THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Israel’s Plea for Deliverance
Isaiah 64:1-12 SCC 2/16/14
Here is the point” Sin is a problem for mankind. It has always been so even though man has always refused to say so. I call it ‘the arrogance of humanity.’ Bill Hull defines our spiritual dilemma today when he describes what he says is the prevalent view of the gospel today in the church: The gospel of the left. It’s a gospel that ‘naturally creates people who are so inclusive that they have no stomach for the truth. They do have a strong sense of the obvious: They have a strong sense of human rights (unless the subject is abortion), a strong sense of justice (unless it requires the death penalty), a powerful instinct to protect children (unless it calls for censorship of the Internet), an abounding faith in truth (as long as it is science).’ The result: A blatant refusal to acknowledge God as God; A willful decision to supplant any knowledge of God—the God of the Bible and sin. Without this acknowledgement you are lost. Those on God’s page must repent; then stay faithful and truthful, and pray for deliverance to come!
God’s people desire the direct intervention by God 64:1-4
A. They long for a great deliverance 1-2
Verse 1: The prayer begins with the request for divine intervention—in a spectacular way. They are praying for divine intervention to deliver them from bondage in exile; but the language goes far beyond that. The people want a dramatic show of power as the Lord intervenes on their behalf. Rend the heavens implies a comparison to tearing open a curtain. The mountains would represent any obstacle that stood in the way of their deliverance. The Israelites’ condition was so desperate that another special visitation from God was what they needed. The next time God did this was at the Incarnation.
Verse 2: The purpose of such a great display of God’s power is that the name of the Lord might be known. This is a theme that began with the plagues of Egypt and continued throughout the Bible—that He might make Himself known. All acts of God are revelation; His great acts of redemption are likewise to be revelatory so that others might find salvation.
B. They recall the way God intervenes 3-4
Verse 3: The people recall how God did amazingly mighty things in the past. And in it all they know that the work of the Lord was truly unique. Isaiah wished that instead of remaining quiet the Lord would do something spectacular again, something that would move the Israelites and the nations to respect Him.
Verse 4: No one ever heard of a God like this who makes a covenant with people and keeps it, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. God delights in doing the impossible, the unexpected, on behalf of His remnant. So many of Isaiah’s contemporaries were spiritually blind and deaf that they could have profited from a dramatic revelation
NB: Verses 1-4 are essentially what we are calling for God to do. Today we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We also pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” And when it happens, when the heavens open and the Lord descends, it will not be just to deliver people from the exile in Babylon, but will be to deliver the redeemed in the Lord, dead or alive, from all bondage, and to make all things new—things that we could never imagine (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; 5:10). Living in the expectation of the Lord’s coming to deliver His own, the people of God have the opportunity to reflect on God’s past interventions. Thus it was with Israel in exile; and so it is today on the eve of the Second Coming. It still inspires faith, obedience and commitment today.
God’s People acknowledge their unworthiness 64:5-9
A. God blesses the righteous 5
Verse 5: The prophet knew that God had fellowship with those who practice righteousness and who remember His ways to walk in them. He wondered if there was any hope of Israel being saved since she had sinned so much for so long and since this sinning had angered God. God was angry for the sin of the nation, and the only hope the nation now had was to plead for forgiveness. No one has any other choice! What is sin?
B. They confess their unworthiness 6-7
Verse 6: Israel’s sins had thoroughly polluted her and had placed her in an apparently hopeless position. Furthermore she could not stop sinning. Was there any hope for her? She was as unclean as a leper, as repulsive as menstrual cloths, and as spiritually lifeless as a dead leaf on a tree ready to be blown away by more sin. This recognition of sinfulness is the expression of a contrite heart. They know that their own sins sweep them away like the wind sweeps the leaf away, for God does not come to their rescue.
NB: Though people can be good no ones ‘goodness’ can get them to heaven. That requires holiness—sinless perfection. That is only available in Christ.
Verse 7: Furthermore, none of the Israelites felt concerned enough about their sinful condition to seek the Lord and try to lay hold of Him in prayer. This was understandable since God had hidden Himself from His people; they saw no hope that He would respond even if they did pray.
C. They build their confidence 8
Verse 8: Yet Isaiah did appeal to God for help. He appealed on the basis that the Lord had brought Israel into existence and was, therefore, responsible for her regardless of her condition. She was just inert clay, but He was the Potter who had formed Israel as the work of His own hands. Their only appeal then is the relationship they have with God. God is their Father (stressing the covenant relationship); God is their potter and maker (stressing their submission to Him). How much He has invested in them, and what plans He has for the nation.
NB: Think about this—God has been investing in you since birth. What is its quality today?
Gods People appeal for divine favor 64:9-12
This passage closes with an impassioned appeal for God to look favorably on them, forgetting their sins against Him, and remembering that they are His people.
Verse 9: The prayer is that God will not remember their sins. God knows everything perfectly well; so the expression must mean to hold something against them. When God forgives, it means that He will never bring that issue up again. People may have trouble forgetting; other people may make it difficult for them to forget—but if they confess their sins to God, God will never mention them again or hold them against them. The plea for God to look upon them conveys the idea of turning with grace and compassion because we belong to you.
Verse 10-11: Judah lay desolate. Jerusalem was in ruins. The holy cities of the holy God reflected nothing of His greatness. So they motivate God to answer their prayer with the appeal that the Temple has been destroyed, the Temple in which praises were given to God. This holy and glorious Temple has been burned down (Wilderness, Desolation, Burned, Ruin.)
Verse 12: After all this, will God still hold back and punish them more? It is time for this divine discipline to end, and the restoration of all things to begin, so that Zion can once again be the center of worship and praise it used to be. The final two chapters give the Lord’s response to this impassioned prayer of intercession for hopeless Israel.
1. We must move from arrogance toward humility. The human condition is sick, sinful, pathetic, and corrupted to the core. Just observe what we do to ourselves. There is no remedy. It can only be contained, controlled, manipulated, but unchanged. When arrogance gives way to humility one can begin the path toward restoration.
2. Once humility lays hold then you are available to discover the solution to your condition. The moment of truth when reality can bump into remedy. Once you admit your unworthiness, then it is possible for you to be saved. Until that moment you still believe you can do something about your condition.
3. Here we can finally appeal to God for his deliverance in Christ--expectation that confession of my sin will bring salvation from my sin. Goodness is no longer the measure of my worthiness but holiness, which Christ supplies me. His holiness makes me fit for a relationship with my Father.
4. His work today seems to be in ruins in so many places, and the Church has fallen in disrepute, thanks to the sin of people. God will never let that remain forever. That, then, is our appeal, when we pray for the heavens to be opened and the Lord to descend and bring all this to an end. In the meantime, we walk by faith in the blessed hope of the redeemed.