Consider them Rended

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9

Look down from heaven and see, from Your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are Your zeal and Your might? The stirring of Your inner parts and Your compassion are held back from me…Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.”[1] This a power request, a prayer and a plea for mercy spoken by Isaiah. In his prayer he recounts the steadfast love of the Lord, all the goodness He has granted to the house of Israel. For, “[The Lord] said, ‘Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”[2]

Isaiah speaks of how the Lord became Savior to His people, how He was with them in their suffering. He was afflicted with them, and in His love and pity He redeemed them. He carried them all the days of old. But in response to His love, the children of Israel rebelled. They rejected the Holy Spirit and made God their enemy. They allied themselves with foreign nations and false gods. And so God hid Himself. He let His children have their evil ways, and they became like people whom God never ruled. His own people hardened their hearts and made themselves those who are not called by God. A nation that used to be filled with such promise and hope now became plunder for God’s enemies. And so Isaiah asks, “Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name?”[3]

Though God is the ruler of the world, it has become such that it is almost impossible to believe that there is a caring God out there. Even in Isaiah’s time, over 700 years before Christ, the world was broken and filled with evil. Isaiah almost screams, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil — to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.”[4]

Isaiah prayed, and we would too, that God wear tear open the heavens, that He would rip open reality, and come down. If He did the mountains would quake and melt and the nations would tremble as the holy and righteous God comes thundering against the forces of sin. Isaiah prayed that God would come and put an end to all evil. And He certainly can; there is no God beside Him. No one has ever heard or seen a God besides Him, who actually acts in the lives of those who wait for Him. History has never borne witness of the acts of any other “god.”

II.

Isaiah prays that God would come down from heaven, but he soon realizes what that would actually mean for us. Truly God is near to those who work righteousness, who delight in His Law. But what about us? Isaiah asks, “In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?”[5] Our God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Isaiah prays that God would come down and destroy evil, but what does that mean for those like us, who have “all become like one who is unclean, and [whose] righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”?[6] Nothing good. Already, we as humans are like a leaf that fades in the fall. We have fallen off the tree and we perish. Our sins, like the wind, carry us away.

God does meet those who joyfully work righteousness and remember His ways, who call upon His name and wake up early to study His Word – but how often does that describe us? Instead we already melt in the hand of our iniquity. If the Almighty God tore open the fabric of time and space to put an end to all evil and darkness, He would be putting an end to us as well. It would be like in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Ark of the Covenant is opened and everyone literally melts at the power of God.

III.

And so Isaiah pleads, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.”[7] God is our Father, and without Him we would not even be here, where we are now. Like clay in the hands of the potter, so are we in the hands of God. We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. When we pray that the righteous God would come and put an end to evil, we pray that He would also be true to His mercy and goodness. As He has remembered His promises to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many others, so we pray that He remember His promise to remember our sins no more.

Like Isaiah we are surrounded by an evil and corrupt generation. Our world is filled with sin, death, and destruction. As faithful Christians we are a minority, and we are a target for those who hate God and His Word. We pray that He would end it all, but we realize if God were to put a sudden end to sin in fantastic manner, of our own power we would not escape it. And so we continually pray for God’s mercy. What does God say in return? From next week’s lesson: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.”[8]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Is. 63:15; 64:1.

[2] Is. 63:8–9.

[3] Is. 63:11–12.

[4] Is. 64:1-4.

[5] Is. 64:5.

[6] Is. 64:6.

[7] Is. 64:8–9.

[8] Is. 40:1–2.

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