In pre-exilic Judah, there was a spiritual famine in the land. In Pt. 1, we looked at how their worship had become mechanical and self-centered. It was a pitiful sight. Worship and personal devotion had become drudgery and they were not living out what their lips said they believed. The death knell was sounding and on the wind its peal echoed with the distant vibration of approaching enemy hoof beats. Truth was inflight and its surrogate had settled in. God was not pleased. If Isaiah 58 warns of the impending consequence in forgetting God, Isaiah 59 exposes the impossibility of a return.
How did Jesus see mechanical and non-committal worship?
In repudiation of the rigid, merciless, and unloving way the religious leaders carried out their practice of worship and consecrated living, Jesus stated twice in the Gospels, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Matt. 9:13, 12:7). Here is why. In Matt. 9, Jesus was condemned for eating with tax collectors and sinners—the outcasts of Jewish "spiritual" circles—the unclean. In Matt. 12, He is called out for allowing His disciples to pluck heads of grain to quell their hunger on the Sabbath. In both cases, and in God's eyes, mercy had encountered the necessities of life. Despised as he was, the outcast tax collector encounters mercy as one born in the image of God and as equally valued as any other who needs spiritual life. The hungry disciples pit physical sustenance as a qualifier for receiving God's mercy. In both cases, God meets the needs and lifts truth from its fallen state to make it meaningful, loving, refreshing, and sustainable. Instead of the heavy burden of heretical and dry religious interpretation being flung oppressively on the people, Jesus showed that proper faith and proper interpretation would balance holiness with mercy. A beautiful lesson in love and wise judgment. Jesus taught that the law was never meant to overrule mercy and grace.
In the West today, we are also facing a war on truth
Os Guinness, in writing of the death of of Judeo/Christian ethics in the West states the following:
But we can say with an organic certainty, which is as sure as any mathematical certainty, that the growth and the flowers that they [Christianity] once produced will eventually die. Cut-flower civilization? The destruction of a root system and a moral ecology? A civilization without a soul? We could give more sophisticated names to this crisis. We might call it a “legitimation crisis” or a “crisis of cultural authority” in that the beliefs and ideas that once inspired and drove the West have been repudiated and have almost lost their compelling power.1
Sadly, Os is correct. Christianity is waning, but not because all Christians have abandoned truth, but because Christianity is seen as a burden on the hedonistic, liberal, and humanistic religious philosophies of darkness. Truth is still preached and truth is still lived out, but the unbelieving world is not listening. God's truth is being suppressed in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18, 28).
The lesson of Judah (and previously, the Ten Tribes to the north of Judah) is when a nation forgets God and becomes self-serving, placing unrighteous living over what is right for the preservation of civility and society, God abandons that society to its own preservation. In Judah, because truth had lost its persuasiveness, what God desired to give to Judah He could no longer do. Consequently, what would eventually become of these truth slayers was exile. Instead of being a servant of their own pastures they would now serve over the pastures of foreigners. Isa. 59 justifies the Lord in His allowing the future exile of Judah—it shows He means business. Truth had fallen and those responsible for disseminating that truth would fall with it.
Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear —Isaiah 59:1-2
How sad. Hypocrisy, power, narcissism, a lack of love and dozens of other reasons caused Israel to become merciless in their devotion to God. To borrow from Os Guinness, our society today is their "cut-flower" society of old. If the end of Judah, as they knew it, was the captivity of darkness to the external forces of Babylon, what will the end of the West be, but a fall into the exilic captivity of current spiritual forces of darkness. As the snake slithers under the threshold of the church so shall the viper slay the one preparing its pit under the altar.
In a few words, the Lord tells them that He can hear and that He can save, but their iniquities, which include the trampling of truth, morality, ethics, and justice, had raised obstacles to His love. In Noah's day, God gave the world 120 years to repent (Gen. 6:3). After that, His longsuffering mercy was lifted. He had had all He could take (Gen. 6:3, 5, 6). In His wrath all but Noah and his family died in the flood. MacArthur writes of the type of judgment which would befall Judah calling it the "wrath of abandonment." Writing on Romans 1, He states, "God's wrath is already at work in our culture. We're not waiting for it, folks. We're in it. "That's a pretty bold statement, what makes you say that?" Scripture here proves it. Look at verse [Rom. 1:] 24, "Therefore God gave them over." Verse 26, "For this reason, God gave them over." Verse 28, middle of the verse: "God gave them over." Now, in verse 18, he says, "The wrath of God is revealed."2
This is the same type wrath that is hanging over the West.
Below is a simple outline and some commentary on Isa. 59
I. The Lord is able to Hear and Save but Judah's sin impedes it (59:1-2)
II The People are Guilty as Charged (59:3-13)
i. Accusations attested (59:3-4)
ii Descriptions of their Sin and Rebellion (59:5-8)
iii Confessions of Sin and Recognition of Consequence (59:9-15a) - Truth has Fallen - Fled
"In transgressing and lying against the LORD, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice" (Isaiah 59:13-15)
When truth is fully suppressed through apathy toward God and continual rebellion and injustice, the hammer falls.
It is here that Judah (and Israel) lost its independence as a free nation. Soon they would be lamenting their captivity as Psalm 137 indicates:
Psalm 137:1–4 (NKJV)
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?
The outline continues with HOPE!
III. Eschatological Promises (future) (59:15b-21
i. By His Own Arm God would bring Salvation (59:16)
Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV)
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
The inauguration of the New Covenant (Heb. 10:16-17) would begin after Jesus was crucified where He signed the covenant in His blood on the cross. He arose from deaths grip to validate its authority. This covenant was extended to all people, through the church, and is still in effect today. One day soon, the recipients of God's grace, His church, will rise to glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Thereafter, this Covenant will be extended to cover national of Israel during the days prior to Jesus returning to the earth at His second coming, where as Rom. 11:26 states, "All Israel will be saved." (Rom 11:25, 26; Zech. 12:10, 13:9).
Concerning All Israel being saved, Norman Geisler writes:
A consistent, straightforward reading of this passage [...] yields several crucial facts.
- First, the messianic kingdom of Israel had not yet been fulfilled.
- Second, God would restore the kingdom to Israel at a yet future time.
- Third, this will not occur until after Jesus returns.
- Fourth, there is not the slightest hint that any spiritual kingdom had replaced these prophecies.
- Fifth, the Old Testament promises were not just for Israel but also for their literal descendants, whom Peter calls “heirs” of the promises.
- Sixth, and finally, these covenants made by God include an unconditional promise for Israel to inherit forever the Holy Land, from Egypt to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18).3
ii Sin will be Judged and Justice will be Legislated (59:17-18)
Isaiah 59:17–18 (NKJV)
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries,
Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.
From the passage note the uniform of war:
* Breastplate - Righteousness (Pure righteousness when executed is justice in action - Rev. 19:11)
* Helmet - Salvation originates from the top down. Pictures complete readiness. No one goes to physical war without his helmet and neither can spiritual battle be fought without first enlisting on the side of righteousness (Messiah- Jesus).
* Garments - The uniform of vengeance - Identifies Jesus coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to "tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" against all oppression and iniquity (Rev. 19:15-16)
* Zeal - Cloaked and covered in a love for truth and justice - This pictures the fervent desire of a true believer and is modeled by Jesus. With zeal for justice the earth will be judged for its sinfulness which resulted in: 1) apathy toward truth and justice 2) harm to their fellow man
|A View of Mt. Zion from the Hill of Offense4|
Isaiah 59:20–21 (NKJV)
20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the Lord.
21 “As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”
The Redeemer is the Lord Jesus. In the Days before He sets up His kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:1-6) He will come to Zion (Jerusalem - Zech 14:4-5) - Those who turn from transgression in Israel (Jacob) will worship Him. Israel will finally, as a nation, come into the bond of the New Covenant accepting Jesus as the Messiah (see below).
Ezekiel 20:33–37 (NKJV)
God Will Restore Israel
33 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord God.
37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;
This has been a rather long entry. But it is a post that is needed. In America and the West today, truth has fallen. Injustice is on the throne. Secular humanism, naturalism, and hedonism have played their cards. The politicians fear their constituents and few are standing for the absolute truths of the Bible. Christianity and Judaism are both tolerated and hated. America was founded upon biblical principles and as a Christian nation but she is no more. She has been properly labeled as "Post- Christian" by most and the sexual revolution has won the hearts of America's majority.
A recent Lifeway poll shows the following disastrous results, proving America has lost its moral compass:5
So where do we go from Here? Judah, when faced with the same indictments as a nation, was exiled. Is that where we are headed next? Will we be abandoned by God? Is His wrath on the horizon.
Luke 21:29–36 (NKJV) - Parable of the Fig Tree
29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
Warning to Watch for His Coming
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The Day Truth is taken Captive Pt. 1
1 - Guinness, Os. Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization (Kindle Locations 406-411). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
2 - MacArthur, John, The Reality of God's Wrath, https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-184/The-Reality-of-Gods-Wrath (accessed 07/19/2016)
3 - Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 489.
4 - Photo courtesy - Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2201.
5 - Green, Lisa Cannon, Changing genders isn't morally wrong, Americans say, http://www.bpnews.net/47223/changing-genders-isnt-morally-wrong-americans-say (Accessed July 19, 2016)