Isaiah, 5

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It’s a terrible thing when, at 50, you can’t see as clearly as you did when you were 20. But that’s life. What’s worse than wearing glasses to improve your eyesight is when you lose that eyesight altogether. It is estimated that almost 50,000 Americans go blind every year. One person every eleven minutes moves from a world of light to a world of darkness.

Worse still is living in spiritual darkness, a way of living that has afflicted the majority of people, not just in America, but all over the world. These people are incapable of having any kind of relationship with God and they are unable of seeing themselves and their world with any kind of clarity. Not so with Christians, though.

But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 TLB)

And yet, sometimes Christians feel as though they are spiritually blinded. Sometimes your prayers go unheard. And sometimes those prayers go unanswered. Sin is what causes this. Spiritual problems are never God’s fault, they are ours. God is always listening and always ready to give the best answer possible to every one of our prayers; He is always at the ready to deliver and do whatever He needs in order to make life better for us. But sin—our sin—will stop Him.

What is true of individuals is also true of nations. Isaiah deals with this spiritual blindness in chapters 59 and 60. Let’s look at the prophet’s conclusions.

Sin = Spiritual Darkness, Isaiah 59:1, 2, 8—13

God’s power is not lacking

When God withholds answers to prayer or blessings or when it seems as though God is MIA, we might be tempted to think God cannot answer those prayers or is incapable of do that which we are asking of Him. This isn’t so. God is able; His power is never lacking.

Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you. And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! (Isaiah 59:1 TLB)

In Isaiah’s day, Israel remained in its quagmire of sin and went unsaved not because it was too difficult for God to help them, but because Israel stubbornly refused repent.

Sin separates

But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because of sin he has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore. (Isaiah 59:2 TLB)

The distance between God and man is like the distance between man and an ant. That distance is great, but it is eliminated by faith in Jesus Christ. That profound theological truth is expressed by Gordon Jensen’s very simple song lyrics:

In the very thought of Jesus, His presence may be found,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.
There’s never any distance between my Lord and me,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.

In my hour of struggle, so many times I’ve found,
He’s as close as the mention as His name.
Just to breathe the name of Jesus can turn everything around,
He’s as close as the mention of His name.

But all that is true only as long as your sin has been dealt with and is being dealt with by the both the Lord and you as you live in submission to Him and in obedience to His Word.

Israel’s constant sinful actions had driven a wedge between themselves and God—an impassible chasm had been established by Israel. God’s people had deluded themselves into thinking all they had to do was offer sacrifices and throw God some change from time to time and that would be good enough. It wasn’t nearly good enough for God.

For all people, Christians included, this is a serious thing. Sin always separates man from God. It will always be that way; there are no exceptions. We may try to rationalize our sinful behavior and invent cute slogans to excuse it (“Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.”). God does not condone or excuse your sin; He does not understand why you do it, nor does He buy your excuses. The only thing God knows is that if you are stuck in sin, you can’t get close to Him.

Sin = Spiritual Blindness

No wonder you grope like blind men and stumble along in broad daylight, yes, even at brightest noontime, as though it were the darkest night! No wonder you are like corpses when compared with vigorous young men! (Isaiah 59:10 TLB)

What a horrible picture of the man who is out of favor with God. It’s sad, but the best people in the world; the nicest people you’ll ever meet, if they don’t know Jesus, this how they really are: blind, and as Isaiah said, “like corpses.”

When a nation or an individual becomes spiritually blind, they forfeit the blessings of God they may have been used to. Those blessings include things like: peace, wisdom and knowledge, and ultimately hope evaporates.

The reason a spiritually blind nation has no peace is because they have lost all sense of justice. Note verse 8—

You don’t know what true peace is, nor what it means to be just and good; you continually do wrong and those who follow you won’t experience any peace either. (TLB)

Verse 11 paints a really pathetic picture of how sinful men appear to God:

You roar like hungry bears; you moan with mournful cries like doves. You look for God to keep you, but he doesn’t. He has turned away. (TLB)

In other words, these sinful people complained to God, even prayed, but found no relief. Moffatt observed,

By comparing themselves to the growling of the bear and to the sighing of the dove, the Israelites let it be understood that both the strong and the weak, each in his own way, longed to be righted, but all in vain. No rescue is in sight.

And the reason no rescue was forthcoming was because their hearts were in darkness. They prayed because, to them, it was just the thing to do.

Sin multiplies guilt

For your sins keep piling up before the righteous God and testify against you. Yes, we know what sinners we are. We know our disobedience; we have denied the Lord our God. We know what rebels we are and how unfair we are, for we carefully plan our lies. (Isaiah 59:12, 13 TLB)

Sin multiplies and mocks. This verse reminds us of another in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament:

Fools mock at sin… (Proverbs 14:9 NKJV)

In the end, though, sin mocks the fool because sin testifies against the sinner. Sin is never your friend, no matter how good it may feel at the time. Furthermore, we learn something of the insidious nature of sin here: the latest sin is always larger the previous one.

Israel’s real state is made obvious in these two verses. These people had become complete hypocrites in their “worship,” they were engaged in open apostasy; they didn’t even try to hide their false gods anymore, and they constantly sinned against the truth and against justice. The deeper the people sank into their sin, the greater their guilt became.

Light Dispels Darkness, Isaiah 59:19—60:3

Man may not care about God and he may disregard his fellow man. He may walk all over the truth, grinding it into the ground, but God never stops caring about him.

The redeemer

Then at last they will reverence and glorify the name of God from west to east. For he will come like a flood tide driven by Jehovah’s breath. He will come as a Redeemer to those in Zion who have turned away from sin. (Isaiah 59:19, 20 TLB)

These verses seem like a dramatic turn-about, and they are.  Sort of. God never stops caring for and working out His plan for His people. Though Israel has gone astray and though God has meted out His judgment, He is not finished with them. He has not tossed them away like a soiled hanky. Indeed, God is ready to do battle for them. He is ready come to be Israel’s Redeemer and Restorer.

Verse 19 is a difficult verse to translate, but the sense of what the prophet is trying to convey is one of hope. Though the enemy is all around, God is still there. We have the assurance that at the right time, the Lord will be roused to action.

God’s covenant

“As for me, this is my promise to them,” says the Lord: “My Holy Spirit shall not leave them, and they shall want the good and hate the wrong—they and their children and their children’s children forever.” (Isaiah 59:21 TLB)

Though large swaths of God’s people will leave Him, some will remain faithful, and to those this covenant is made. God’s word and anointing will never fail. Plumtre wrote,

The new covenant is to involve the gift of the Spirit that writes the Law of God inwardly in the heart, as distinct from the Law, which is thought of as outside of the conscience, doing its work as an accuser and judge.

Isaiah’s basis for a hopeful, blessed future has absolutely nothing to do with his faithless people but everything to do with the faithfulness of God and of the power of His living Word at work in every generation.

Light in the darkness

Arise, my people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you. (Isaiah 60:1—3 TLB)

This chapter of Isaiah powerfully illustrates the glorious future of Jerusalem. We as Christians are always tempted to take these verses out of their natural context and apply them to the glory of the church. This glorification of God through His people is His gift to Israel, specifically Zion. For multiplied chapters, the prophet had painted a bleak picture of Israel in misery and sin, but now hope dawns. The triumph of grace will dispel the darkness.

God calls His people to “wake up” or “stand tall” as they radiate His glory for all to see. Once they were in shame, but now all that has changed. The splendor of the eternal God will have been awakened in His people. There is a contrast between the brightness of God’s glory and the gloomy darkness of the surrounding nations. During the Millennial Kingdom, Zion will become the very center of the world; the epicenter of spirituality in the New Order.

All nations will be drawn to the Light that beams out of Jerusalem. This is a vision of the future. As we look at Israel today, it scarcely seems possible that one day in the future, Israel will become the prominent, dominant nation on earth. But it will; it will be culmination of generations upon generations of promises made by the Lord to His people.

it is even more wonderful when the Jews come to Christ. It will be like dead people coming back to life. (Romans 11:15 TLB)

This is how Paul saw the glorious future of His people. The greatest revival in the history of revivals is yet to happen. It will be the literal resurrection of the nation of Israel. What a glorious event that will be.

God always keeps His promises. To the Jew, some of these unfulfilled promises are so old, they have become part of a past long forgotten in the mists of antiquity. But to those faithful few who remember them and long for their fulfillment, and to those of us who take God at His Word, we eagerly await for His glorious return.

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