The story of Israel is skipped through here. Isaiah asks God to please look and see His people. They have sinned but now repent. “Forgive us please!”
Isaiah didn’t see God’s temple burnt personally. He most likely saw it in the spirit and it grieved him as much as it would one day grieve those who actually witnessed it. But the people of Isaiah’s time were not innocent of sin. They were rightly being told to repent. And they were feeling the weight of their sins’ impact on their relationship with God.
In the early verses of our reading, it sounds almost like it would be Gentiles doing the speaking. “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (verse 63:16). My bible helps says that this is actually speaking of the people of Israel who have wandered from the faith of their fathers. That would make them descendants of Abraham in physical lineage only, not spiritual. It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t return spiritually though.
This next part made my eyes pop out! They BLAMED God for their own sin. “O Lord why do YOU make us wander from Your ways and harden our hearts, so that we fear You not?” (verse 63:17). God did NOT make Israel sin. He did NOT give them stubborn or hard hearts. We know He hardened Pharoah’s heart so He could demonstrate His power for His children and all the other nations to see, but that was something totally different. I’m SO glad they didn’t keep this attitude! “Behold, You were angry, and we sinned; in our sin we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (verse 64:5b).
Just prior to this, Isaiah is being the voice of Israel and asking why God doesn’t move like He did in the past. “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things that we did not look for, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence” (verse 64:1-3).
I think this is an attitude today. We read the stories of the might works God did in Israel’s early days. We also read the stories of the miracles of Jesus’ day and we wonder why those things aren’t happening today. No, I haven’t heard of God dividing the sea for anyone lately but that does NOT mean that He isn’t moving. There are still AMAZING healings and miracles for those who seek Him. For those who put themselves in the Potter’s hands. I have no doubt that there are a LOT more miracles taking place today than I have ANY information about.
When God did those grand miracles of old, it was for a purpose. Not only was it to establish His people but to make His name known throughout the region. Today, I doubt there are many who have not at least heard of the name of God. It’s pretty obvious, as they use it when swearing. If they only KNEW the power behind that name! I will occasionally comment; “One of these days He is going to ask you want you want.” To this they ask me what I’m talking about. My response is; “You keep calling His name. What would you do if someone kept calling out your name? You would answer. What will you do when He answers?” THAT I would really LOVE to see! What would their eyes do and how would their heart change?
Israel’s tune changed in our passage too. By the end they were putting themselves back in His hands. After repenting they ask Him to be their God again for NO OTHER will do. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all Your people” (verses 64:8-9). THIS is where I want to be. I want to be His clay every day. The one who looks to Him for restoration and remaking. For healing and forgiveness for the places I walked in.
The last thing Israel asks for is restoration of what was once the place of praise for God. What once was beautiful and carried His name. “Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised You. Has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O Lord? Will you keep silent and afflict us so terribly?” (verses 64:10-12). They want back what was lost; all of it!
Sometimes it takes the old being broken down and stripped away before we are ready to receive what He has for us. As hard as it is to see it broken, HE knows what we need on our journey with Him. NO. He didn’t cause the situation that brought about the fall of the old but what He replaces it with is MUCH better. With Israel it was the Old Covenant of Law exchanged for the New Covenant of Grace. And what He raises up is ALWAYS much better than that which fell.
(Just a side question: Do you think it is possible that the first temple with its grandeur became more important to the people that the God that it was built to serve/represent? Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent Moses made in the wilderness because the people started worshiping it.)
Father God, THANK YOU for knowing exactly what I need! I KNOW You still work in this world because I have seen Your hand MANY times in my life. Please forgive me for EVERY time I tried to forge my own path or look to what You provided instead of You. THANK YOU from taking me from where I was to the place where You have me now. I’m ready for whatever You have next for me Father. YOU are the Potter and I am YOUR clay.