Isaiah 64 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
The prayer of the Remnant continues from the previous chapter.
(See the outline of the remnant's prayer, in the Notes at Isa 63:7)
1. Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens,
that thou wouldest come down,
that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
2 As [when] the melting fire burneth,
the fire causeth the waters to boil,
to make thy name known to thine adversaries,
[that] the nations may tremble at thy presence!
3 When thou didst terrible things [which] we looked not for,
thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
(eg., Ex 19:16-19)
Oh that thou wouldest... come down...- (v.1)
It is not enough that the LORD "look down" to see their affliction (Isa 63:15).
They yearn for Him to come and take action to deliver, as He did at the time of the Exodus from Egypt (Ex 3:7,8; Acts 7:34). Their request is full of urgency (cp. Joh 4:47-49). When He does come again to deliver His people, the earth and all its inhabitants will tremble at His Presence (Luk 21:26; Rev 6:12-17)
4 For since the beginning of the world
[men] have not heard, nor perceived by the ear,
neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee,
[what] he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
5 Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness,
[those that] remember thee in thy ways:
behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned:
in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.
neither hath eye seen... what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him...-
Paul quotes v.4 in 1Cor 2:9,10, in regard to the more complete understanding which the Holy Spirit gives to believers under the New Covenant. Even so, we do not see as clearly as we will someday (1Cor 13:12). But in the context of Isaiah, the Remnant observes that there is no god like the God of Israel who worked powerfully in behalf of His people in the past, and who is still able to deliver in ways men cannot imagine, beyond what they have experienced or would expect. cp. Eph 3:20,21
thou meetest him...-
"Whoever 'waits on' this gracious God and Saviour is met with joy and righteousness (v.5); and in those ways of the divine grace there is continuance, and not fickleness; and hence the salvation of the believer is assured." [GWms] cp. Php 1:6
6. But we are all as an unclean [thing],
and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags;
and we all do fade as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 And [there is] none that calleth upon thy name,
that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee:
for thou hast hid thy face from us,
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy {lit., menstrual} rags...-
The Remnant laments their condition. They are not among those who wait upon the LORD and live in righteousness. Rather, they confess that they are full of corruption. Like a lifeless leaf fallen from a tree, they find themselves driven from the LORD's presence by their own perversity, and devoid of strength to cling to Him in prayer.
     This is the condition, not only of Israel, but of all mankind: Unclean, in the leprosy of sin; Covered, not with the fine linen of righteousness (though we once imagined our good deeds made us presentable in God's eyes), but rather, in the putrid rags of our underlying condition.
there is none that calleth upon thy name... (cp. Isa 50:2; Rom 10:13)
that stirreth up {ie., awakens} himself to take hold of thee... (cp. Isa 27:5; 56:4,5)
Those, who are 'dead in trespasses and sins,' lack the inclination to call on the Lord for mercy, and are incapable of taking hold of His strength. They remain wholly hopeless, unless and until the ever-living One exercises His strength, by interposing Himself in their behalf (Eph 2:1-9; 1Tim 2:5,6; Isa 53:12; Rom 8:34).
for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
Through long apostasy, Israel had forgotten the LORD, and forsaken His Word.
Their sin had separated them from Him (Isa 59:2).
Their relationship with Him, was as good as dead (cp. Deu 31:17,18).
8 But now, O LORD, thou [art] our father;
we [are] the clay, and thou our potter;
and we all [are] the work of thy hand.
9 Be not wroth very sore, O LORD,
neither remember iniquity for ever:
behold, see, we beseech thee, we [are] all thy people.
10 Thy holy cities are a wilderness,
Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and our beautiful house,
where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire:
and all our pleasant things are laid waste.
12 Wilt thou refrain thyself for these [things], O LORD?
wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?
thou art our father... we are the work of thy hand.-
Again the Remnant appeals on the basis of the LORD's covenant with Israel. Israel was created and formed by God, for His glory. Despite the shame that the chosen nation had become, they express confidence that He is able to restore what they have wasted, if He wills to make them whole. (Just as a potter has power to rework a damaged clay vessel, on his wheel. Jer 18:2-6)
     Many people imagine that God is their Father, who will therefore deal kindly with them, and overlook their errors. But that is not what the scriptures teach. It is true that all men are the creations of God. In that sense, we have sprung from Him (cp. Acts 17:28,29).
     But this is not enough to make us His children. His children bear His nature. But our natural condition, inherited from Adam, is corrupt and cannot please God (eg., v.6,7; Rom 3:23; 8:6-8; Joh 8:44). The only way that we can be accepted into God's family, is be "born again" with His nature (Joh 1:12,13; 3:3-7), on the basis of the New Covenant secured through the blood of Christ, who died in the place of perishing sinners (Joh 3:16), so that they could be made holy and presentable to the Father (Joh 14:6; 20:17).
     Thus, the Remnant of Israel appeals to the LORD, as the Father and Redeemer of their nation, to take ownership of the people that He formed for His own glory. cp. Luk 1:72-75; Isa 63:16)
thy holy cities are a wilderness... our holy and beautiful house... is burned up with fire...-
The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple was more than 100 years in the future, when Isaiah wrote v.10,11.
     Since that destruction, Jerusalem and the Second Temple were restored, only to be destroyed, by the Romans in 70 AD. Today again, Israel is partially restored to their land. Jerusalem is partly under their control. Many look forward to a Third Temple.
     Yet, near the end of the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the Remnant will look on the ruins of their city and the recently rebuilt temple, and voice their prayer, through tears of grief for what has come upon the nation, through their sin and unbelief (eg., in following the Antichrist, Joh 5:43).
Wilt thou refrain thyself... wilt thou hold thy peace...?- The Remnant's prayer closes with a question:
Will God refuse to answer their prayer and take no action to deliver them?
     In lovingkindness, the LORD has long refrained Himself, waiting for Israel to seek Him (Hos 5:15).
Thus, the appeal of Israel's Remnant, based upon confession of their sin and upon faith in God's Word (including His covenants with Abraham and David, and the promise of the coming Redeemer and His Kingdom of righteousness), will open the way for Him to bring them into the blessings of the New Covenant. Only this can satisfy the longing of their hearts, as expressed in this prayer (ie., to be remade as His holy people, to His praise and glory, Jer 31:31-33).
     In the two remaining chapters of Isaiah, the LORD answers their question.

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