Reading through the Bible together
Words from the previous chapter lead us into today’s chapter: “In His love and mercy He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, so He turned and became their enemy and He Himself fought against them” (Isa 63:9,10 NIV).
Could there be words more chilling! Could there be anything more terrible than the silence of God? Without Him the universe becomes a lonely, frightening place. How dreadful for our God to become our enemy and fight against us! No wonder Isaiah cries in chapter 64, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” (v.1)! Do we, like Israel of old, need a Sinai experience of God’s terrible majesty and awesome presence before our stubborn hearts will quake and become humble before Him (v.2)? Are our hearts so hard that God’s “still, small voice” cannot melt them?
No wonder God calls us to “Remember.” Truly, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Ellen White, CET p. 204). Surely Isaiah’s words would tug at the most hardened hearts: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (v.4).
From chapter 63:11 through 64:7 Isaiah casts his eye back over Israel’s history remembering how faithfully God shepherded His people (63:14) and how willingly He helps those who gladly do right and remember His ways (64:5). He remembers, too, how stubborn Israel has been, and feels mortified by the way they’ve treated their kind, patient God.
But there is an interesting turn-about. The prophet suddenly pleads our case. He calls God to “remember!” “Remember Lord,” he says in effect, “we are but vessels of clay (v.8), frail mortals, even our best acts are nothing but ‘filthy rags’” (v.6). Three times he reminds the LORD, “You are our Father (63:16a,b; 64:8), you are the Potter (v.8), your very name from the start is ‘Redeemer’ (63:16).”
Like Moses He pleads with God not to give up on His people, not to hide His face from them (v.7), even if only for the sake of His name and reputation (63:14; 64:10,11).
When we feel distanced from God, we should cry out with Isaiah, “Oh, look upon us, we pray, O LORD, do not remember our sins forever, do not be angry with us and punish us beyond measure” (v.9,12). In answer to our humble cries we will know the truth of God’s promise, “Long before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear” (65:24, Jerusalem Bible). And we will know that He doesn’t need to “rend the heavens and come down” because He is constantly near to each one of us every day.
Partners in Ministry Coordinator
Greater Sydney Conference, Australia