our hearts.