Isaiah 64: 1 – 12
We Need To be Saved
1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence—2 As fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence! 3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, the mountains shook at Your presence. 4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. 5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. 6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 7 And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities. 8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. 9 Do not be furious, O LORD, nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look—we all are Your people! 10 Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with fire; And all our pleasant things are laid waste. 12 Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD? Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?
I grew up in a religion. If we are fortunate we came across someone who told us ‘we need to get saved!’ Say what? I told him I am a Christian. I am a member of such and such a church. I go to confession at least three times, err two, I mean at least, I think yearly and I go to church almost faithfully twice a year – Christmas and Easter.
‘No’, he said. ‘That is not good enough, you need to be saved. The bible says, today is the day of salvation.’
He wanted to tell me about the Roman road. I just wanted to get away from that freak and so I left him there on the road. I wish I would have listened to him then but I didn’t. He was right. We all need to get saved.
What this faithful brother tried to point out to me was in the book of Romans chapter 10 which says, “1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ”fn (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
Having laid the foundation for his plea Isaiah now brings it forward vehemently. He cries for God to act forcefully and wonderfully in the bringing about of His purposes. He recognizes the sinfulness of his people, but reminds God that He Is the Potter, and they are but the clay. Thus He can shape them as He will. Let them therefore be redeemed and not suffer as their brother Edom will suffer.
The thought of the coming judgment on Edom then reminds him of the judgment yet to come on Judah because of Hezekiah’s folly, and just as he saw the coming final destruction of Edom before his eyes, so he sees the coming invasion and suffering of Jerusalem before his eyes (39.6-7). The arrival of the coming predators, the destruction of many cities, the desolation of Jerusalem, the burning of the Temple come vividly before him and he prays that this might not be the end for Judah/Jacob as it will be for Edom. That God will yet have mercy. Let this coming judgment not be final.
1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence
Isaiah now pleads for God to manifest Himself as in days of old. He longs that Yahweh will rend the heavens, will come down, so that even the mountains flow down like fire burning all before them like when they experienced The Lord Most High’s personal interaction with the people of Israel again on Mount Sinai .
Look again at the verse saying, ‘That the mountains might flow down at your presence.’ The verb contains the idea of excess. The thought is probably of the mountains moving and shaking, and thus of an earthquake caused by the mightiness of the presence of God. Such earthquakes were a regular feature of theophanies (Exodus 19.18; Judges 5.5; Psalm 18.7; 68.8; Habakkuk 3.6).
2 As fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
Also in a picturesque description of vivid effects Isaiah says, ‘As when fire kindles the brushwood, the fire causes the water to boil.’ Have you noticed recently the fires in California? Do these few words greatly describe the effects of this condition? – [the kindling of brushwood in a bush fire, the water in the streams bubbling violently as a result of the flames]
The whole idea here of the heavens rent, the quaking mountains and the hot spreading flames is certainly of violent action and God mightily revealing His presence - ‘To make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations might tremble at your presence.’
So we see that the purpose of the violent action is so that the adversaries of God’s people, and therefore of God, may recognize what Yahweh Is and might tremble in His presence.
! 3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, the mountains shook at Your presence.
He reminds God of the past when He had acted similarly, when He had acted with terrible effect. When those things happened it was because God came down and the mountains shook at His presence (Exodus 19.18; Judges 5.5). So he pleads, let it so happen again as a result of God’s working. They may not be able to avoid the threat described to Hezekiah (39.7) but at least let it not be final.
Have you ever felt the same way as Isaiah describes here?” Have you in your Christian life drifted away from you loving Father God? Do you wish you could experience again that ‘pink cloud’ that you once had when the Lord Jesus Christ first came into your life? Then my brother or sister, return to Him. Rejoice again in your salvation which has not been taken away. You have only wandered away from Him. Come on back now!
4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
The apostle Paul utilizes this verse from Isaiah to reveal to us of the great plans of God reserved for us in the future. He wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 2 verse 9, “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Isaiah’s confidence that Yahweh will hear His prayer lies primarily in the greatness and uniqueness of Yahweh. No one like Him has ever been known. No one has ever heard, nor have they ever seen, a God like Yahweh Who works for those who wait for Him. Once again Isaiah is stressing the necessity for trust in God, revealed by waiting on Him. Isaiah is confident that He is the great responder to those who genuinely seek His face and trust Him. The implication is that he and his disciples are waiting on Him.
From all my personal experience and observation, I believe our greatest difficulty and sin lies in not trusting our Holy God. When we become despondent and begin to have doubts we too must remember these words. Who is like God? His like has never been seen. And even when things are at their lowest ebb He constantly steps in to act on behalf of those who wait for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.
Isaiah stops and understands that there is a problem. He acknowledges that the great Responder responds to (meets) those who rejoice and work righteousness, to those whose hearts and wills are right towards Him and whose lives reveal it in obedience to His covenant. But he admits that those on whose behalf he prays are not like this. They are those who are aware that God has been wrathful with them, and yet they still continue to sin. They are therefore willful sinners, yes, and deeply ingrained sinners. They have been sinning for a long time. Can they then indeed be saved? But worse is to come.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Linking him with those for whom he prays he describes their total undeserving. ‘Unclean’ is the leper’s cry (Leviticus 13.45), thus they are to be seen as spiritual lepers. They are all like someone who is unclean, spiritually untouchable, their righteousness, their behavior, which they themselves consider to be good, are in reality ‘like a polluted garment’, that is, like a garment rendered unclean by menstruation (the idea behind the Hebrew), something to be avoided with horror (which is how such garments were then seen).
This sense of uncleanness was something he understood very well, for when he had seen the glory of Yahweh in the Temple he had seen himself as totally morally unclean (6.5). He is not thus describing a ritual state, even though he is using such as an illustration, but speaking of a genuine spiritual and moral uncleanness in the sight of God from which men would withdraw with loathing. It refers to something that is within men, and which affects how they are seen outwardly, a moral pollution. Their righteousness, all their efforts to please God, are but like leprosy and like clothes which are polluted and fit only to be cast off and burned.
Please look with me again at the verse ‘And we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind take us away.’ The dried up leaf is the result of the lack of sustenance, the lack of what is good, because contact with the source of its life has been blocked. Thus these people have become spiritually and morally withered because they lack the flow of goodness from the source, from God. And as the wind takes such leaves away, so do their iniquities, the sins that are part of their very nature, carry them away too.
Now here is a convicting statement. Please take your own inventory to see if this applies to you? ‘There is no one who calls on your name, who stirs up himself to take hold of you.’ Furthermore they all are so deep in sin that they do not even call on Yahweh’s Name; they make no real effort to attract His interest in prayer. So, not one of them has any real desire to attract God’s attention.
The reason we are not actively seeking our Holy Master is because God has hid His face from people. ‘For you have hid your face from us, and have melted us by means of our iniquities.’ There is no stirring within them. They are spiritually dead. Indeed their sins mean that whenever there is a suggestion of God’s approach they recoil from Him, He has made them to melt away from before Him, and this is in a sense God’s doing because of what He essentially is.
So Isaiah pulls no punches. He is quite frank and plain about those for whom he prays. Spirituality is almost non-existent among them. The people are dead to God and to morality. If evil people like those of Edom deserved God’s judgment, how much more these men of Jacob. Can there then be any hope for them?
. 8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.
Here lies Isaiah’s hope and ours. It is because Yahweh has proclaimed Himself their Father. He has set His choice on them which the book of Deuteronomy 7.7-8 points out). And while they are but clay He is the Potter. Thus He can shape them into what He will. The declaration of the Sovereignty of God is absolute. He knows that it is within Him to make them what He will. The difference between Edom and Jacob is not that Jacob is a little better than Edom, but that Jacob is loved and chosen and Esau (Edom) is not (Malachi 1.2-3). This is why Isaiah believes that Yahweh can yet step in and save. The materials on which He has to work may be impossible. But Yahweh Is the God of the impossible, and he is confident that He can and will save them.
9 Do not be furious, O LORD, nor remember iniquity forever; indeed, please look—we all are Your people!
Having stated his case that all is dependent on the graciousness of Yahweh Isaiah now pleads for Yahweh to act. Let Him assuage His anger, let Him forget their iniquity; let Him remember that they are the people whom He has chosen. Let Him look on them and show mercy towards them. Otherwise they have no hope. Was this not why the Servant died, that He might make deliverance and salvation available to such as these? In this lies their hope. They are all His nominal people. But remember this, if they are to experience His salvation that must become actual and real. So Isaiah prays for the theory to become the fact. ‘All the people’ is the longing of his heart, for he knows from what he has already been told that not all will respond.
10 Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with fire; And all our pleasant things are laid waste. 12 Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD? Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?
Sitting in the loneliness of his room, remembering the Bloodstained One (63.1-6), fearing the doom of Edom for his people, and grieving over and praying for their sins, the ancient Isaiah is making his desperate plea. Will God have mercy? But he knows that it cannot be until Babylon’s interruption promised in 39.6-7 has occurred, and he sees it ahead as though it were already there. Babylon must be allowed further say before Zion prevails. The perfect tenses indicate certainty of completion not the time when the events will occur.
The holy cities of Judah will become desolation, it is as certain as though it had happened. (All the cities are holy because this is all God’s land). Zion will become a wilderness. Jerusalem will become desolation. The Temple, their holy and beautiful house of Yahweh, where their fathers had praised Yahweh, will be burned with fire. All that is theirs that is most pleasant will be laid waste by the northern predators. He knows this must be because God had said so (39.6-7; 43.28), and he accepts it. But the question is, will this mean their end as it had meant Edom’s end? Will He refrain from helping them in these dreadful circumstances? Will He say and do nothing and let them be afflicted by His will? Will the Bloodstained One tread them in the winepress? Or will God have mercy and save? That is his question. Is there hope?
As you and I know there is hope. It is in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who poured out His blood to make our sins whiter than snow. I would like to encourage you while it is still day to pass along this ‘Good News’ to others while it is still daylight.