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Question

What is the acceptable year of the Lord?

acceptable year of the Lord
Answer


The “acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:2, NKJV), or the “favorable year of the LORD” (NASB) or the “year of the LORD’s favor” (NIV), is not a literal year, but rather a space of time that is characterized by God’s grace, redemption, and deliverance. In Isaiah, the acceptable year of the Lord refers to God’s restoration of His people from Babylonian captivity, possibly with the intention of likening it to the year of Jubilee, when liberty was proclaimed throughout all the land (see Leviticus 25).

Here is the passage in Isaiah that mentions the acceptable year of the Lord:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1–3, NKJV).
This blessed proclamation is followed by a promise that the Jews will rebuild their ruined cities after the desolation Babylon had inflicted (verse 4).

Note that the “acceptable year of the Lord” is also the “day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2). God’s rescue of His people is always accompanied by a judgment on His enemies, as Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Sisera, and many others can attest.

The acceptable year of the Lord is also mentioned in Isaiah 49:8, as God the Father speaks to the Messiah, His Servant: “Thus says the LORD: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages’” (NKJV). Here, the coming of the Messiah is called “a time of favor” (ESV) or “a favorable time” (NASB) due to the salvation and freedom He brings (verse 9). Indeed, when the angels heralded Jesus’ birth, they spoke of “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10) and of God’s favor: “On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (verse 14).

When Jesus first spoke in the synagogue in His native Nazareth, He was handed the book of Isaiah, “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 has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him” (Luke 4:17–20, NKJV).

After reading from Isaiah 61, Jesus made a startling statement: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 2:21). Jesus, anointed by the Spirit of the Lord (see Luke 3:21–22), is the One to preach the gospel, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty, heal the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord.” In short, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.

The coming of Jesus Christ into the world ushered in the “acceptable year of the Lord.” The time of God’s grace, redemption, and deliverance is now at hand, and all are invited to come to Christ in repentance and, by faith, receive the gift of eternal life. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). We must “seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). We live in the age of grace, the acceptable year of the Lord, but those who reject Him will know the “day of vengeance”: “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18).

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This page last updated: April 26, 2021