In Isaiah chapter 58 Isaiah touched on Israel’s problem. That was that their faith was just a formality, and it had no substance. Action didn’t accompany it. In this chapter 59 it takes up the root problem. That is the problem of sin. They weren’t able to put their faith into concrete action because of the root problem of sin. They can’t solve the problem of sin by their own power. Only God can save them. Only God can solve all the problems of sin and punishment.
Ⅰ.Separated from God
First please look at verses 1 to 8. I will read verses 1 and 2. “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
This content was also in 50:2. Even though Israel because of their sins was destroyed and became captive to Babylon, they bore a grudge towards God and accused him. They complained that God had abandoned them just like a man’s child is sold into slavery when his debts were not paid. However, that is definitely not so. The Lord loves them with eternal love. Therefore, no matter what happens he will never abandon them.
The problem was their “sins” (50:1) and “transgressions” (50:1) Therefore, they were sent away. They themselves were the whole cause of them becoming like they were, Therefore, in 50:2 the Lord says, “When I came, why was there no one?
When I called, why was there no one to answer?
Was my arm too short to ransom you?
Do I lack the strength to rescue you?
By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea,
I turn rivers into a desert;
their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst.”
The Lord until now has sent prophets over and over again to them to warn them. Even so no one answered him. “Why”? (50:2) It wasn’t because God’s arm was “too short to ransom” (50:2) them. It wasn’t because God lacked “the strength to rescue” (50:2) them. It was because they didn’t have any faith. No matter how much they were warned, they didn’t listen to the Word of God. That was the problem.
Here too it is saying the same thing. They became like this not because “the arm of the LORD is…too short to save.” (1) It is also not because God’s ears are “too dull to hear.” (1) Their iniquities “have separated” (1) them from their God and their “sins have hidden his face from” (1) them “so that he will not hear.” (1)
We often make a mistake and think that because of it God is angry and has moved away from us, but that is not so. God hasn’t moved away, but we have moved away. For example, remember Adam. Adam was the first to sin. When he took and ate fruit from the tree that he was told not to eat from, God didn’t move away from him. Even then God wanted to be with Adam. Therefore, he called out to Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis3:9) Adam was hiding between the trees not because he was playing hide and seek, but because he had sinned, He was hiding because he was afraid. Therefore, it wasn’t God who moved away from Adam, but Adam moved away from God. When man sins, he hides from God. The sin becomes a wall, separates us from our God, and hides God’s face from us “so that he will not hear.” (1)
Please look at verses 3 to 8. Here it describes the result of sin, how filthy man became. First in verses 3to 6 sins committed by the hands and mouth are written about. “For your hand are stained with blood,
your fingers with guilt.
Your lips have spoken lies,
and your tongue mutter wicked things.
No one calls for justice;
no one pleads his case with integrity.
They rely on empty arguments and speak lies;
they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
They hatch the eggs of vipers
and spin a spider’s web.
Whoever eats their eggs will die,
and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.
Their cobwebs are useless for clothing;
they cannot cover themselves with what they make,
Their deeds are evil deeds,
and acts of violence are in their hands.”
“For your hand are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutter wicked things. No one calls for justice (3,4) or “pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies.” (4) They
do things to entrap other people. In fact, they entrap people. It is just like hatching from “the eggs of vipers”. (5) It is really “trouble”. (4) Also like spinning “a spider’s web” (5) they cause others to fall into a trap.
Please look at verses 7 and 8. “Their feet rush into sin;
they are swift to shed innocent blood.
Their thoughts are evil thoughts;
ruin and destruction mark their ways.
The way of peace they do not know;
there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads;
no one who walks in them will know peace.” Next is their feet. “Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood…The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.” (7,8)
Please look at Romans chapter 3. Romans 3:9-18.
“What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”
Paul is quoting this passage to show that all men are “under sin.” (Romans 3:9) The first man Adam sinned, so all men are under sin. The Jews are not an exception. All men are “under sin.” (Romans 3:9) “All have turned away, they have together become worthless.” (Romans 3:12) We are the same too. We may think that we aren’t such terrible people, but we are like mud that has settled at the bottom of a cup. When the water is stirred, the water is completely muddy. This could happen to us at any time.
How can this problem of sin be solved? Can it be cut off by your will? Can it be solved by fasting? I often decide to diet, but I haven’t been successful yet. Even though man’s will seems strong, it is surprisingly weak. How could such a will cut off sin? Paul confesses how wretched he is in his inability to cut off sin. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
This is a naked confession of a man who confronted sin. No one can rescue us “from the body of death?” (Romans 7:24) However, unless this sin is removed there is no salvation. What should we do?
Ⅱ．The confession of sin (Vs. 9-15)
To do that we must admit that we are such a being. In other words, we have to admit that we are sinners, and agree with what God says. In the Bible this is called “confess”. Please look at verse 9. “So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.”
Here the subject changes. Up to here it has been “They”, but now it changes to “us”. It is because from here on they are confessing sin. Up until now they were shown to the point that they were disgusted at how filthy they were from sin and they consented to it and admitted that they were like this. The solution to sins begins by admitting to it. If you are shown how filthy you are, begin by admitting that it is true. If you make excuses, or think that it is unrelated to you, you will never be able to flee from the sin.
Here it says, “We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.” (9) This is human life. We go all out to build a better society by our wisdom and constant effort, but what was the real result? Civilization developed, and did it become a peaceful world without struggles and war? No, it didn’t. “We look for light, but all is darkness.” (9) Many people are beginning to realize that the past was more peaceful. The development of civilization doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness.
Please look at verse 10. “Like the blind…at midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.” It is being in the condition of not knowing which direction we should go. It is like “we all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.”(11) It seems like it is describing the present world. Problems stack up and we growl like impatient and frustrated bears no knowing which direction to go to cope with the problem. While the problems are not yet solved, the next problem comes up. We come no nearer to the real solution and it gets further and further away.
The reason is in verse 12. “For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities.”
What a wonderful confession! They honestly admit “For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.” (12) Then they confess, “Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities.” (12) They are confessing that their sin is not just a simple act of sin, but it is sin that by nature always clings to them. In Paul’s words, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?” (Romans 7:24) It is the same thing. They are confessing that they are really sinful people that are beyond help.
Please look at verses 13 and 14. “rebellion and treachery against the LORD,
turning our backs on our God,
fomenting oppression and revolt,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
This became a form of admitting that what God said in the previous verses 3 to 8 is right, completely true. The subject is just been changed from they to we. They are acknowledging all the offenses that God had pointed out to them. However, this is where real salvation begins. The end of verse 15 says, “The LORD looked and was displeased that there was not justice.” If you will look at the next verse you will see that “there was no justice” (15) for Israel means that “there was no one to intervene” (16), to work salvation. “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!” (30:18)
It is only the Lord who can bring salvation. There is no one else who can intervene. “The LORD longs to be gracious to you.” (30:18) God longs to give you salvation, but for that salvation to begin we must admit that we are as the Lord says, sinful and then repent.
Ⅲ．The salvation of the Lord. (Vs. 16-21)
Please look at verse 16. Here it says, “He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no
- one to intervene;
so his own arm worked salvation for him,
and his own righteousness
This means that the Lord looked and there was no one that could save them and no one that could intervene for them and “he was appalled”. (16)
Before when Israel left Egypt and was led to the wilderness, they worshipped the golden calf, which was about to bring the anger of God upon them and they were about to be destroyed, but then Moses stood between God and the people and prayed like this, “But now, please forgive their sin-but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:32)
Moses stood between God and the people and interceded. However, in this age there is no one who will stand up, intervene, and intercede. On the human end there is no one who can save them from their sin.
Therefore the Lord will rise up. There is no one so the Lord’s “own arm worked salvation.” (16) This is salvation. Therefore, God sent Jesus Christ into this world 2000 years ago, and completed the work of salvation. There is no one who can save us from sin so Jesus came to this world and like an intercessor, a mediator, was put on the cross and died. He interceded praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Therefore, this is a prophecy that the Savior Jesus Christ would come. “His own righteousness sustained him” (16) means that God brought in a righteousness by the merit and meditation of his own Son. Christ is called “the righteousness that comes from God.”（Phil3:9）
Please look at verse 17. Here it says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.”
Here “righteousness” and “salvation” are expressed as things to be worn. This means that by putting on righteousness we will be allowed before God. This is the righteousness of God. Paul says in II Cor. 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Also in Romans 3:23 and 24 too he said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
We cannot save ourselves from sin. It is only God’s “grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) that we “are justified freely.” (Romans 3:24) We must put on our Lord Jesus. We shouldn’t work hard like Adam sewing fig leaves together to make a covering in a feeble and futile attempt to hide our shame, which only God can cover, but put on the covering that God has prepared. That covering is Jesus Christ.
Have you put on righteousness? Have you put on the clothes that God has prepared. The one and only way that we can be saved is by putting on righteousness. There is no other way. It is only by Jesus Christ that we can be “justified freely”. (Romans 3:24)
Here it says, “He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” God says in 63:4, “For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come” The day of judging the enemy meant at the same time redemption for God’s people. It is a part of the day of the Lord. God will with “zeal” (17) carry out the work of righteousness, salvation, and judgment. Salvation is not by our power, but by the “zeal” (17) of the Lord.
Please look at verses 18 and 19. “According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due,
From the west, men will fear the
name of the LORD,
and from the rising of the sun,
they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood
that the breath of the LORD drives along.”
This means that the Lord “will come like a pent-up flood” (19) to repay. In other words this is a prophecy of the second coming. In Isaiah’s age the Messiah, the Savior Christ hadn’t come so Christ’s first coming and second coming are seen as two overlapping mountain peaks in the far distance. However, in reality there is a time gap between them like there are valleys between mountains. We are now in a valley. The Savior has already come. However, the Lord will come again. At the time the Lord will “According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due, From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.” (18,19) It will be “like a pent-up flood.” (19) The Lord “will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.” (19) We are now waiting for this. This will be for us the time of the completion of our salvation.
Last year typhoons came one after another to Japan, bringing huge disasters to every area. On T.V. there were pictures of the washout of the levees on the Katsuragawa River in Kyoto. The water of the river with tremendous momentum gushed into the tourist area of Kyoto. Like that flood the Lord will come again. When Jesus came the first time, he came as a servant of the Lord. He had “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (53:2) He came to serve. However, when he comes again, he will come as the glorious king, the King of Kings, He will come in glory. When Jesus comes again he will come gushing with tremendous momentum like when a levee has washed out.
Now there maybe people who can’t believe this at all, but that is the same as how it was in the age of Noah. In Noah’s age too there were people who couldn’t believe and made fun of Noah. Just as the Lord had said, there was a flood and everything on the earth perished. However, Noah and his family who entered the ark were saved. In the same way, God is warning us that at the time of the Lord’s judgment, he will come again like a raving flood. The reason that that hasn’t occurred yet is because as II Peter 3 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3::9) This day is certainly getting closer. The water is gradually building up. In the course of time the levee will break and like a pent-up river gushing out, the glorious Lord will come. Are you prepared for his coming? Have you entered the ark of salvation, of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, let’s look at verse 21. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.
This is the covenant that God made between us and God. Even if the words of the covenant are passed down for ever, they will never change. This is the way of salvation. To be saved from the bounds of sin that bind us is the one and only method of salvation that God prepared. Salvation is given only by seeking God’s help for yourself. It is given by admitting honestly your sins, invoking God’s mercy, and through Jesus Christ who intercedes for us. Have you received this salvation? Seek God’s salvation. That’s because salvation is in the Lord’s hand.