“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)
What if you could hold God so close that you were physically wrapped in His presence? What if clinging to God meant that you could feel His power and comfort warm you like a blanket? His glory may not be tangible, but Isaiah teaches that we can still wear our praise to the Lord like a garment.
#1 Putting on His Covering
The image of God’s favor as a garment is common throughout Scripture. Those that worship God can “put on” righteousness as if it were a cloak or jacket (Psalm 132:9, Job 29:14). When God redeems us, He removes the covering of sin and iniquity (Isaiah 64:6) and replaces it with a new robe that is spotless and pure (Zechariah 3:4).
The clothing itself does not make us holy; however, it is a symbol of the renewed nature God puts in our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). That symbol, which is echoed throughout the Bible, is often used as an outward sign of our salvation. In the Old Testament, the high priest was given consecrated robes to wear whenever he ministered at the tabernacle. And when the first generation of Christians was baptized, it is said that they were given new clothing after their baptism to signify their newness of life.
#2 Prophesying the Christ
Isaiah is the longest book of prophecy in the Old Testament, and undoubtedly one of the richest and most powerful. In addition to historical accounts and proclamations of woe on Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations, much of Isaiah’s prophecy pertains to the coming Messiah.
Since the beginning of Scripture, God has proclaimed that He would send someone to rescue us from our sins and the influence of the devil (Genesis 3:15). Isaiah contains some of the most quoted prophecies that foretell the coming of the “anointed One” of God (Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-10, 52:13-53:12).
This passage begins one such prophecy, pointing toward signs of the coming kingdom of God (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus Himself read from this portion of Isaiah when He began His public ministry and proclaimed Himself as the promised Messiah in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21).
#3 Protecting from Calamity
When Isaiah first recorded his prophecies, Israel had already been taken into exile, and the remaining kingdom of the tribe of Judah was under divine warning that their reckoning from God was near. The people were under constant threat of invasion by foreign powers, the city of Jerusalem was often under siege, and the people lamented that God had abandoned them. That being said, the final chapters of Isaiah looked ahead to more joyful times.
The words of this verse proclaim comfort, peace, and rest over God’s troubled people (Isaiah 61:3). Instead of mourning in ashes, the coming “day of the Lord” would clothe them in beautiful robes. Their faces would be joyful instead of downcast, and they would be well rooted in the strength of the Lord, like trees planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1:4). And instead of the traditional sackcloth of those that grieved, they would put on the garment of praise.
#4 Proclaiming His Coming
Some prophecies in Scripture are fulfilled within its pages. For example, many of the prophecies in Daniel had their fulfillment in the empires and kingdoms that came after Babylon, and those that pertained directly to the earthly life of the Messiah were all fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Some prophecies, like this passage in Isaiah and other similar passages in the Old Testament and Revelation, contain glimpses into the far future, when God will permanently establish His kingdom and restore His people forever. This chapter begins by “proclaim[ing] the acceptable year of the LORD,” which was understood to mean the establishment of God’s rule on the earth (Isaiah 61:2). Conditions of this new kingdom included remedies for earthly afflictions, repair and restoration of the land, and the ordination of God’s people as His priests throughout the world (Isaiah 61:1-6).
#5 Perpetually in His Care
The image of clothing is used after Isaiah to point toward God’s provision, protection, and blessing. The well-known passage about the armor of God shows how the concept of clothing can be expanded to point toward God, saving us from temptation (Ephesians 6:11-17).
And in the end times, when God creates a new heaven and earth, He will clothe the church – the bride of Christ – in fine linen robes, signifying her purity and righteousness as fit for eternity with Jesus (Revelation 19:7-8). Isaiah himself also prophesies that we can be clothed with garments of salvation (Isaiah 61:10).
When Scripture tells of someone receiving new clothing, it is typically an outward sign of renewal and favor. The book of Isaiah tells us many things about Israel’s future, the coming of the Chosen One of God that would redeem the whole world, and the “day of the Lord” for which we still wait with eager expectation.
While we wait, we can clothe ourselves with God’s righteousness and make our praise as evident as the clothes we wear. For when our lives proclaim the praise of our Father, it becomes a garment of praise for the world to see.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.