Isaiah 64:4-65:12

Isaiah 64‑65  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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It is striking how verse 4 follows what we have dwelt upon in the first three verses. Isaiah desired a mighty display of the power of God, such as had been manifested at the outset of Israel’s history: yet he was conscious that God had in reserve things beyond all human knowledge, and prepared for those who waited for Him to act.
To this verse the Apostle Paul referred in 1 Corinthians 2:99But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9), showing that though in ordinary matters men arrive at knowledge by the hearing of the ear—tradition—or by the eye—observation—or by what we may call intuition, these things can only reach us by revelation from God by His Spirit. Isaiah knew that there were things to be revealed. Paul tells us that they have been revealed, so that we may know them.
In keeping with this, the Apostle Peter has told us in his first Epistle that when the Spirit of Christ testified through the prophets, they “inquired and searched diligently” concerning what they had written, and they discovered that they were predicting things only to be made known to such as ourselves who are brought into the light of what Christ has accomplished. So again we have to remind ourselves how great are the privileges that are ours. God has indeed “come down”, but in grace and not, for the time being, in judgment.
The prophet foresaw that when the prepared things were made known they would only be received if a certain moral state were found. There must be not only the waiting for Him but also a rejoicing in righteousness and working the same, as well as a remembrance of God in all His ways. Thus the godly remnant of Israel are described here. It will be so in a future day, and so it is today, since it is only by the Spirit that we perceive and receive the wonderful things now revealed. When, having been received, the Spirit of God is in control, we enter into the enjoyment of the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.
Now at that moment the necessary state did not exist amongst the people, hence we have the words, “Behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned”. This confession is placed in brackets in Darby’s New Translation, so that the following words spring out of the beginning of the verse. In righteousness and remembrance is to be “continuance, and we shall be saved.” Isaiah had previously presented to us “a just God and a Saviour” (45:21); thus the people whom He saves must be brought into conformity with Himself.
Verses 6 and 7 continue the confession of sin that was interjected in verse 5. Notice the four figures that are used to express their sorrowful state. First, unclean, as a leper is unclean, in the sight of the law. Second, their “righteousnesses”, that is, their many doings which they considered to be acts of righteousness, were but “filthy rags” in the sight of God. Third, as a consequence of this, they were all fading, dying things, like autumn leaves. Fourth, their sins were like a wind that blew them all away.
Are things different today? Has the spread of a civilization based upon Christian ideals altered things? It has not, and things are just the same. The leprosy of sin is just as virulent; the outward righteousnesses of mankind are just as spurious; death is just as busy; the wind of God’s judgment on sin will soon sweep all away.
Further, the prophet had to complain that no one was rightly moved by this state of things so as to call upon the name of God; no one was found to take hold of God in supplication and prayer. The fact was that God had hid His face from them in His holy government. It was a sad state of affairs when no one was stirred to take the place of an intercessor.
And without a doubt we may say the same as we look on the state of Christendom today. Bright spots there are, thank God! spots where the Spirit of God is manifestly at work. But in spite of this, the picture overall is a dark one. Evil abounds under the profession of Christ’s name, and even where the Spirit of God is working, wholehearted servants of God are all too few. Who stirs himself up to take hold on God as to it? Who prays to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest? as the Lord Himself directed in Matthew 9:3838Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38). May God Himself stir us up, instead of hiding His face from us, if we fail to stir ourselves up in this matter.
Now, in our chapter, comes the touching appeal to Jehovah. The very first words of Isaiah’s prophecy were, “The Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.” Very well then, Jehovah had taken the place of Father to Israel, and upon that the faith of the prophet counted, and on it he based his appeal. Moreover Jehovah was not only Father to them but He was as a Potter also. Israel was but the clay in His hand.
That this was so, and that God acknowledged it to be so, was made manifest a little later in the days of Jeremiah. In chapter 18 we read how he was instructed to go down to the potter’s house and receive a lesson there. He saw the clay vessel “marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The Lord proceeded to tell Israel that they were in His hand as clay is in the hand of the potter, so He could do with them as seemed good in His sight. Confining our thoughts to Israel, we know that God will make another vessel, which is what the Lord Jesus was showing Nicodemus, as narrated in John 3. That which is born of the flesh even Abrahamic flesh is flesh. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Only a born-again Israel will enter the Kingdom, In Isaiah’s day the point as to “another vessel”, made known to Jeremiah, had hardly been reached; hence here we have further pleadings with God on behalf of the marred vessel as we see in the four verses that close the chapter. “We are all Thy people”, says the prophet, though about that time, or very soon after, Hosea’s son had to be called “Lo-ammi: for ye are not My people, and I will not be your God” (1:9). These closing verses of appeal seem like a last cry to God, before the sentence of repudiation was given to Hosea.
The iniquity marking the people is confessed, but mercy is sought. The desolations mentioned in verses 10 and 11 strike us as being stated prophetically, for though the king of Assyria ravaged the cities of Judah in the days of Hezekiah, he was not allowed to take Jerusalem nor burn the temple. Jeremiah it was who actually saw these things fulfilled. Even in Hezekiah’s day however, it was certain that these terrible desolations would come to pass, as we saw when reading the end of chapter 39 of this book. When they were accomplished Israel was set aside for the time being, and the times of the Gentiles began.