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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 64

Verses 1-5

Cry for God’s Action

This chapter continues the prayer of the prophet. He calls to God to manifest His power against His enemies, so that the heathen powers – the king of the North and his allies – will tremble at His presence (Isaiah 64:1-Leviticus :). The language recalls the way in which the LORD manifested His presence and power at Sinai. Then the mountain trembled at His presence, He descended upon the mountain in fire; smoke rose as if from a furnace (Exodus 19:16-Psalms :). By then revealing His Name in this way to His people, He made them tremble. Would He not now reveal His power and judgment to His enemies? He will do so in the end time when the Lord Jesus comes back for His people.

The ‘mountains’ points to the nations as an established power, while the ‘water’, like the ‘sea’, points to the same nations, but in their turmoil and rebellion against the government of God (Revelation 17:15). The ‘fire’ speaks of judgment. This fire will melt the mountains and make the water rise up. The believing remnant here asks in pictorial language if God wants to judge the enemy.

This prayer is based on the fact of the absoluteness and uniqueness of God and His attributes and of the ways of grace toward those who walk in fear of Him, who keep Him in remembrance and wish to please Him (Isaiah 64:4-Deuteronomy :). That He meets them means that He comes forward to show them His favor (cf. Genesis 32:1). Isaiah 64:4 is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 (1 Corinthians 2:9), but he can add: “For to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). We may already see in faith the future things He has prepared for those who love Him. The same is true for the believing remnant later on.

What God has prepared for His own, we could never have heard – “perceived by ear” – from previous generations. Tradition could not tell us that. Nor had we ever discovered it through our own observation – “nor has eye seen” it. It has only become known to us through the revelation of God through His Spirit, through which we now know.

For an unbeliever who does not possess the Spirit of God and can only rely on his powers of thought, it is unthinkable that the LORD would act for the benefit of His people Israel. Israel has chosen the antichrist as his king, the temple has been desecrated by the abomination of destruction, the people have been massacred and the land has been destroyed by the attack of the king of the North. But the faithful remnant counts on the faithfulness of God to His promises. God’s action in favor of the believing remnant is beyond our logical thinking. These counsels of God are intended only for those who through faith trust Him, who love Him.

The three-part combination of “rejoices”, “righteousness” and “remembers You” (Isaiah 64:5) has a special meaning. It is possible to walk in righteousness by adhering strictly to religion without rejoicing in the Lord. It is possible to do righteousness, to do what is morally right, without really thinking of God Himself.

The Lord rejoices in those who know from experience what fellowship with Him is. His eye is on those who fear Him. Enoch walked with God and thus received the testimony that He pleased God (Genesis 5:22-Jeremiah :; Hebrews 11:5). He rejoiced in Him. As a result, his life of testimony in an ungodly world ended in his passing into the direct presence of God.

The trust of the faithful remnant is based on the acknowledgment that the people have failed and sinned, first by rejecting Christ and then by receiving the antichrist. Thus, the remnant acknowledges that God is righteous to judge them. At the same time, through faith, they expect salvation from the same God, Who is faithful to His promises. This is expressed in the following verses.

In Isaiah 64:5 Isaiah acknowledges the guilt of his people both in the past and in the future. When he recalls the age-long condition of their apostacy, he expresses it questioningly: “And shall we be saved?” The sentence can best be understood as a question. It is not about ‘ways’, but about a sinful state in which the people have been for “a long time”. In this rhetorical question lies the acknowledgment that they have no right to liberation.

Verses 6-7

Acknowledgment of Iniquities

They have all become unclean (Isaiah 64:6). What they first considered to be righteous deeds for themselves, their orthodoxy, they now acknowledge that for the LORD it is only a filthy garment. Only when they acknowledge this can they put on the “robe of righteousness” which the LORD gives them (Isaiah 61:10). They have come to the conclusion that they have all fallen off as foliage and that their iniquities have carried them away from the LORD like the wind.

All this provides a warning regarding the consequences of a persistent deviation from the ways of God. Conscious apostacy leads to a forgetting of God. This is how it is in Israel. There is no one who invokes His Name to take hold of to God (Isaiah 64:7). Insensitivity to sin causes insensitivity to God’s rights and His mercies. The consequence of their apostasy is that God has withdrawn His mercies from them, hidden His face from them, and consumed them in their iniquities.

Verses 8-12

The LORD and His People

In reality and the power of confession in the previous verses, the prophet recalls the inalienable connection which the LORD established between Himself and His people. He also recalls the way in which He formed them as their “potter” (cf. Jeremiah 18:1-Joshua :; Romans 9:19-Ecclesiastes :) according to His own counsel (Isaiah 64:8). This is true humility and brokenness (Isaiah 57:15). This confession implies the possibility of a recreation of the depraved national vessel. This will certainly be the case when the Redeemer comes to Zion.

It’s not that far yet. The people sigh under the chastening hand of the LORD to Whom they desperately cry for a reduction of anger (Isaiah 64:9). The remnant reminds the LORD in a pathetic way that they are after all His people. After all it is about His people, His land, His Name. The enemy is admitted under the repaying hand of God to make the cities of the land a wilderness and Jerusalem a desolation (Isaiah 64:10). The abode of God in Zion, where the hymns of praise to the honor of the LORD used to sound, has gone up in flames (Isaiah 64:11). In Isaiah 64:12 we hear the prophet’s closing plea for deliverance and restoration. The answer comes in the next and last two chapters of this book.

In the short term, the destruction by Babylon is a pre-fulfillment of these prophecies. However, its full fulfillment will take place in the future when Israel is destroyed by the coming king of the North.

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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 64". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.