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What does it mean to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1)?

translate bind up the brokenhearted

In Isaiah 61:1, the prophet announced the good news of God’s restoration for the people of Israel: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).

Seven centuries later, Jesus Christ began His public ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth by opening up the scroll of Isaiah and applying this passage to Himself (Luke 4:18–21). “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus concluded, identifying Himself as the anointed Servant-King who would announce “the good news” of salvation and bind up the brokenhearted.

The “brokenhearted” are people who are weakened, crushed, or destroyed in spirit. The term describes those who feel spiritually bankrupted, needy, and helpless. They yearn for the Lord’s help, comfort, and salvation. The verb translated “bind up” in the original language means “to inspire with confidence, give hope and courage to, to encourage, to bandage, to dress by covering, wrapping, or binding.”

Both in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18, the focus of the message of good news is spiritual restoration and healing. As a physician would “bind up” or bandage a wounded arm, so the Messiah would bandage a wounded spirit. Brokenhearted people—the spiritually ruined—are in the right condition to be met and saved by God (Psalm 51:17). David says in Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Jesus Christ brought the good news of salvation to the poor, the needy, and the spiritually barren, that is, all who were corrupted by sin. Before salvation, sin separated us from God (Ephesians 2:1–3). Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we were all destined for death (Romans 6:23; 7:5). But Jesus came to set us free from the power of death and the fear of death (Romans 8:1–2; Hebrews 2:14–15). The corruption of sin that had left us spiritually crushed was overcome by the work of Christ on Calvary (Romans 4:25).

Christ’s redeeming sacrifice opens the way for us to experience His glorious resurrection life (Romans 6:8). Accepting His salvation is our greatest spiritual need, and that is why it is such good news: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We were all brokenhearted, helpless, and separated from God before we received Christ’s gift of salvation. But now we have peace with God (Romans 5:1–2). Now we have fulness of joy (Psalm 16:11; Isaiah 35:10; Acts 13:52; John 15:11).

How does Jesus bind up the brokenhearted? The Bible explains, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24, NLT).

Christ understands what it means to be brokenhearted: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3–5).

Some of us are brokenhearted because we’ve fallen back into sin. Maybe we’ve regressed in our Christian walk, we’ve compromised our stand, or we’ve allowed our hearts to grow cold and indifferent. The solution is to return to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness (Hosea 14:1–2). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In Psalm 51, David sought the Lord’s forgiveness after He had sinned with Bathsheba. He felt broken, crushed, unclean, and in need of renewal from within. He longed for God to purge him thoroughly: “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Psalm 51:7–12, NLT).

David understood that no earthly sacrifice could atone for His sin: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16–17, NLT).

Only God’s unfailing love and compassion could save David. The only thing he had to offer God was a broken, humble heart—but that was enough. God will not reject us when we come to Him in brokenhearted repentance.

Jesus Christ knows our troubles, temptations, and sorrows (Hebrews 4:15). He experienced them throughout His life and His death on the cross. Yesterday, today, and forever, our brokenhearted Savior is the healer of spiritually bankrupt sinners. He meets the deepest needs of broken people—He covers their sins (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9, Colossians 1:14); He gives them hope, courage, and abundant, eternal life (John 10:10; 17:3; Romans 8:23–24; 15:13; 1 John 2:25). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

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This page last updated: January 30, 2023