“And the day of divine retribution of our God.”
Isn’t it interesting that we find the language of divine retribution—God’s moral judgment against sin, in connection with the language of the “year of the Lord’s favor”? How often we forget to remember that the two go hand in hand. We seem to have entered into an age of the church where many want to dwell only in the goodness and joy of the favor and blessing of the Lord—blessings brought about by the redeeming work of Christ Jesus. Yet, was it not also at the cross that sin was judged in its finality—that the devil’s head was finally crushed and his power broken? Indeed, we must always remember that for the believer, the cross means judgment and eternal life in the presence of Christ, but for the unbeliever, the cross symbolizes eternal condemnation in the fires of Hell. Oh, how important it is to see that one goes hand in hand with the other.
One may protest in that Jesus does not quote this part of the verse, but ends with the language of the Year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19). Yet, as we have mentioned before, when New Testament writers are quoting from the Old Testament, they are expecting the Old Testament passage to be understood within its original context—a context that speaks of judgment as well as redemption. In addition, Jesus speaks a great deal about the judgment that will come as a result of his own redemptive work (Matthew 13:47-50, for example). Thus, to suggest that Jesus did not have the full context of Isaiah 61:2 in his mind when he read these words cannot be supported.
One other thing that I find particularly interesting in this verse is the contrast of time between the language of the Year of the Lord and the Day of Retribution. Though I am not sure that we can draw a hard and fast principle from this, I do think that we can safely infer that a contrast is being made between a time when judgment is met out with finality and fullness (ultimately in the general resurrection when all men will stand before the throne of God and the books will be opened (Revelation 20:11-15)) and the ongoing and long-enduring nature of the Year of the Lord’s Favor, a time which was initiated at the cross and will be consummated in the new creation with the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10). Oh, the enduring nature of our Lord’s promise and the finality of His judgment upon sin and unbelief—how they are wed together, and how they are inseparably a part of Christ’s redemptive work! Beloved, do not miss the importance of Jesus’ earthly ministry and of the cross—upon the cross, both judgment and redemption find their meaning—apart from the cross, divine wrath is all we could ever hope to know.