The Spirit of the Lord Most High: Isaiah 61:1a
This passage is one that is very familiar to us because of Jesus’ use of it during his first sermon back in his hometown of Nazareth. Notice the unambiguous nature of this statement—“the Spirit of the Lord Most High, Yahweh, is upon me. To begin with, when x;Wr (ruach), which can mean “spirit” or “wind”, is used in construct with the personal name of God (Yahweh) and is used in the terms of being placed upon someone, it is consistently used in terms of God’s power, and that power being placed upon an individual to complete God’s design. It is used of Othniel (Judges 3:10), Samson (Judges 14:6), of David (1 Samuel 16:13), and of Elijah (1 Kings 18:12). Most importantly, it is used of Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22). How this shines light on passages like Colossians 2:9, which speaks of the fullness of God being pleased to dwell in Christ. How so it is that the Spirit rushed on these Old Testament saints in part and for a time, yet came upon Christ in full and remained upon him for eternity. What is more is that same Spirit rushed upon Peter and the other apostles at the time of Pentecost and likewise remained upon him for the length of their ministry. And that same Spirit—the third member of the divine Trinity has shown himself to be pleased to dwell in you and within me both for the purpose of accomplishing God’s work in this world and for the purpose of drawing you and I more closely to himself in intimate fellowship. This is not a change of state for Jesus, but it is a promise. It is a promise that in Christ all of the promises of deliverance that are contained within the words of the Old Testament find their fullness in Christ and in his work. And it is a promise that it is the very Spirit of God that will bring about God’s designs in your life and mine. What a wonderful way for Jesus to announce his ministry to the community that thought they knew him best. Oh, how much greater a sin it was for these townsfolk—those who knew Jesus from childhood—to reject him in the way that they did.
Yet, we must not stop there. It is not only the x;Wr (ruach) of Yahweh, but we are told that this is the x;Wr (ruach) of the yn”doa] (adonay) of Yahweh. The Hebrew word !Ada’ (adon) means lord in the generic sense (much like we would use the word “sir” in English as a term of respect), but when you add the Qamets-yod ending (the “ay” sound), that intensifies the word, which communicates the idea that this Lord is the most high of all Lords—a term never employed of anyone in the Old Testament but God. Finally, we should not neglect to note the covenantal name of God, Yahweh, that is employed in this Statement. We can be left with no doubt of what Isaiah is seeking to communicate within this passage. The messiah of whom he speaks will have the fullness of the covenant God of Israel upon himself—that he is the fullness of God—and that is a statement that can only be made of God. This messiah of whom he speaks will be, and can only be, the covenant God of Israel, having taken on flesh and come to redeem his people. It points to and can only point to Jesus Christ, the very Son of the living God. By declaring that this prophesy was fulfilled in himself as he did before the people in the synagogue of Nazareth, he declared himself to be none less than God in the flesh.