In my last post, we looked at the subject of Fasting & the Shabbat in Yesha’yahu 58:1-14. In this post, we will begin to explore the issue of Sin, Confession & Redemption ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 59:1-11.
The same people who had been fasting and worshiping, fellowshipping, and studying in Chapter 58 were also praying. But they weren’t being heard. The people complained that the Lord could not rescue them, but the real problem was that they had not repented (as we will learn later in 59:20) and were still living in sin.
Yesha’yahu 58 concluded with the assurance that the Lord would fulfill His promises to Isra’el: “I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya’akov, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken” ~ Yesha’yahu 58:14 (CJB). Chapter 59 deals with Isra’el’s national salvation.
1 Adonai’s arm is not too short to save, nor is His ear too dull to hear.
This prophecy begins with an affirmation that God can hear and act, characteristics that contrast with the powerless idols that tempted Isra’el (cf. 44:6-23).
2 Rather, it is your own crimes that separate you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you so that He doesn’t hear.
Despite what the people of Yehuda may have thought, God had not suddenly become impotent, nor did He get thrashed by the pagan God. It was the sins of the people that separated them from God; this was why he had refused to hear their prayers. He was unwilling to bless them regardless of their actions. They were the problem, not Him.
3 For your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with crime; your lips speak lies, your tongues utter wicked things. 4 No one sues with just cause, no one pleads honestly in court, they trust in empty words and say worthless things; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
Just some of their sins that separated God from His people are listed in these two verses. The list begins with acts of violence and moves on to deceit and injustice. They were guilty in thought and action.
5 They hatch viper eggs and spin spiderwebs; whoever eats their eggs dies, and the crushed egg hatches a snake. 6 Their webs are useless as clothing; their deeds are useless for wearing; their deeds are deeds of wickedness; their hands produce violence. 7 Their feet run to evil; they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of wickedness; their paths lead to havoc and ruin.
Once again, the prophecy emphasizes that people are sinful in thought and deed. Indeed, they do not merely walk in the advice of the wicked (Psalm 1:1); they show their eagerness when they run after evil.
8 The way of shalom they do not know, their goings-about obey no law; they make devious paths for themselves; no one treading them will ever know shalom.
Yesha’yahu used the words way and paths to refer to the course of a person’s life. The first nine chapters of Proverbs talk about two paths, a straight path that leads to God and life, and a crooked path that leads to death. Yesha’yahu described God’s people as choosing the latter, and thus they were headed toward death, i.e., they will not know shalom.
At last, the people acknowledge the consequences of their sin. They want justice but don’t have it. They want direction but lack it, for they continue in their sinfulness.
9 This is why justice is far from us, and righteousness doesn’t catch up with us; we look for light, but see only darkness, for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
Note the transition from third person plural speech (they) to first person (us) that begins in this verse and continues for the rest of our passage. Yesha’yahu included himself along with the people. Since the content of these verses acknowledges the people’s sinfulness, it may be that the righteous are among those who are speaking here.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind; like people without eyes, we feel our way; we stumble at noonday as if it were dusk, we are in dark places like the dead.
Chapter 58 has already described the way to light in obedience to God, but they appear incapable of getting there on their own. While God’s hand of salvation could reach the people, Yehuda‘s citizens had convinced themselves that they were innocent and didn’t need it. The truth was that they were like the blind; they were in dark places like the dead.
11 We growl, all of us, like bears and moan pitifully like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. ~ Isaiah 59:1-11 (CJB)
Bears growl out of anger, and doves make a sound like the moans to a suffering person. These metaphors suggest that God’s people were angry and sad about their present state.
In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of Sin, Confession & Redemption ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 59:12-21.