Isaiah 61


And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?

…And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

But he passing through the midst of them went his way (Luke 4:16-30)

Let's take a moment to imagine this scene. Jesus had lived in Nazareth most of his life. As Nazareth is a small town, there was probably only one synagogue for him to attend. We might imagine that he dutifully attended this very synagogue with his family. They sat together as the Torah and Talmud were read and discussed. As the oldest son, he probably helped Mary with controlling his younger siblings. Jesus would have drawn no more attention to himself than any other member of the synagogue. His presence was not commanding. He did not participate in scriptural commentary. He just sat quietly, waiting 'upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come' (JST Matt 3:24).

What incredible patience! Over the many years of worship service, Jesus must have heard many Messianic prophecies. Likely, he came to the gradual realization that they were speaking of a mission that he was to perform. What was going through his mind as he first listened to the story of Moses and the burning bush? Did this story seem too familiar? Gradually, he realized that it was he that spoke to Moses on Sinai! What an incredible realization! Undoubtedly, he knew the scriptures better than the rabbis. He could neither be taught by them, nor needed he 'that any man should teach him' (JST Matt. 3:25). How frustrating it must have been for him to sit there over the years, listening to the uninspired and shortsighted interpretations of his synagogue! How easy it would have been for him to stand up and declare the meaning of the scriptures. How easy it would have been for him to give new meaning to the Old Law. Yet, with the patience of Job, he waited upon the Lord. He had plenty of time to think of what scripture he would use to introduce his ministry. Finally, he could begin to preach. His first message is to tell them what he has known for decades—that this unassuming son of Mary was in fact the unequalled Son of God.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek

The literal translation of the Christ is “the Anointed One.”  When Jesus declares “the Lord hath anointed me,” he is saying, “I am the Messiah; I am He who was prophesied by Isaiah that should come.”  A little later, Nathanael’s wondered, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46) The Samarian woman at the well said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ… Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:25-26)  Later in Jerusalem, “Many of the people… said, of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” (Jn. 7:41)  Near the end, they harangued Jesus with, “How long dost thou make us to doubt?  If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.  Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not.” (Jn. 10:24-25)

He told them He was the Messiah in Nazareth, but they didn’t believe him.  He told them He was the Messiah in the temple, but they didn’t believe him.  His miracles and teachings were proof that he was the Messiah, but they didn’t believe him.  He was anointed by the Father with the Spirit according to the scriptures, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10:38). Hence, Jesus is the Christ—the Anointed One!

“As Jesus stood in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth and discussed this prophecy in gracious words, how eagerly he must have yearned for his startled friends and neighbors to understand how God had anointed One in their midst to minister to their greatest needs. (See Luke 4:16–22.) Whoever among them understood Isaiah would know also why Jesus would work with sinners, sacrifice his life, and feed the hungry and thirsty with the bread of life and living water. The divine Messiah was to be the Savior who gathers those who are lost, comforts those who mourn, looses those who are bound, and heals those who are sick.

“Having applied this prophecy to himself, all one had to do to test the divinity of Jesus’ calling was to see how well his ministry corresponded to this prophecy to see whether he truly was the anointed One.” (Keith Meservy, “This Day Is This Scripture Fulfilled,” Ensign, Apr. 1987, 10)

Isaiah 61:1 to preach good tidings… to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…

What was the mortal ministry of the Messiah?  Was it to start a revolution?  Was it to establish a church?  Was it to defeat the Romans?  It was none of those things.  His mission was to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and forgive the sinners.  Matthew said “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23).  That was his mortal mission.  When He sent out the Twelve on a mission, he told them to “preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils” (Matt. 10:7-8).

Did Christ preach good tidings unto the meek?  “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).

Did Christ bind up the broken hearted?  “Jesus… saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34)

Did Christ proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound?  “the Son of God appeared (in the spirit world), declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall” (D&C 138:18-19)

Did Christ comfort all that mourn?  “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4)

Jeffrey R. Holland

Perhaps no more beautiful passages have ever been written about the Savior's atonement and crucifixion than those written by Isaiah. We have already noted the first three verses of the 61st chapter of Isaiah, the passages with which Christ announced his Messiahship to what must surely have been a startled synagogue in the tranquil village of Nazareth. Those verses would rank among the most moving and meaningful ever written, particularly in light of their true Messianic meaning and the use that the Savior himself made of them. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 89)

Isaiah 61:2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord

What is the acceptable year of the Lord?  The answer is in the Old Testament practice of celebrating the year of the jubilee.  After 50 years, all debts were forgiven, all slaves were released, all oppression ceased. (Lev. 25) Spiritually speaking, Jesus came to forgive sins, release the sinner from the chains of sin, and lift the oppressive burdens of physical, spiritual, and mental illness.

“[The] acceptable year—an allusion to the jubilee year (Le 25:10), a year of universal release for person and property. (See also Isa 49:8; 2Co 6:2.) As the maladies under which humanity groans are here set forth under the names of poverty, broken-heartedness, bondage, blindness, bruisedness (or crushedness), so, as the glorious Healer of all these maladies, Christ announces Himself.” (

Isaiah 61:2 the day of vengeance of our God

In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read one and a half verses.  It is perhaps as interesting to examine why He stopped where He did, as it is to read what He quoted. He did not continue with the next phrase and declare that it was “the day of vengeance of our God” but rather closed the book prior to that passage.  Since Isaiah’s writings make no distinction between the First Coming and the Second Coming, the phrases are placed next to each other as if He will accomplish all at once.  This is the great mystery that confused the Jews who were looking for a Messiah.  They expected “the day of vengeance.”  They expected the virgin birth to be associated with power because Isaiah said “unto us a son is given: (then the very next phrase is) the government shall be upon his shoulder… of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David” (Isa 9:6-7).  You can’t really blame them for thinking all would be fulfilled when the Messiah came.  Not surprisingly, Peter was ready to take up the sword at the Last Supper because he was familiar with the Messianic prophecies (Lu. 22:38; Jn. 18:10).

In Rabbinical teachings, the idea of the Messiah as a suffering servant had not been distinguished from the idea of the Messiah as a conquering hero.  We still await the latter; we call it “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” because it will be “the day of vengeance” Isaiah spoke of. (I know, never end a sentence with a preposition).

Isaiah 61:3 beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning

Bruce C. Hafen

Some Church members feel weighed down with discouragement about the circumstances of their personal lives, even when they are making sustained and admirable efforts. Frequently, these feelings of self-disappointment come not from wrongdoing, but from stresses and troubles for which we may not be fully to blame. The Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to these experiences because it applies to all of life. The Savior can wipe away all of our tears, after all we can do.

In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes part of a passage from Isaiah that describes the heart of his ministry. The Isaiah passage reads: “The Spirit of the Lord … hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; … to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, … to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion … beauty for ashes.” (Isa. 61:1, 3; italics added.)

The Savior’s atonement is thus portrayed as the healing power not only for sin, but also for carelessness, inadequacy, and all mortal bitterness. The Atonement is not just for sinners…

It is so important for us to be on the Lord’s side. But we should never forget that the Lord is also on our side.

Each of us will taste the bitter ashes of life, from sin and neglect to sorrow and disappointment. But the atonement of Christ can lift us up in beauty from our ashes on the wings of a sure promise of immortality and eternal life. He will thus lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives.

 Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God … giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. … They that wait upon the Lord shall … mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa. 40:28–31.) (“Beauty for Ashes: The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 13)

Isaiah 61:4 they shall build the old wastes… they shall repair the waste cities

“Nearly 2500 years ago the prophet Isaiah described in vivid detail how the Jews would return to their ancient homeland in the latter days. He said, “… they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.” (Isa. 61:4).

“From the Lord’s point of view the reconstruction began in America, rather than Palestine. On June 15, 1841, Orson Hyde, an apostle of the restored church, wrote a letter to the Reverend Dr. Solomon Hirschell, the leading rabbi in England, describing how the first intimation from heaven had already been received that the rise of modern Israel was imminent. Here is what he wrote:

‘About nine years ago [actually 1831], a young man … in whose bosom the Almighty had deposited many secrets, laid his hand upon my head and pronounced these remarkable words—‘in due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the house of Israel; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people.’

“This part of the letter should not have surprised the rabbi, since at every Passover, and often in their daily prayers, the Jews solemnly expressed their supreme hope of redemption by saying: ‘Next year, in Jerusalem!

“They had been saying this ever since A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was demolished by the Romans and the Jews were scattered to the four corners of the earth…

“After a long and tedious excursion, Elder Hyde finally reached Jerusalem…

‘On Sunday morning, October 24 [1841], a good while before day, I arose from sleep, and went out of the city as soon as the gates were opened, crossed the brook Kedron, and went upon the Mount of Olives, and there, in solemn silence, with pen, ink, and paper, just as I saw in the vision, offered up the following prayer to Him who lives forever and ever.’

“This same citation then sets forth the entire prayer, written under inspiration on this significant occasion.

“The land itself was barren, unproductive, and desolate. It had been under the heel of the Ottoman Turks since 1517, and only a true believer could have seen in its coastline swamps and naked, rockstrewn mountains the possibility of a promised land.

“In fact, during 1807 a body of Jewish leaders had convened in Paris under the urging of Napoleon and assured the emperor that ‘the Jews had turned their backs forever on their separate nationhood [and] on their traditional hope for a return to Palestine.

“Nevertheless, a completely different spirit began to gestate in the souls of other Jews.” (“The Birth of Modern Israel,” Ensign, May 1972, 51-52)

Isaiah 61:6 ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the ministers of our God

In the Temple, we learn what Isaiah meant in this passage.  The Lord promises, “ye shall be named Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God.”  Accordingly, we are fore-ordained to be priests or priestesses in the temples of our God.

Bruce R. McConkie

These priesthood brethren "shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations." Of them the prophetic word acclaims: "Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God." (Isa. 61:4-6.) "They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles," the Lord says. They shall gather Israel, "And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord." (Isa. 66:19-21.) Through Jeremiah the Lord said of gathered Israel: "And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them." (Jer. 23:4.) And the promise is that when the Lord comes, "he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." (Mal. 3:3.)

The dispensation of the fullness of times is the greatest of all the dispensations. In it the gospel shall be preached to more people than in all previous dispensations combined. In it the saving ordinances will be performed for the endless hosts of men who lived without a true knowledge of Christ and his saving truths. In it Israel shall be gathered and a people prepared for our Lord's return.

This dispensation of restoration and glory now has all of the power and authority ever possessed by any people in any age. It shall receive in due course all of the light and truth ever revealed. It may be pictured as a great ocean into which all the dispensation-rivers of the past flow. Representatives have come from each of the great biblical dispensations to restore the keys and powers they possessed. It is of them that we shall now speak. Each of them played his part in the restoration of all things, and each, in this sense, came as the Elias of the Restoration. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 117)

Isaiah 61:8 I will make an everlasting covenant with them

Imagine your son or daughter on a mission.  Imagine them in the home of a Christian minister, Reverend Stuckinthemud.  The minister comments, “You Mormons perform strange rituals that aren’t in the Bible.  You build temples; we don’t.  I have seen a video which shows what you do in the temple.  It doesn’t seem anything like what the Bible talks about. I know you wear different underwear.  That is strange to me.  You don’t worship Jesus like we do.  Is there any evidence in the Bible for your temple worship or did Joseph Smith just make all that stuff up?”

Can you imagine your missionary turning to Isaiah 61?  Can you imagine his or her answer?  It could be the following:

“Well, let’s turn to the 61st chapter of Isaiah.  There it talks about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and a promise that the chosen of the Lord will be named as Priests and Ministers of our God.  In Isaiah’s day, priests served in the temple.  Modern priests might serve in a church, but anciently the Priests were tied inextricably to the temple worship.  So obviously, Isaiah is saying there will be a return of temple worship.  Could Joseph Smith be the Prophet God called to re-establish temple work prior to the redemption of Jerusalem?  Moving on, it says that the Jews will possess their land again and be blessed.  Well, that prophecy has been fulfilled, but the Temple still needs to be built.  Then it speaks of God making and ‘everlasting covenant’ with them.  Now Reverend, what is this ‘everlasting covenant’? Well, you might not know this, but Latter-day Saints speak frequently of ‘the new and everlasting covenant.’  It is the same covenant that God has made with his people from the days of Adam.  It was the covenant God made with Abraham.  A similar covenant was made between God and Moses.  Isaiah prophesies of the re-establishment of the same covenant in the last days.  We declare with all soberness that Joseph Smith has restored the everlasting covenant that was spoken of by Isaiah. 

“Now, we are not done yet.  Look at the next verse.  Latter-day Saints are thankful for temples.  We go there to pray and commune with God.  They are sacred buildings where the Spirit is felt in greater measure.  The feeling you get in the temple is perfectly described by Isaiah when he said, ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God.’  Reverend don’t you want to feel that same joy that Isaiah speaks of?  Let’s keep going.  Isaiah says that Latter-day temple patrons will rejoice saying, ‘he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.’  In the Temple, we are clothed with ‘garments of salvation’ and we wear ‘robes of righteousness’ just as Isaiah promised.  Reverend, do you have an alternate explanation for these prophecies of Isaiah? 

“Now, let’s review.  In just a few short verses, Isaiah promised the return of the Jews, the return of temple worship, the re-establishment of the new and everlasting covenant, and the ritual temple clothing in ‘garments of salvation’ and ‘robes of righteousness.’  The Latter-day Saints believe, and are sure, that Joseph Smith the Prophet was God’s instrument in bringing to pass the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We testify that our temple worship is not the delusion of a drunk imposter but the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.”  (If sarcasm was acceptable, the last comment could be… “Reverend, the last time I checked, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are in the Bible.  Aren’t they?”)

Joseph Fielding Smith

Isaiah, by prophecy, spoke of the restoration of the new and everlasting covenant and the Lord performing a "marvelous work and a wonder," which should cause "the wisdom of their wise men" to perish, and "the understanding of their prudent men" to be hid. This was to come because of the breaking of laws and ordinances, and because "the people draw near me with their mouth," said the Lord, "and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 33)

Robert D. Hales

The young man or young woman may be set apart as a full-time missionary and serve under the priesthood direction of a mission president, sharing a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ with all who will listen… The greatest of priesthood blessings available to this young man or woman are found in the temple. There, they get a glimpse of heaven. In that holy place, although they are in the world, they are not of the world. In the temple, they see themselves as the offspring of royalty—as a son or a daughter of God. The joys of eternity, which can seem so distant outside the temple, suddenly seem within reach.

In the temple, the plan of salvation is explained and sacred covenants are made. These covenants, together with the wearing of sacred temple garments, strengthen and protect the endowed person against the powers of the adversary. After receiving their own endowments, the young man or woman may attend the temple and perform vicarious ordinances to make priesthood blessings available to those who have died without the opportunity of receiving these blessings during mortality. (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 34)

Isaiah 61:10 he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation… the robe of righteousness

Jeffrey R. Holland

Brothers and sisters, I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone, “robes … made … white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:14) May we encourage each other in our effort to win that prize is my earnest prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 62