This chapter begins with a short reminder that the problem is not with God; He is not limited in His ability to hear His people and save them. The bulk of this chapter is a rather thorough description of sin with closure provided by getting back to salvation being of the Lord.
Isaiah 59:1 (HCSB) Indeed, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear.
National Israel continued in the walk of Moses, complaining in trials and accusing God of not caring. On several occasions He reminded them of Whose strong arm delivered them from Egypt, the same made all things and rules all things - dried up the sea for Moses and company to walk on. YHWH always hears His people, though we may not be aware - as Daniel wasn't for the 21 days Michael was delayed in getting word to him. The system of Sabbaths was to teach Israel to trust God - He would provide. The message to the women at the tomb, when they didn't see Jesus therein, was to "remember His words." This is our counsel today for the saints as well: trust God, remember His words. Pray to Him and trust nothing else.
Isaiah 59:2-3 (HCSB) But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide ⌊His⌋ face from you so that He does not listen. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers, with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, and your tongues mutter injustice.
The sins of unregenerate people build impassible barriers between them and God, causing Him to turn from and not hear them. He lists their most egregious sins, which characterize people world-wide in every generation: they shed innocent blood, speak lies, and embrace injustice. In our day, those who "shout their abortions," who demand punishment for speaking truth, who declare falsehoods to be truth - all are storing up wrath for that great day of judgment. God is not wooing these reprobates to repent. There may some elect therein that have yet to be called out, but as a group they have built barriers between them and Him and He does not hear them.
Verses 4 - 6 rehearse more of what characterizes these people, being those who speaks worthless words, gives birth to evil, set traps for any and all, yet they cannot hide behind their deeds, worthless and sinful deeds, and their hands are full of violence.
I am amazed whenever I hear someone claim man is basically good and just needs education and good role models. Our technology and other tools have merely given us as a people more ways to speak worthless words and fill our hands with violence, all the while thinking we are unseen - or that it's OK unless we get caught. Man in his natural state is depraved, totally wrecked in every function of his being and unable to do or even want anything good. This part of the chapter is the story of that person.
Isaiah 59:7-8 (HCSB) Their feet run after evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are sinful thoughts; ruin and wretchedness are in their paths. They have not known the path of peace, and there is no justice in their ways. They have made their roads crooked; no one who walks on them will know peace.
People who run after evil, not those who fall into it because they're sleep walking. People whose thoughts are only evil continually leaving ruin in their wakes. Here's the end: these have not known the path of peace, they know not justice. Like the river following the path of least resistance, the man who does so will have a crooked path and none who follow them find peace. This is the reason the promised Messiah came - to bring rest and peace to wretched sinners. None can know peace unless they are given new life and are brought near to Him.
Isaiah 59:9-11 (HCSB) Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We hope for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, but we live in the night. We grope along a wall like the blind; we grope like those without eyes. We stumble at noon as though it were twilight; ⌊we are⌋ like the dead among those who are healthy. We all growl like bears and moan like doves. We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, ⌊but⌋ it is far from us.
Isaiah speaks for Israel - justice and righteousness they know not. They live in the dark and grope like those in Rev 8 when the fourth trumpet sounds and a third of them wandered in the dark as if they were blind. They stumble in broad daylight, seeing not - as dead among the living. This ought to put Eph 2 in your mind, where the saints are described as those who WERE dead in sins but NOW made alive in Christ; we also should think of Romans 14:99ff and be careful to not cause a brother to stumble by our exercise of Christian liberty. These who rage against their Creator are like beasts who hope for what think justice is (overlooking their sins) but they cannot find it. Nor can salvation be found by them - as far as God has turned His face, further still is salvation for those who cannot hear His voice.
Isaiah 59:12-15a (HCSB) For our transgressions have multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us. For our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgression and deception against the LORD, turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering lying words from the heart. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off. For truth has stumbled in the public square, and honesty cannot enter. Truth is missing, and whoever turns from evil is plundered.
The prophet leads them to see how their rebellion has multiplied before God, testifying against them. They have lived and worked AGAINST God, turned from following Him; they sought to oppress others, revolting against YHWH's covenant and lying to all. Just like the politicians who hold the high offices in the US of A these days. Justice is not to be found, not our Congress nor in our "Supreme Court." Truth is missing and honesty is barred from entry. Only those who try to keep themselves from evil are plundered. Our nation looks just like national Israel in this passage. God have mercy on us.
Isaiah 59:15b-20 (HCSB) The LORD saw that there was no justice, and He was offended. He saw that there was no man— He was amazed that there was no one interceding; so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness supported Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak. So He will repay according to ⌊their⌋ deeds: fury to His enemies, retribution to His foes, and He will repay the coastlands. They will fear the name of Yahweh in the west and His glory in the east; for He will come like a rushing stream driven by the wind of the LORD. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Jacob who turn from transgression.” ⌊This is⌋ the LORD’s declaration.
When YHWH looks down on carnal man, He sees no justice, for natural man perverts every good thing God gives him. No man looking out for his neighbor, pleading for justice in place of the corruption that was normal. This is a stench in His nose.
Note the response to all this wickedness: God decides to intervene, using His own arm to bring salvation, His own righteousness as a breastplate with a helmet of salvation on His head. Did you ever see the connection between Eph 6 and Isaiah 59 before? He wore garments of vengeance, reminding me of the scene in Rev 19 with Jesus on a white horse, His eyes like a fiery flame, and He wore a robe stained with blood; and He will trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. Isaiah says He will repay according to their deeds, fury to His enemies - from the islands and coastlands all will fear His name. His glory will spread from east and He will come like a rushing steam driven by YHWH. In the midst of all this judgment and fury against His enemies, God declares "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob (Israel) who turn from their sin." He will gather every one of His chosen ones to Himself, safe on Zion, where His righteousness protects them.
Isaiah 59:21 (HCSB) “As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit who is on you, and My words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouth of your children, or from the mouth of your children’s children, from now on and forever,” says the LORD.
This last verse confirms that the talk of bringing people to Zion speaks of eternal redemption and not merely a return to earthly Jerusalem. YHWH's language here is very reminiscent of what He spoke through Jeremiah: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (HCSB) “Look, the days are coming”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. ⌊This one will⌋ not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the LORD’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”
Isaiah's account covers similar territory: His words would in the mouths of His people and would not depart - which means they would not drift away. This is not like the covenant made with Moses and those people, they wandered off more than they sought reconciliation. Isaiah's account says this constant presence would be with Jacob and his children on to countless generations. Rather than think this describes fleshly relationships as the Jews of Jesus' day rested on, it's far safer and more accurate to think this describes what Paul mentioned, calling Timothy his son in the faith (1 Tim 1:2) and told everyone that those who believe are children of Abraham according to the promise (Gal 3:29; Romans 4:16).
Dear reader, please carefully consider what God spoke here. Sin - yours, mine, everyone's - is hideous and is worthy of God's fiery wrath. Man cannot resolve this problem, it's his nature to continue in this grotesque rebellion against the Creator. God Himself has provided the only answer to this horrible situation - Christ the Son has come to give Himself as a redeemer, to pay the price for the wayward sheep called to come the great Shepherd of their souls. Believe on Him, repent of your sins - recognize they are wicked and you are responsible. Cry out to Jesus, the Redeemer has come to Zion and He calls all His people to come to Him.