Isaiah 65:1-25 God answers the cry of His servants


In chapter 64 it seems that God is very far away, on the other side of a vast chasm (see 64:1). The silence of God is a terrible thing. But the truth is that God is not far away, and never has been. All through Israel’s history, even when they were too far gone in apostasy, or just sheer hopelessness, to seek Him, God has always been seeking them. If He had held back, it was only to spare them the full venting of the wrath they so richly deserved. But God never ceased to reveal Himself to them. Generation after generation He had sent His prophets to speak to them in His name, saying “here I am, here am I (v. 1). But they had obstinately chosen their own ways rather than His and had sunk deeper and deeper into pagan superstition and uncleanness (vv. 2-4), foolishly regarding them superior to the wholesome, simple trust in the Lord which should have marked them as His children (v. 5). If there was a chasm between God and them, it was of their own making not His.

There were however, those who did dare to pray – and went on praying – for the coming of God’s kingdom: not just Isaiah himself, but many who have followed in his steps. They are the focus of attention in the second part of the chapter (vv. 8-25). They are God’s servants (v. 9), people who seek Him (v. 10), His chosen ones (v. 22), and a people blessed by the Lord (v. 23). They are the faithful remnant, the prayer warriors who have stayed at their post through the long dark watches of salvation history, never abandoning their trust in God or their confidence that His promises would be fulfilled. The good news of this chapter is that the new world for which they have waited so long will surely come; God will bring it to pass for their sake (v. 8) and gather them into it (v. 9).

The contours of that new world open up here in ever-widening circles (vv. 9-10, 17-18). There is something much more here than the mere realization of a utopian dream, a glorified Israel that would be the wonder and envy of the world again, as in the days of Solomon. It is a whole new order of things in which all political structures are transcended. It will be so new that the past will be forgotten entirely (v. 17). The Promised Land will no longer be Canaan of Israel but the whole earth. As we saw in chapter 62, the New Jerusalem will be so different from the old that it will require a new name. The servants of God will be all who have found mercy and free pardon through the work of the perfect Servant; they will be all of God’s faithful people in every age. The chapter ends with an unmistakable allusion to the final undoing of the work of the serpent who brought sin and death into the world in the first place (v. 25). The new world will be history perfected and paradise regained, and it will be full of the modest and simple delights that God always intended us to have: joy (v. 18, fullness of life (v. 20), security (vv. 21-23a), and rewarding work (v. 22b), fellowship with God (vv. 23b-24), and peace (v. 25).

Isaiah’s vision is breathtaking in its scope: new heavens and a new earth. But for all that, he is not a universalist. He does not believe that all will be saved. From verse 8 onwards the contrast between those who are God’s servants and those who are not is drawn ever more starkly. There are those who seek Him and those who do not (vv. 10-11), and their destinies are as different as light and darkness (vv. 13-15). There are the saved and the lost in this chapter, there is heaven and hell. And again we note that the demarcation line is not ethnic or political, but personal and confessional. This chapter speaks of the final and irrevocable separation that will be made on the last day between them and God’s servants. But before then, the choice that the people have made becomes clear from the way they live. God calls, but they do not answer, He speaks, but they do not listen (v. 12). They forsake their Maker and choose fortune and destiny (v. 11), and reap anguish and brokenness (v. 14). Hell, in the end, is God simply giving us what we have chosen. Isaiah is quite clear about this. To be servants of God or not is a personal decision that none of us can avoid, and the consequences are eternal. There will be a new world, but God will not force us into it. The choice is ours!

Isaiah 65:1-25 Reflection Questions:

How is your personal relationship with Jesus doing?

Do you see the Old Testament and the New Testament coming together here?

Are you one of God’s servants and prayer warriors?

Isaiah 63:7-64:12 Intercessory Prayer


There have been plenty of incentives for intercession since the beginning of chapter 62, not least the promise of decisive intervention by God in the vision we have just been considering. But so far, intercession has been talked about rather than actually done. Now, however, we move from declarations of intent and exhortation to prayer itself. And what a prayer! There are many fine intercessory prayers in Scripture, the greatest of all, of course, is our Lord’s high-priestly prayer (see John 17) in which He interceded for us all. The present prayer is less well known, but has the same stamp of greatness on it.

The voice we hear in 63:7 is Isaiah himself. He stands in the prophetic tradition of intercessory prayer which goes right back to Moses. And like Jesus he prays with prophetic vision, not just for himself and his own generation, but for future generations as well. Intercession glorifies God because it is an expression of utter dependence upon Him. It recognizes that we need to be delivered as much from ourselves as from our enemies, and that deliverance of this radical kind can be found only in God. It is His gift, not our achievement.

The prayer begins as all prayer should, with an acknowledgment of the sheer goodness of God (63:7-9). Isaiah recalls the days of old, the acts of God that called Israel into existence, and sees that they were marked by grace from the beginning to end. God felt their distress, saved them from the perils of the way, lifted them up and carried them when they were weak, and rightly expected that they would return His love by being true to Him. But sadly it was not so. They rebelled against Him, and grieved His Holy Spirit (v. 10a). So in order to preserve His holiness, the Father had to become an Enemy and judge those He loved (v. 10b). The days of old were days of immense grace on the Lord’s part, and immense ingratitude on the part of His people.

The second part of the prayer (63:11-14) is about how “recalling the days of old” has been central to the relationship between God and His people from generation to generation. The memory of former things has brought assurance of God’s power and faithfulness, but also of their own deeply ingrained sinfulness, and has raised painful uncertainties in their minds. True prayer, however, must rise above such thoughts. It is not enough to look back or look within. The intercessor must look up, for all true intercession is founded on the conviction that, however we feel, God is sovereign, and deliverance can be found in Him alone. That truth had been embedded deeply in Isaiah’s soul by the vision of God that had inaugurated his ministry. Now it injects fresh confidence into his praying. He lifts his eyes to the God whose throne is lofty…holy and glorious (63:15), and calls on Him to intervene (64:1).

Isaiah has become so identified with those for whom he prays that, as far as his language is concerned, there is no difference between him and them. Their Father is his Father, their sins are his sins, and so are their doubts and perplexities and hard questions. By his praying he brings them to the Father when they are too weak or proud to come themselves. He acts as a true intercessor. It is likely that later generations of Israelites used this very prayer to lament the destruction of the temple and seek God’s forgiveness. If so, it did double duty; it lived on after Isaiah himself had died, and became the prayer of the very ones for whom he had interceded. It gave them voice in one of the darkest moments of their history.

Isaiah 63:7-64:12 Reflection Questions:

What are some other intercessory prayers found in Scripture?

Do you see yourself like Isaiah, as a true intercessor?

Where do you look when you pray?

Isaiah 63:1-6 The Day of Vengeance


This terrible scene bursts upon us almost with the suddenness of the Day of Judgment itself. Yet, it is exactly what we should be expecting at this point, for it is simply the obverse side of the reality that the previous chapter directed us towards – the final coming of God’s kingdom. Nor have the previous chapters failed to warn us that this would have a dark side to it. This chapter repeats, with greater intensity, the substance of 59:15b-20: it is Isaiah’s description of the “day of vengeance of our God” whose arrival was anticipated in 61:2.

In common usage, vengeance is a word which has connotations of deliberately harbored malice and personal vindictiveness. It is the opposite of love. And yet the Bible insists that there is a proper time and place for vengeance, for without it a host of evils would never be righted and there would be no moral government in the universe. It is the final calling to account of those who have oppressed others and apparently got away with it. Vengeance is punishment, but punishment with a particularly sharp edge. The wrongdoer is confronted in a very personal way with the wrong he has done and is made to pay for it. In vengeance the tables are finally turned.

Here in Isaiah a lone avenger comes from Edom. His garments are splendid, but they are also dreadful, covered in crimson stains. Isaiah wonders who he is, and what terrible work he has been doing. The questions are natural ones and are answered almost before they have left Isaiah’s lips. The avenger is God Himself, and the stains on His garments are blood. He has trodden the nations in the winepress of His wrath. But there is another, even more pressing question which is implicit in the other two. Not just “Who?” and “What?” but “Why?” And this question brings us to the very heart of the passage, for the answer is given in terms of God’s special relationship with His people. The key is in verse 4. The day of vengeance is the year of His “redeemed” (His people), and He has long had this day in His heart (in His plans and purposes) precisely because of His deep commitment to them. Saul of Tarsus was later to learn that the Lord and His people are one; he could not persecute the one without clashing with the other. This passage teaches that people everywhere are destined, one day, to learn the same lesson. The judgment in view is final and universal (v. 6), but the reference to Edom in particular gives the passage a special emphasis (v. 1). It is the nations as persecutors of His people which will be the special objects of God’s fury on the final day. They will meet God as the powerful avenger of His people.

God’s people are the special objects of the world’s hatred, and it may often seem to us that those who reject the Lord mock us with complete impunity and that there is no redress available to us. But it is not so! This passage assures us that nothing we suffer goes unnoticed, and that every wrong done to us will be repaid in full. It answers our cry for just redress, but takes the responsibility for achieving it out of our hands and places it where it properly belongs. The Lord Himself is our Avenger.

Isaiah 63:1-6 Reflection Questions:

Why should we leave vengeance to God?

What should you do when you want to take revenge yourself?

What does Jesus say about this subject?

Where in the gospels does Saul of Tarsus learn his valuable lesson?

Isaiah 62:1-12 Bold Intercession


This chapter picks up from where the previous one ended. If righteousness and praise are to spring up before all nations, the question is how and where? The answer has already been given in previous chapters, but now it is taken up again with fresh vigor. It is from Zion that righteousness will shine out like the dawn, and salvation like a blazing torch, and all nations will see it (vv. 1-2). Zion was profoundly important to Isaiah, not just because he was a patriot, but because he was acutely aware of its strategic significance in God’s purposes. He could not keep silent about it (v. 1a). The future of Zion in God’s plans was the theme of his preaching, and when preaching became impossible it became the theme of his prayers (vv. 6-7). In chapter 61 he thanked God for clothing himself in salvation; now he affirms again that God will do the same for Zion. Isaiah’s own words (vv. 1-5) merge into those of the Lord (vv. 6-12). The prophet and his Lord are completely at one; their hearts are fired by the same vision. In the similar way the historical Zion (Jerusalem) opens out into the city of God of the last days, the kingdom of God comes to earth. There is continuity; the new will emerge from the old. But there is also discontinuity. The new will be so different from the old that it will require, and be given a new name (vv. 2b-5, 12).

At times the description of Zion in this chapter is very concrete – its name, its land, its walls. In other places it’s more abstract: glory, salvation, righteousness. But in a sense the last verse of the chapter is the key to it all. The real glory of Zion will be its inhabitants: the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord (v. 12), gathered in from the nations as well as from Israel (v. 10). The chapter as a whole is much more about God’s delight in His people than about bricks and mortar. Cities, land, walls, people, glory, are all aspects of one dazzling reality: God with His people and they with Him forever. Descriptions of Zion in a passage like this are, at their deepest level, descriptions of the people of God in their final, glorified state.

Verses 1-5 rise to the climax of 5b: your God will rejoice over you. It is an impressive reminder of how significant God’s people are to Him. His interest in them is not casual, but focused, determined, and full of love. They are destined for glory (v. 2), to be held aloft as a trophy in the Lord’s hand (v. 3), and to be married to Him as His bride forever (vv. 4-5).

The reference in verse 5 to God rejoicing prepares the way for the switch to God as speaker in verse 6. He has a word of encouragement for all those who, like Isaiah, give themselves no rest but call on the Lord unceasingly to bring His plans for Zion to fruition. They are like watchmen whom God has set on Jerusalem’s walls. He is the one who has raised them up as intercessors, and therefore they are licensed to be bold. They are to give the Lord Himself no rest until His promise is fulfilled. The Lord is not offended by such bold intercession; it is precisely the kind of praying that He desires and commands. But there is a fine line, as we all know, between boldness and presumption. Boldness of the kind we are talking about here is justified only where prayer is based directly on the revealed will of God. That is why the encouragement to be bold in verses 6 and 7 is followed immediately by a divine oath and a divine proclamation, in which the Lord’s purposes are reaffirmed in the strongest possible terms.

The oath (vv. 8-9) concerns God’s determination to bring His people finally to a position where they will no longer be preyed upon and exploited by their enemies. Instead, they will have a rich reward for their toil, eating and drinking in God’s presence and praising Him for His goodness, because there is no-one greater than Himself to swear by, the Lord swears by His own right hand and …mighty arm. His own invincible power is the guarantee that His oath will be fulfilled.

The proclamation (vv. 10-12) is in effect an announcement that the time has come for the final great pilgrimage to Zion to begin. The promise of a Savior is about to be fulfilled (v. 11), so those still in captivity in Babylon are set out quickly as a vanguard to the multitudes who follow, both Jews and Gentiles (v. 10). The future city of God will be a far cry indeed from desolate, ruined Jerusalem of the sixth century BC. It will be full of holy, redeemed people, the joy of the whole earth (v. 12).

Rightly understood, there is tremendous encouragement in this passage for us in our own praying, for so much of what Isaiah confidently expected is now happening. We live in the last great era of history. The promised Savior has come to Zion, a banner has been raised for the nations by the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, and the final great pilgrimage has begun. If Isaiah had good reason to pray boldly for the fulfillment of God’s promises concerning Zion, how much more do we! “Father, may your kingdom come, may your will be done!” Amen!

Isaiah 62:1-12 Reflection Questions:

With piety, study and action, are you completely at one with Jesus?

Are you fired up by the gospel? What are you doing to share it?

What does this study on this chapter say to you about God’s character?

Do you really understand how much God loves you? Don’t forget it, because that’s exactly what the enemy, the world, and the flesh wants you to think…you’re not good enough, too sinful, you don’t deserve it, etc.