Wednesday, May 29, 2024

2024.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 59

Read Isaiah 59

Questions from the Scripture text: With what command does Isaiah 59:1 begin? What two things have not (metaphorically) happened? What is the explanation for the circumstances in which Israel have found themselves (Isaiah 59:2)? Whose body-parts are dysfunctional in what way (Isaiah 59:3, cf. Isaiah 59:7)? But what haven’t they done in response to their sin (Isaiah 59:4a–b)? In what have they trusted instead (verse 4c)? What comes from them (Isaiah 59:4-5)? How effectively will their works help (Isaiah 59:6a–b)? Why (verse 6c–d)? In what sort of path do they walk, and to what two “places” can it never take them (Isaiah 59:7-8)? Who are brought to agree with this assessment in Isaiah 59:9? What are they admitting about themselves (Isaiah 59:10)? What do even their attempts at confession sound like (Isaiah 59:11a–b)? What cannot come from them (verse 11c–d)? Why (Isaiah 59:12)? What has this sin done to their relationship to the Lord (Isaiah 59:13a–b)? To their relationships with one another (Isaiah 59:13-15)? What happens to the righteous in such a society (Isaiah 59:15b)? Who saw this (Isaiah 59:15-16)? What did He think of it? What did He do about it? With what word picture does Isaiah 59:17 describe Him doing this? What four attributes does He “put on”? Whom will He repay in what way in Isaiah 59:18? With what result (Isaiah 59:19)? But in what way does He come to whom in Isaiah 59:20? To which specific people in Jacob (verse 20b)? What does YHWH say to the singular Person in Isaiah 59:21? How does He covenant to produce Israelites who turn from transgression? Upon Whom is the Spirit? In Whose mouth are YHWH’s words? From where (Where) shall this Spirit and these words not depart? From whose else’s mouth? And from whose else’s mouth? According to Whose proclamation? For how long?

What hope is there for sinners? Isaiah 59 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these twenty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the triune God, Himself, is the only hope for sinners. 

A situation for which we have no solution, Isaiah 59:1–15b. Apparently, there was some thinking that the Lord’s ability to save or willingness to listen to them had somehow diminished (Isaiah 59:1). But the problem was their sin that had fractured their relationship with the Lord (Isaiah 59:2). Their sinful actions had so defiled their hands and fingers that nothing they did could be acceptable before the Lord (Isaiah 59:3a–b), and their sinful words had so defiled their lips and tongue that nothing that they spoke could be acceptable before the Lord (verse 3c–d). 

Rather than calling for repentance (Isaiah 59:4a–b), they comforted themselves with words that turned out to be lies (verse 4c). This is a great danger for all men. We do not realize the greatness of our wickedness, and how it corrupts all of our thinking, acting, and speaking. People comfort themselves with religious-sounding things that are just lies and nonsense. But we are like that viper or spider of Isaiah 59:5, from whom only death can come, and whose “good deeds” are like trying to wear a spider’s web for clothing (Isaiah 59:6). We are so sinful by nature, that there isn’t even a path to peace from where we are in ourselves (Isaiah 59:7-8). 

Isaiah 59:9 tells of a marvel. The people begin to answer in the direction of repentance! The problem is that sin has us so blind that we are unable to repent correctly (Isaiah 59:9-10). If we open our mouths to confess, it is so flawed that Isaiah 59:11 describes it as being animal sounds, rather than intelligible words—moans and groans. Unconverted sinfulness had so saturated Israel (Isaiah 59:12-14a), and genuine conversion had become so rare, that anyone who experienced it (Isaiah 59:15b) made himself prey. 

The Lord Who is, Himself, the solutionIsaiah 59:15-20. One great problem, when no one is righteous, is that there isn’t even anyone who can intercede (Isaiah 59:16b). So the Lord, Who is pleased to save, is displeased with the condition in which there is no Savior, and He Himself brings that salvation (Isaiah 59:15-16)! He is no prey but a mighty Warrior (Isaiah 59:17). Some of us are familiar with Ephesians 6:13–17 and bring that knowledge back into Isaiah 59:17, but that is backward. The wonder of the armor of God is that it is His own, but that He dresses us in it by Christ!

When the Lord delivers His people from that into which their sin has brought them (Isaiah 59:18), He restores His people who see and trust to fearing His Name from west to east (Isaiah 59:19). Thus, the Redeemer comes to Zion (Isaiah 59:20a). In the context of this chapter, we see something greater in verse 20b than even the destroying of all of the enemies of God and His people: repentance in Jacob! Using his original name (heel-grabber, deceiver), the Lord announces the marvel that He will have a nation filled with genuinely repentant worshipers! His mouth has said this, and His arm will do this!

The Servant Who is the Lord, the SaviorIsaiah 59:21. The concluding verse answers the question of how the Lord comes to be Intercessor and Savior. YHWH speaks to the Savior, Who is also YHWH (cf. Isaiah 59:16), about His Spirit Who is also YHWH, being upon Him. How can God’s covenant with sinners be made to stand? God Himself must comprise both parties in the covenant. The Lord Jesus’s mouth will never be defiled like in Isaiah 59:3c–d, or impotent like in Isaiah 59:11a–b. By the same almighty Spirit Who lifts up the standard against the enemies (Isaiah 59:19d), the Lord Jesus speaks the words of the Lord. And, by His Spirit, He has spiritual offspring who speak His words. And He even makes promise of His Spirit to His offspring’s offspring for the same purpose. Will there be branches that are cut out? Yes. But the covenant is genuine for those who remain in or are grafted in (Isaiah 59:20, cf. Romans 11:26), and the method of salvation is the same for all, forever (end of Isaiah 59:21).

What works or words are you tempted to hope in, when you realize that you are in trouble, or that things are not right between you and the Lord? Why can your own words and works never help? What hope can you have, then? What would it look like to lay hold of that hope before the Lord?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us, for our iniquities separate us from You, and our sins hide Your face from us. Our hands and fingers are defiled, and our tongue and lips corrupted. What comes from us, ourselves, is deadly like viper’s poison and useless like spiders’ webs. Words that we thought were so wise and sincere have been as spiritually useful as animal sounds. If we are to be helped, it will not be by our words or our works, but only by You, by Jesus Christ Your Servant, by Your Holy Spirit. So, grant unto us repentance from Christ by His Spirit, and save us in Christ by His Spirit, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

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