“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.” (Isaiah 64:1)Isaiah begins to reflect upon Israel’s present condition and the path that has led her to this place. Isaiah comes to understand that it has been Israel’s sins that has led her away from God and has brought upon her these present sufferings and afflictions.
“Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a long time; and shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” (Isaiah 64:5-7)Isaiah confesses that not only has Israel sinned but she has continued in them “a long time.” The word picture in the Hebrew is of a “vanishing point.” This word speaks of a time past that can no longer be remembered. Israel’s sins had lasted for so long, that Isaiah could not remember when they started. It seemed as if she has always sinned and, even though Isaiah know that there was a time when Israel walked with God, he could not remember the time, it had happened too long ago. All of Israel had become unclean and defiled. The term used by Isaiah for “filthy garment” is that of a “menstruation cloth”. Israel’s defilement was not some small stain but rather was complete and abhorrent, one that could not easily be expunged. For so long had Israel shunned God’s ways to walk in her own uncleanness, that God eventually gave her over to “the power of her iniquities.” What a horrible thing to be left to the power of our iniquities. Paul wrote of those who God “gave over to degrading passions.” (Romans 1:26) When we are given over to our own sins the end result can only be death and corruption.
Yet in spite of the realities of Israel’s apostasy, Isaiah still finds hope. Isaiah calls to mind the eternal goodness, compassion, and faithfulness of God. Specifically, three things encourage him that Israel can still be saved.
“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) Isaiah reminds himself (and God) that we are His children and He is our Father. God has created us and He will not forever forget the works of His hands. If God does punish and afflict us it is only for our redemption and, if we turn from these things, God will abundantly pardon. The key is to learn to submit to His hands and His working in our lives. He is the potter and we are the clay and the clay must submit itself to the hands of the potter. It is only when we resist that God has to use greater force to form us into what He wishes.
“Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways.” (Isaiah 64:4-5) No matter how bleak the times may appear to be, God is never very far away. God is always ready and willing to act on behalf of those who need Him. Often what restrains God from acting is simply our own forgetfulness of God. The busyness of life can easily push God from our minds. Even in difficult times, we can become so absorbed in solving our problems ourselves that we forget to call upon God. We fall into the trap of thinking we can manage life by ourselves and forget that God hold the answers to every of life’s problems. If we need help, there is really only one place to turn, to the Lord.
“Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O Lord? Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure?” (Isaiah 64:12) The implied answer is “No!” God will not wait forever. Though He may delay, there will come a time when He will act. “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8) Sometimes faith is not enough. Sometimes faith must be mixed with patience. “[Be] imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) When we cry out to God, if He fails to answer immediately, we should not give up and loose hope for He will answer us. In my own life I have gleaned great comfort from this one thought: no matter how bad things are now, they will not last forever. In time, God will act!