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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 59

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Verse 1

The LORD Can Save and Hear

This chapter continues with the topic of transgressions that prevent the promised blessing. It is not the LORD’s fault. The Israelites think that their sacrifices and temple service do not change their situation at all. Perhaps they think that He cannot save from the power of the king of the North and that He is not able to hear (Isaiah 59:1).

However, the problem does not lie with Him, but with them. He is powerful to deliver them from their predicament of slavery of the nations. With His power He is at their disposal. If they call upon Him for help, He will listen to them. The believing remnant of Israel, “the wise” (Daniel 12:3), the maskilim, will proclaim the message of this verse to the people.

Verses 2-8

Separation Between the People and God

Through their sins they have erected a barrier between themselves and God (Isaiah 59:2). Here we find the spiritual state of the people of Israel during the great tribulation. If we pray and are not heard, we must also ask ourselves if there are sins in our lives that prevent Him from hearing (cf. James 4:3). God and sin cannot go together. He cannot see the sins of His people, but hides His face from them, so that they must miss the joy of the light of His face.

Then the prophet as one of the maskilim will explain to them what is wrong. He points out their wickedness, their murderous actions, their lies and insincerity (Isaiah 59:3). This takes place because they have rejected the LORD and will result in the murder of Christ. This evil will manifest itself again when the people under the leadership of their king, the antichrist, persecute the faithful believing Jews (Revelation 13:7; cf. Psalms 10:8-1 Kings :).

They falsely accuse each other and the jurisprudence is crooked. They put their trust in worthless talk. What develops in them and presents itself as a new life, turns out to be nothing but doom. They cannot be trusted and will surrender the true believers with lie and betrayal (Micah 7:1-Joshua :). Righteousness is lacking in their justice, everything is crooked (Isaiah 59:4).

In Isaiah 59:5-Joshua : Isaiah draws the comparison with hatching eggs from poisonous snakes and weaving cobwebs. With this he indicates the harmful character of the devilish teachings which the antichrist will proclaim in the country. The eggs of the poisonous snake have a twofold result. Whoever eats them dies, and if someone steps on a more hatched egg, a viper hatches. In both cases death is the result.

He also compares the actions of these instruments of Satan with the weaving of a spider’s web, which visually indicates the worthless and harmfulness of their activities (Job 8:14). It is not good for clothing, it does not give any warmth. That is how their actions are. Whoever is trapped in their web dies a slow death.

The description of their activities in Isaiah 59:7-Ruth : is quoted by Paul in Romans 3 (Romans 3:15-Esther :). He does this to describe the general guilt of man. He sketches the picture of the sinner and does so on the basis of this description given by the LORD of His people. This indicates that God’s people have sunk so deeply, that they have sunk to the level of man without God, yes, to the level of man who wants to be like God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Thus, the measure of mankind’s sin is full. Isaiah represents the contrast that exists between their ways of destruction and corruption and the way of peace, both in connection with God and in connection with their fellow man. Those who follow the path of the man of sin know no peace.

Verses 9-15

The Acknowledgment of the People

In Isaiah 59:9-Ezra : the prophet goes from speaking in the third person plural, “they” and “their”, to the first person plural, “we” and “our”. He includes himself with the people. First he stands opposite to the people and speaks to them. Now he stands among the people and speaks with and on behalf of them. The message of God comes to their hearts just as later the message of John the baptist comes to the people. With and on behalf of the people, the prophet acknowledges the transgression and confirms the consequences of God’s judgment on them (Isaiah 59:9).

The LORD does not act against His enemies for the benefit of His people (Isaiah 59:19). That is why they are still in darkness. As exiles they hope for liberation, but things seem to get worse. They grope around like blind people, though it is broad daylight, and stumble (Isaiah 59:10). Without any view, they feel like dead.

Two thirds of the people were exterminated by of the king of the North and his allies (Zechariah 13:8-1 Samuel :). But now the people repent. It is not because of the powerlessness of the LORD that this has happened to them, but their iniquities are the cause of it. They finally understand this.

Those who persist in error will receive no help from the light of God’s truth, although it is available to them. Christ and the Scriptures have become a stumbling block for the Jews (John 5:39-Matthew :; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:16). It is no different in Christianity. The Scriptures are read but not understood. The blinding power of explaining traditions obscures the light of God’s Word. People who have the Bible remain in religious slavery. They are unable to enjoy the truth that would set them free if they listened faithfully to its voice instead of clinging to people’s systems.

The first part of Isaiah 59:11 describes two states. “Growl like bears” presupposes impatience; “moan sadly like doves” presupposes despair. Both are the opposite of the peace of the believer that comes from contrite of heart and submission to God’s will. Because there is no surrender to the LORD, they miss that peace and salvation remains far away.

After acknowledging their blind and dead state (Isaiah 59:9-1 Kings :), the people will now confess and name sins. These disasters all come upon them because of their numerous transgressions (Isaiah 59:12). They know this and acknowledge it now. They know that as a nation they have on the one hand denied the LORD by rejecting Christ, the Immanuel, and have fallen away from God by acknowledging the antichrist as king and god. On the other hand, they use “lying words” that originate from a depraved interior and thus persecute their fellowmen, the faithful remnant (Isaiah 59:13).

“Justice” and “righteousness” are repressed by injustice (Isaiah 59:14). In the place where all people meet, “in the street”, “truth” and “uprightness” are not upheld (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:8). One tries to enrich oneself with as many lies and dishonest intentions as possible at the expense of the other. From those who do not participate their possessions are even violently taken away (Isaiah 59:15).

From Isaiah 59:15 up to and including Isaiah 59:19 is the third part of this chapter. In it we see the attitude of the LORD towards their behavior and the way in which He intervenes. “One to intercede” (Isaiah 59:16) can also be translated as ‘someone who intervenes’, a ‘mediator’. He sees the evil mentioned in the preceding verses (Isaiah 59:15). The lack of justice is a great evil in His eyes. There is astonishment with Him because there is no man of character or someone who has the ability to turn the tide of evil for the grieving remnant.

Verses 16-19

Indignation of the LORD

There is no one who sides with God against the horrors and their inevitable consequences (Isaiah 59:16). He sees evil, but He sees no one who cares and will do something about it. In the days of the golden calf there is a Moses who intervenes for the people, but there is no one here (cf. Revelation 5:4).

Up to now, no help is possible. Not from below, nor from above. But now that the people have come to repentance and cry for mercy, now that they have come to confession with a truly broken heart, now help can come from above, now comes the LORD Himself, moved with compassion.

If then no one would stand up for the people – and there is no one who could! (Psalms 49:7-Ruth :) –, He will do it Himself. He Himself will be the Redeemer of His people (Isaiah 59:20). No one has to help Him. His own arm, picture of His power to do something, offers Him help. His actions happen on the basis of His righteousness. He rests on that.

In the subsequent description of how He cloths Himself (Isaiah 59:17), we have pictures of the various revelations of His attributes and power, the acts of His righteousness and His grace. In the clothing, the inner becomes public. “Righteousness” is His “breastplate”, “salvation” is His “helmet”, “vengeance” is His “garment” and “zeal” is His “mantle”.

It is imagery. The LORD adorns Himself with these four attributes. It recalls the armor of the believer in the letter to the Ephesians, where the garments consist of the spiritual weapons available to us to resist the enemy (Ephesians 6:13-Esther :). There is this difference, however, that the LORD needs no defense. He uses these weapons to avenge Himself on His enemies.

As an explanation of the clothing of the LORD follows a prophecy that unfolds in order the great future events in connection with Israel. First, the LORD will act with the insurgents in Israel and punish those in the people who persistently associate themselves with the antichrist. They are the opponents referred to in the first part of Isaiah 59:18. He will repay them according to their deeds. Secondly, the judgments will fall on “His enemies” in the world of the nations and “the coastlands,” all of whom will gather against the LORD and against His Anointed (Psalms 2:2).

Through the performance of the LORD, fear of Him will arise among those who fear the wrath of God, followed by forced submission to and recognition of the rights of God and His Son (Isaiah 59:19). These enemies are the peoples who go to war against Israel under the leadership of the Assyrian, the king of the North. They will come “like a rushing stream”.

Verse 20

The Redeemer for Zion

The judgments that mean the downfall for the enemies mean salvation for the remnant. For them He comes as Redeemer. This remnant consists of the penitents in Israel, they are the ones who were converted from transgression in Jacob. They have converted in the awareness that they are guilty of the rejection of the Messiah.

Verse 21

Spirit and Word

The chapter concludes with the promise of a new covenant (Isaiah 59:21). It is based on God’s word to Abraham (Genesis 17:4). The remnant receives the promise that God’s Spirit will come upon them. Here we have again that wonderful combination of Spirit and Word that are often mentioned together and that will be the power of the people in the end times (cf. Haggai 2:5).

A testimony of the LORD will be given continually. Generation upon generation will continue during the realm of peace. It concerns those who enter the realm of peace and all the next generations who will be born. They themselves will not stop declaring His Word and giving testimony of Him. This means that during the realm of peace, the people of Israel will consist only of those who are truly born of God. What a mighty promise. What a rich blessing!

It is to be hoped that this is already the case for us. If God’s Spirit dwells in us and God’s Word dwells richly in us, we will pass on the testimony of the Lord Jesus as our life to our children and grandchildren. It is one of the greatest blessings a believer on earth may know if it is true for himself that life is Christ for him and he sees that this is true for his children and grandchildren as well (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 59". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-59.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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