Isaiah 64


‘Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.’ Isaiah 64:1-7

In this chapter, we read of a plea for mercy on the part of God’s children who felt they had been abandoned.

Notice that confidence is expressed in the mighty power of God, Hebrews 1:3. As God manifested Himself upon Mount Sinai, here is a plea for some divine manifestation. The people hope that the mountain would quake at the presence of God and that enemy nations would tremble, Deuteronomy 10:21 / 2 Samuel 7:23 / Psalm 106:22.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Isaiah was saying that ‘eye had not seen’, etc. and the things God had already done for Israel. Paul was speaking of the wonderful things that ‘eye had not seen’, etc, 1 Corinthians 2:9. The wonderful things that God had laid up in the future for them that love him.’

God is so great and mighty that men cannot even perceive what He will do for those who love Him. They continued in their rebellion for so long that their culture became the rebellion, Hosea 13:2.

Their ‘righteous acts’ had become like filthy rags to God, In other words, just as the filthy rag was to be discarded, so their behaviour that was contrary to the will of God was to be discarded, Leviticus 15:19-24.

They had fallen so far away from God that they no longer cried out to Him for help, as a result, their spiritual vibrancy faded away, it withered like an autumn leaf.

‘Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people. Your sacred cities have become a wasteland; even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, LORD, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?’ Isaiah 64:8-12

Israel is unworthy, Zion is a wilderness, but God will not cast off His own. God is the potter, Job 10:9, man is the clay and God will make from every lump of clay the very best which can be made from that kind of clay. Every man determines what kind of clay he will be, Jeremiah 18.

Douglas, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Isaiah 64:4 is like Isaiah 8:17 / Isaiah 30:18. Isaiah 64:6 is like Isaiah 30:22 / Isaiah 28:1 / Isaiah 27:8. Isaiah 64:7 is like Isaiah 27:5 / Isaiah 8:17 / Isaiah 29:16 / Isaiah 19:25, etc.’

God had created them as a nation, and now the plea was that He preserves His creation. He would surely not destroy the work of His hands. The prophet knew that if God’s anger was unleashed, the nation would suffer total destruction and so, Isaiah pleads for God’s forgiveness on behalf of the nation.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the ‘sacred cities’.

‘Only Jerusalem was ordinarily honoured with the title of Holy City, but here the term is extended to include all the cities of Judah. This is not out of keeping with the rest of the Old Testament, because in Zechariah 2:12, the whole land of Judah is called the Holy Land.’

Hailey, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘the temple’.

‘Isaiah authored hundreds of prophecies that are even far more wonderful than foretelling the burning of the temple, centuries, and even millenniums before they happened and some of those events have not even happened yet! The Bible abounds in declaring events long before they occur, speaking of them as though they had already taken place. The burnt temple in this passage is an example of this.’

The prayer closes with three questions, which require a negative answer. The answers will be revealed in the next chapter by God Himself.

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