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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 63

Verses 1-6

The LORD Judges the Nations

These verses contain a dialogue between the redeemed remnant of Israel, freed from their great tribulation, and the LORD. It is the time of Christ’s personal intervention to defeat the heathen who have gathered under the antichrist in Israel. That is why this section rightly follows the Divine promises of the previous chapter.

The Jewish people, freed from their enemies, ask with amazement at His power and glory, the question Who the great Deliverer is (Isaiah 63:1). He is the Conqueror, Who comes at the head of His armies (Revelation 19:13-2 Chronicles :). But why does He come from Edom and Bozrah? We find the answer to this question by comparing Psalm 29:1-8 with Daniel 11:45 (Psalms 29:1-Ruth :; Daniel 11:45). Daniel 11:45 refers to the military base of the king of the North, after he returned from conquering Egypt. He was stationed there to defeat the gathered armies of the restored Roman Empire, that is Western Europe. The nations are then gathered for the war in the valley of Har-Magedon (Revelation 16:16).

Psalm 29 describes prophetically the defeat of all those nations by the power of the voice of the LORD. The defeat begins in Lebanon (Psalms 29:5-Joshua :) and continues to Kadesh, the center of which is Bozrah in Edom. The extermination is quick and complete. The distance from Sirjon in Lebanon to Bozrah in Edom, is 200 miles. This is exactly the distance mentioned in Revelation 14 in a section corresponding to what we read here in Isaiah (Revelation 14:20). In both parts it is about the wine press of the total, unsparing anger of God. The harmony of the different parts of Scripture is clearly illustrated by this.

In answer to the question of the people, the LORD says: “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” “Who speak” corresponds to “the voice of the LORD” in Psalm 29 (Psalms 29:3-Ruth :; cf. Psalms 2:5) and “the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” in Revelation 19 (Revelation 19:21). His righteousness will then be revealed in the deliverance of His earthly people.

In Isaiah 63:2 they ask a new question. The answer of the LORD in Isaiah 63:3-Numbers : makes the time of the event clear, namely that it is about the definitive destruction of the heathen powers just before the realm of peace. This vivid picture of the treading of the wine press is also described in other parts (Joel 3:9-Nehemiah :; Revelation 14:17-Proverbs :; Revelation 19:15).

It is the picture of the oriental wine press. The collected grapes are pressed barefoot, so that the red juice flows out. The garments of the wine presser are therefore smeared with the red juice. It is a picture of God Himself carrying out the judgment. There is also a play on words, because ‘Edom’ means ‘red’. Bozrah, the capital of Edom, is a word related to batsar which means ‘gathering of grapes’.

Here year and day are set opposite to each other again (cf. Isaiah 61:2). The time of the vengeance of the LORD is short (Romans 9:28). At the same time, this vengeance is the beginning of an era in which the enemy of Israel has been defeated forever: “My year of redemption has come.”

His answer continues in Isaiah 63:5-Joshua :. It appears that He is alone in His great love for His people. No one shares in this with Him (cf. Isaiah 59:16). Wherever He looks, there is no one to help His people. To His astonishment, He must conclude that there is no one who helps His people. That is why He alone will look after the cause of His people and speak up for them. As a lonely but all-powerful Warrior, against whom all resistance is utterly useless, He pours out His wrath upon His enemies and those of His people. He gives His enemies the wine of His wrath, by which they get drunk and fall down.

Verses 7-9

The Faithfulness of the LORD Praised

From Isaiah 63:7 we read, in a section that goes through to the end of Isaiah 64, what the Spirit of prophecy puts the remnant in the mouth. They are spoken by the representative of His people at the time of the redemption described in the preceding six verses. In Isaiah 65-66 we find the answer of the LORD.

It is striking to see how the Spirit expresses all the feelings of a faithful Israelite heart, of a frightened yet trusting heart. This heart remembers the lovingkindness of the past. However, it is depressed by the present misery and recognizes the rebellion of which they are guilty. But in spite of all this, it appeals to the unchanging faithfulness of God’s love. It is a prayer in connection with the lovingkindness of the LORD which He has shown in salvation. That is why it begins with praise. This language also suits us because of the heavenly and spiritual liberations and blessings that have been granted to us, in addition to all the earthly mercies that are our part.

This verse begins and ends with the lovingkindness of the LORD, that is, His faithfulness to the covenant based on the work of the Mediator. This word ‘lovingkindness’, chesed, is the faithfulness, the proof of grace (Isaiah 55:3) which God in His covenant proves to His people. Contemplating the lovingkindness of the LORD touches the heart of the remnant and leads them to repentance (Romans 2:4).

In Isaiah 63:8 the remnant takes the words of the LORD in their mouth in which He expresses His appreciation for His redeemed people. This people is the righteous remnant who waited for His salvation in the time of the great tribulation. It says that the faithful remnant are “sons who will not deal falsely”. Dealing falsely here means unfaithfulness to the covenant with the LORD. They have been faithful in contrast to the many who in apostacy attached themselves to the antichrist. Because of their faithfulness He has become their Savior.

The prophet says in Isaiah 63:9 how He worked in that salvation. In a distant past, when Israel returned to Him with repentance for their sins as a result of the chastening of the LORD, “He could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (Judges 10:16). Thus, in the coming time of Jacob’s distress, His actions will aim both to defeat their enemies and to remove His chastening hand at the appointed time.

This declaration reveals the tender feelings of the LORD. His disciplinary dealings are always given in love (Hebrews 12:5-1 Kings :). “For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the sons of men” (Lamentations 3:33). It grieves Him when they deviate from Him. It grieves Him even when He is forced to chasten them.

Then comes the way in which He acted with His liberating power: “The angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them.” Here we do not only think about the future salvation, but also about His actions in the past. The presence of God with His people was in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire and in the tabernacle, and the angel was none other than Christ Himself (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 23:23Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2). His presence was more than the mere being present of God in their midst. It meant the revelation of His Self in and through the angel who accompanied them.

The picture of lifting and carrying all the days of old evokes a part of the song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:10-2 Kings :). There he recounts God’s goodness during their journey through the wilderness.

Verses 10-14

Leadership of the LORD

To grieve the Holy Spirit is a sin for which we too are warned (Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30). It is one of the proofs that the Holy Spirit is not just a force, for it cannot be grieved, but a Person, for only a Person can be grieved.

The name “Holy Spirit” appears only three times in the Old Testament, while in the New Testament it is common. That is why it is remarkable that in these few verses this Name appears twice. [The third time is in Psalm 51 (Psalms 51:11)]. Because of this also the Old Testament believer knows about the existence and work of the Holy Spirit and we can learn a lot from it.

Every sin grieves the Holy Spirit. The people would not deal falsely (Isaiah 63:8), they would not be unfaithful. Unfortunately, Isaiah 63:10 shows that the opposite happens and that the people persevere therein. The LORD cannot allow that to happen. His attitude towards them must therefore change from a loving caretaker who stands up for them, into an enemy who fights against them.

Yet He has always worked with His Holy Spirit in their midst for their benefit. Isaiah reminds the people of this (Isaiah 63:11-2 Chronicles :). These verses present the other side of God’s actions, namely His mercy for them at the time of redemption from Egypt and giving them rest so that His Name becomes “glorious”. Isaiah reminds the LORD of that glorious Name at the end of Isaiah 63:14, which is the introduction to the prayer that follows.

Isaiah asks where the LORD is, Who led His shepherds, Moses and Aaron, at the head of the people through the Red Sea (Isaiah 63:11). It is reminiscent of the Lord Jesus Who, as the One Who was brought back from the dead, is called “the great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). This is what is presented in the picture in the Red Sea and where Moses is a type of the Lord Jesus as the Shepherd of His people.

The following is a reference to the Holy Spirit, which also sounds so New Testament, because after redemption from the power of sin and the acceptance of the gospel, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer (Ephesians 1:13). In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit does not dwell in the believer, but He works in him. Only after the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus did the Holy Spirit come to dwell on earth, in the church and in the believer as a member of the church.

Verses 15-19

Distress as a Pleading Ground

Until Isaiah 63:14, the people looked back on the faithfulness of God and their own unfaithfulness. From Isaiah 63:15 onwards this faithful remnant speaks about their need in the present. The prayer for salvation and deliverance (Isaiah 63:15) begins with the question whether the LORD wants to look down from “heaven” and see from His “holy and glorious habitation” (cf. 1 Kings 8:44-2 Thessalonians :).

The question indicates that He Who has been with His people and revealed His presence and power, has withdrawn and can now be approached only in His heavenly abode. His holiness and His glory are especially mentioned because of the contrast with the ungodliness and shame of the people. We notice this attitude of distance in what Isaiah says, identifying himself with the people: “The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me.”

When God’s people are in distress because of their aberration, God’s actions in discipline are not at the expense of His compassion. The LORD chastises whom He loves (Proverbs 3:11-2 Kings :; Hebrews 12:6). He desires to take away the oppression of His people, but sometimes He has to withhold His mercies. It is remarkable that Isaiah speaks of himself as an object of these acts and in this way makes himself one with the condition of the people. We also see this with Moses (Exodus 32:31-Jonah :) and with Paul (Romans 9:2-Leviticus :). Thus it is with every true intercession in times when the people of God are in a spirit of deviation from Him.

The prophet appeals on the same basis in Isaiah 63:16 to the connection of God with His people. He does not appeal on the basis of the covenant of the law of Moses (Isaiah 63:11). He appeals on the basis of God’s unconditional promises to Abraham (Genesis 15:17-Job :). The LORD has obtained His earthly people through His creative power and loving counsel. He is their Father.

This is not ‘Father’ in the New Testament sense of the word. In the New Testament the Father is first and foremost the eternal Father of the eternal Son. Then He is also the Father of the believers who have received the Son as their life. They are sealed by faith in the Lord Jesus with the Holy Spirit and address Him through the Spirit as “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15-Nehemiah :; Galatians 4:6). In that relationship the believer could only come after the Lord Jesus had finished the work on the cross (John 20:17).

Isaiah speaks of the LORD as the Father of His people in the sense of their origin (cf. Isaiah 64:8; Deuteronomy 32:6; Jeremiah 4:3; Jeremiah 4:19Jeremiah 31:9; Malachi 2:10; cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Hs. 11:1). Abraham and Israel, that is Jacob, are their ancestors, but they have not known of the existence of the people as their descendants. They did not know them, they could not look after them and have mercy on them. Deceased saints cannot be intercessors for anyone.

With the LORD, however, this is very different. The relationship between Him and His people cannot be dissolved. That is why Isaiah says: “You, O LORD, are our Father.” He knows about His people and knows them. He is their Redeemer from of old and in His gracious acts in the past.

The prayer in Isaiah 63:17 contains a striking supplication. Isaiah does not put the responsibility with God for the sin of His people. God allows only those who have persistently refused to keep His commandments to go astray. He surrenders them to the consequences of their own chosen path, on which it is impossible to believe and walk in His fear. We have a clear example in Pharaoh (Exodus 7:13; Exodus 8:19Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:7Exodus 9:12). Only when Pharaoh himself has hardened his heart several times does God harden his heart.

Most of the people have a hardened heart. However, there are some who remain faithful. In view of them, the prophet makes a double appeal. He asks for them as “Your servants” and as “the tribes of Your heritage.” The people have only “possessed” the promised land for “a little while” (Isaiah 63:18). The people have been in exile longer than they have lived in the promised land. Opponents such as the Babylonians and the Romans have trampled on the sanctuary of the LORD.

“Adversaries” here means the king of the North, the Assyrians, who at the end of the great tribulation will destroy the land and the sanctuary. Isaiah also recognizes that this has made the people equal to the nations (Isaiah 63:19) and that therefore the LORD had to treat them as the nations.

Believers must take care that they do not leave the will of the Lord and become conformed to the world. Persistent lukewarmness as in the church in Laodicea will cause them to resemble the unconverted. Then the Lord must retreat and stand outside the door (Revelation 3:15; Revelation 3:20).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 63". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.