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Isaiah 64:1 Oh that You would tear the heavens, that You would come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence- This chapter appears to be the continued request of some amongst God's people for Yahweh to no longer restrain Himself in (Is. 63:15). But that restraint had been because of their sins. There does indeed follow a confession of sin, but the plea seems to more be for immediate Divine salvation than for forgiveness. The mountains quaked at the exodus, and the prayer is that God would act again as He had acted then (as in Is. 63:15). But Is. 63:9-14 have stated that God indeed would act like that; the entire prophecy of God's intended restoration of His people is shot through with allusion to the wilderness journey and exodus from Egypt. He was willing and eager to do this. It was Israel's impenitence which precluded it.

Isaiah 64:2 As when fire kindles the brushwood-
Perhaps a reference to the burning bush. The plea was for God to act as He had done at the exodus from Egypt. 

And the fire causes the waters to boil- The idea may be as GNB "they would tremble like water boiling over a hot fire".

To make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!- This trembling of the nations was to happen at the fall of Babylon and her confederacy (s.w. Is. 14:9), when Jerusalem would be restored (Jer. 33:9). But the attitude of the exiles precluded these things from happening. It is one thing to pray for things, but another to live in the spirit of them and act as if we do indeed really want them; see on Am. 5:18. Likewise it was one thing to pray that Yahweh's Name be known to His enemies; but it was quite another for them to make known His Name to them, as they were intended to (Is. 12:4 s.w.). 

Isaiah 64:3 When You did awesome things which we didn’t look for, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence-
Again the plea is for God to act as He had done at the exodus; the great salvation then had been performed by grace, it was not what they had looked for. And so they ask for God to do the same; but as explained on :1, Isaiah's entire prophecy of God's intended restoration of His people is shot through with allusion to the wilderness journey and exodus from Egypt. He was willing and eager to do this. It was Israel's impenitence which precluded it.


Isaiah 64:4 For from of old men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides You, what God has prepared for him who waits for Him- The idea is that the restoration and entry into the reestablished Kingdom was going to be the most wonderful of all God's saving acts seen throughout history; and no god besides Yahweh could achieve this. But this is quoted in 1 Cor. 2:9 as if it means that God alone appreciates the wonder of what He is going to do: “Men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, besides you, what He has prepared for him that waits for him”. Paul continues in 1 Cor. 2:9,10: “It is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit”. The passage in Is. 64 says that no one except God can understand the things He has prepared for the believers. However 1 Cor. 2:10 says that those things have been revealed to us. We can accept His Spirit, His mind, and perceive things from His perspective.


Isaiah 64:5 You meet him who rejoices and works righteousness- God is in search of man, and man is in search of God. "Meet" is the same word translated 'intercede'; that meeting is due to the intercession of the Lord Jesus (Is. 53:6,12; 59:16). Their 'meeting' is now in this life; and the heavens are electric with joy therefore when the lost sheep is found. All the Angels of heaven rejoice... when the Father meets the prodigal son. The Father (manifest in the Lord) runs out to meet the son. That story was masterfully tied back in to Is. 64:5-8: " Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways...we have sinned...we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...but now, O Lord, thou art our father". The patient, hopeful father saw in the son a boy rejoicing and working righteousness; but this was hardly how he felt! And so it will be with Israel in the last days. And so it is with each of us now, in our times of repentance. That surpassing grace is ours; we are seen as working righteousness when all we have is a bitter self-loathing and desire to somehow get back to God.

Those who remember You in Your ways- The faithful Israelite was to remember the ways in which they were led through the wilderness to the promised land (s.w. Dt. 8:2; 24:9; 25:17). They were to perceive the hand of God in their personal history, leading them to meeting with Him. But the exiles chose their own ways and not His (Is. 66:3 s.w.).

Behold, You were angry, and we sinned. We have been in sin for a long time; and shall we be saved?- AV "we shall be saved". In this case we would have a confident expression of faith in salvation despite recognizing that they had always sinned against Him ["for a long time" = olahm, eternally]. It could be that Is. 65:8-16; Is. 66:5 etc. speak of a minority of Jews who trembled at the word of prophecy and were Yahweh’s servants, who had been disfellowshipped by the leaders of the Jewish community in Babylon. The majority of the captives insisted, according to Ez. 18, that they hadn’t sinned, and they were suffering unjustly because of the sins of their fathers; whereas this righteous remnant in Babylon admitted that “we have sinned. Equally with them of old time have we transgressed” (Is. 64:5). They took the message of Ezekiel to heart- unlike the majority. And thus this was the sad end of the great plan developed by the God of all grace for His people in Babylon. They rejected it, and hated His servants who brought that good news to them.

Isaiah 64:6 For we have all become as one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is as a polluted garment: and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away-
We feel inadequate as employees, students, parents, partners... fearing we won't make the grade. And we tend to feel the same way before our God too. But in Christ, clothed with His righteousness, we need not feel like this. Indeed, we should not. We have tended to misquote a number of Bible verses to justify our feeling that we can never please God- e.g. Is. 64:6 "All our righteousness are as filthy rags". Yet the context is clearly of a repentance from sin, recognizing that despite all their external good works, Israel were ritually unclean before God. We can and do please God! The wonder of this should never cease to impress us. J.R.R. Tolkien truly observed: " ...the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis: ...We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendour".  This admission of national sin must be contrasted with :5 AV "we shall be saved"- despite all this.

Isaiah 64:7 There is none who calls on Your name, who stirs up himself to take hold of You-
This is a recognition that the restored exiles had not allowed themselves to be stirred up as intended. God 'stirred up' the spirit of Cyrus and also of the Jews who returned (Ezra 1:1,5). Isaiah uses the same Hebrew term to describe how Israel's saviour would be "raised up" [s.w.]- Is. 41:2,25; 45:13. And yet Isaiah pleads with Zion, i.e. the faithful, to indeed be stirred up- Is. 51:17; 52:1 appeals to Zion to "Awake!"- the same word translated "stirred up". But Isaiah tragically concluded that there were so few who would 'stir up themselves'. God had given them the potential to be 'stirred up' in their hearts and minds to leave Babylon and return- but they wouldn't respond. And today, the same happens. God is willing to change hearts, to stir up materialistic and complacent spirits- but because we're not robots, we have to respond. And yet, God's grace still shines through.

Yahweh would "stir up" Cyrus (s.w. Is. 41:2,25; 45:13), so this could have been fulfilled through that stirred up "mighty man" of Is. 42:13. But he failed. The "mighty man", the gibbor, therefore became reapplied to the Lord Jesus (Is. 9:6 s.w.). But He will act through the stirring up of a repentant Judah (s.w. Is. 51:9,17; 52:1), seeing that no man would be 'stirred up' (s.w. Is. 64:7). All the potential candidates had refused the Divine nudges to be stirred up. There was apparently not a single one in the community who would 'hold fast' the offered new covenant (s.w. "who holds it fast" in Is. 56:2,4,6); apart from the Messianic "son of man" (see on Is. 56:2).


For You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us by means of our iniquities- Is. 30:20 describes the reestablished Kingdom as a time when Judah's repentant eyes would "see" the God who had taught them through the sufferings of defeat and exile (see note there). Their eyes would no longer be blinded, they would see and perceive the 'hidden' God who had tried to teach them through all their afflictions. Meaning will finally be attached to event, and the problem of evil resolved finally. God had as it were 'hidden' Himself during the exile (Is. 45:15; Mic. 3:4); but now He would be revealed to them. Just as Cain was exiled to the east of Eden (which I have suggested was the eretz promised to Abraham) and been hidden from God's eyes in his exile (Gen. 4:14; Dt. 31:17,18; 32:20 s.w.), so with Judah. The hidden things belong to God and only some are now revealed to us, but in the day of exile's end, all those things, the meaning attached to the events, will at last be revealed (Dt. 29:29 s.w.). Then there will be no need for Jeremiah's Lamentations and struggles about the exile, all developed in the story of the suffering Job, who felt God hidden from him (s.w. Job 3:23; 13:24) just as God was to hide His face from Zion at the time of the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 33:5) and exile (Ez. 39:23,24). Therefore all human attempts to see the hidden God were doomed to failure, as Job was finally taught (Job 34:29 s.w.). But the glorious truth of Is. 30:20 is that finally, the Divine teacher will not be hidden any more and our eyes shall see Him and His ways, as Job did at the end (Job 42:5). And yet Isaiah and his family / school of prophets did look or see the hand of the God who was hiding Himself from Judah (s.w. Is. 8:17). At the restoration, there was to be no need for Judah to feel that their way was "hid from Yahweh" (Is. 40:27 s.w.) any more, as it had been during the exile "for a little moment" when God hid His face (Is. 54:8). Their eyes would see / perceive. But tragically, the exiles didn't; God reflected that "I hid me... and he went on proudly in the way of his heart" (Is. 57:17). Their sins continued to hide His face from them (Is. 59:2; 64:7).

Isaiah 64:8 But now, Yahweh, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and we all are the work of Your hand-
Several passages in Isaiah such as this in :8-12 record model prayers for Zion’s restoration. But the prayers dried up after the return; Isaiah’s exhortation was ignored. The returnees did keep silence, and therefore Zion was not established as a praise in the earth. The plea was for Yahweh to continue working with them, rather than casting them away as clay which refused to be malleable in His hands.

We note that ‘God the Father’ is the only God. It is therefore impossible that there can be a separate being called ‘God the Son’, as the false doctrine of the trinity states. The Old Testament likewise portrays Yahweh, the one God, as the Father (e.g. Is. 63:16; 64:8). As there is only one God, it is impossible that Jesus could be God; if the Father is God and Jesus is also God, then there are two Gods. “But to us there is but one God, the Father” (1 Cor. 8:6).

Isaiah 64:9 Don’t be furious, Yahweh, neither remember iniquity forever: see, look, we beg You, we are all Your people-
As noted on :1, this is asking Yahweh to do what He had Himself multiple times promised to do- to not remember sin forever, and to look on His people with pity rather than grace. But He would no longer remember iniquity if they accepted the new covenant (s.w. Jer. 31:34). And thus man is brought to God- desiring and praying for the very things which we then realize He has been earnestly offering us all the time. As the Yiddish couplet says, "And going out to meet Him, I met Him coming towards me".

Isaiah 64:10 Your holy cities are become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation-
Isaiah's later prophecies are in response to the judgment of Is. 39, that Judah were to go into captivity in Babylon and Jerusalem be desolated. This is therefore as it were a pro forma prayer for the captives- which it seems they did not pray, or prayed simply from the secular point of view of lamenting the loss of what were the icons of their culture and self-identity, rather than being the prayer of repentance.

Isaiah 64:11 Our holy and our beautiful house where our fathers praised You is burnt with fire; and all our pleasant places are laid waste-
We could comment that they parallel "Your cities" with "our house... places", as if recognizing that what is Yahweh's is theirs. Or we could more negatively respond that it was God’s house, not theirs. They only mourned for the loss of it insofar as it was a reflection of what they revelled in anyway, as an expression of themselves, rather than a means of worshipping God. And their fathers not only praised Yahweh there but offered idol sacrifice there, as Ezekiel demonstrates.

Isaiah 64:12 Will You refrain Yourself for these things, Yahweh?- God had earlier accepted that throughout the captivity He had been "restrained toward" Israel, but now He would be restrained no longer (s.w. Is. 42:14). But He did so because of the prayer of the faithful not to restrain Himself longer (Is. 63:15; 64:12). The tragedy is that His unrestrained desire to save and redeem the exiles was still refused by them; and perhaps there were few who really begged Him to no longer restrain Himself. For they were quite happy with their prosperous lives in Babylon and Persia. And so the events of the last days will elicit this more intense prayer, and Yahweh will finally act unrestrainedly in this earth.

The statement that God will not "rest" for Zion's sake (Is. 62:1) must be understood in the context of the faithful at that time urging God not to "be still" [same Hebrew word translated "rest"] for His people (Ps. 83:1; Is. 64:12). This is an allusion to Boaz not being at rest until he had redeemed Ruth and Naomi; see on Is. 49:26. God is not at rest, He is not distant from us; and yet His people in Babylon felt that He was. It's no wonder that we are tempted to feel the same. Yet we must give Is. 62:1 it's full weight- God is answering the complaint of His people by stating that no, He will never rest for them. In this same context we read that He that keeps Israel will "neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:4). Much of the later chapters of Isaiah speaks of the faithful remnant in Babylon. The prayers and thoughts of that faithful minority often surface- this and Is. 62:1 is an example. Thus they fulfilled the prophecy that Zion’s watchmen would give God no rest (Is. 62:6,7). But overall, the poor response of Judah seems to have led God to abandon the plan for the gloriously rebuilt Messianic temple. The plan of saving His people and reestablishing His Kingdom was reinterpreted, delayed and reapplied.

Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?- Afflicted" is the word used in Is. 63:18 of the Babylonian "adversaries" who destroyed Jerusalem. Whilst this was an act of Divine judgment, God still felt for His people all through it. Jeremiah's laments in Lamentations that God had somehow switched off from feeling for His people were therefore simply stating things as they seemed to him at the time. For in reality, in their affliction He was afflicted (Is. 63:9). Here again we see their confession of sin tinged by misunderstanding and a lingering sense of injustice on God's part.