Isaiah 59

Isaiah 59
by Pastor David Groendyk

“God is unlimited in his capacity and readiness to help,” says the ESV Study Bible about verse 1, which is a comforting reminder for anyone who goes on to read the rest of the chapter. As Isaiah has been describing what final salvation looks like for God’s people in this last section of the book, he’s also been showing Israel what their wickedness looks like in order that they may return to God. But rather than focusing on the judgment that comes from sin as in other chapters, this is more of a prayer of repentance, a plea for mercy, and an assurance of salvation. Pay attention to all of the elements of the gospel you see in this chapter.

We are full of sin (vv. 3–13). Isaiah begins this section as a commentary on the nation’s sins, but halfway through he starts including himself as one whose transgressions are multiplied before God’s face. Sin is a universal problem, and God’s people are no exception. Meditate on some of these descriptions of sin and confess yours to God: we deceive, lie, and are dishonest; we scheme and manipulate; we are quick to hate and do violence towards one another; we hate the way of peace; we pervert justice. As opposed to being “religious sins” like in the previous chapter (fasting, keeping the Sabbath, etc.), these are “social sins” wherein we do not treat our fellow man as we ought. And notice not just that we sin like this, but how easily this sin comes to us. These kinds of sin are as natural to us as conceiving and giving birth (v. 4); we are eager to do this sin and run towards it (v. 7).

Why spend so much time describing how awful our sin is? Because we have to recognize the severe consequences of our sins. It displeases the Lord (v. 15), and it separates us from him (v. 2). Sin is a barrier between us and God because God hates evil and injustice. Separation from God means no blessings from him, no access to him in prayer, no eternal life. All of his graciousness is hidden from you, and he doesn’t hear you. Do not think that God will bless you if you continue to live in unrepentant sin. Do you see your own sin as you read through Isaiah 59?

It’s only when you see the utter depravity of yourself that you can see God’s grace in providing salvation. As much as we think we may be good people, we aren’t, and we can never save ourselves (v. 16). God saw that no one could intercede and plead on behalf of his people, and so do you know what he did? He became that intercessor and mediator who could plead on behalf of his people. God himself put on the helmet of salvation and took the responsibility of saving his people. He did so by becoming human and dying on the cross. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5–6), and he ever lives to continue interceding for us before the throne (Rom. 8:34). There is only one Redeemer and Savior for humanity, and it’s Jesus Christ. We cannot ever plead before the throne for ourselves or plead that we were pretty good people. It must be Jesus who pleads for us, and it must be a plea based on what Jesus has already done for us on the cross. He has given us salvation on the cross. And he continues to give us fresh grace every day through the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 21) based solely on the merit of Christ.

Do you believe that it is only Jesus’ work that can save you and give you eternal life, or do you continue to think that you’ll be able to lean on something you’ve done? Do you look to God for fresh grace every day through the Holy Spirit who dwells within you? What “social sin” do you need to repent of today? How do you need fresh grace?