This chapter has very descriptive pictures of Christ Jesus as the judge of creation Who metes out punishment. Once more, we cannot keep from seeing John Apocalypse in our minds as we read Isaiah's words. The first part of this chapter has Isaiah asking questions of Christ, getting answers that reveal it is He.
Isaiah 63:1 (HCSB) Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah— this One who is splendid in His apparel, rising up proudly in His great might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save.
In chapter 34 we read of YHWH's judgment on Edom (verses 4 & 5 speak of the sword used therein) as well as in Ezekiel 24:12-14. When this One comes from Edom in crimson-stained garments, this judgment is in view. Amos 1 tells of the judgment that fell on Bozrah (verses 11 &12). In Rev 19:13 we read, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." None but Christ Jesus is this warrior, in garments that are splendid, representing the righteous judgement of the One Who created all things. No man other than Christ can be proud of His accomplishments and His might, because only His works are free from sin.
So when Isaiah asks, "Who is this?" Jesus answers, "It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save." In the New Covenant passages we read, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:5); "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:4); and "This ⌊Jesus⌋ is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:11-12). He is the answer to the only question that really matters: how can mortal man be reconciled to eternal God?
Isaiah 63:2-4 (HCSB) Why are Your clothes red, and Your garments like one who treads a winepress? I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of My redemption came.
Isaiah can't seem to comprehend why the conquering One has red-stained clothes; white is the color of victory. Jesus' answer echoes again from what was later written (Rev 19:13-15): "He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty." His robe is red because He has trampled the winepress of God's fierce anger. Note that His armies wear white. This trampling of the winepress is spoken of in Lamentations 1:15; Malachi 4:3; and Revelation 14, where we read (verse 20), "the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles." As when the number of goats and bulls that the Levitical religion required to be sacrificed each year was astounding, so is the residue of the wicked on that great and terrible day when the Lord of Glory has His vengeance. This is what the rest of the answer in our passage reveals. The garments of Christ Jesus are stained by the blood of those who would not repent, could not believe. And their doom was sealed long ago as His day of vengeance was planned - as was the time of His redemption of His people. This we read in the jubilee chapter, 61 and verse 2: He came "to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn."
Isaiah 63:5-6 (HCSB) I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me, and My wrath assisted Me. I crushed nations in My anger; I made them drunk with My wrath and poured out their blood on the ground.
The victor, the judge of all flesh laments that no one came to help Him - this was amazing! I think was written for our benefit - as we can be of no help to Christ in our redemption, so we can be of no help to Him as He metes out judgment. What's amazing is that we would think we are worthy to participate in either! All of His help came from Himself, just as the Father and Spirit helped Him in His earthly ministry. He crushed the nations in anger, made them drunk with His wrath, and He poured out their blood on the ground. Recall the astounding volume of blood that flowed from His winepress. There is no hope at this point for anyone who has not found a refuge in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 63:7-9 (HCSB) I will make known the LORD’s faithful love ⌊and⌋ the LORD’s praiseworthy acts, because of all the LORD has done for us— even the many good things ⌊He has done⌋ for the house of Israel and has done for them based on His compassion and the abundance of His faithful love. He said, “They are indeed My people, children who will not be disloyal,” and He became their Savior. In all their suffering, He suffered, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. He redeemed them because of His love and compassion; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of the past.
The prophet responds to His Lord. He will declare the faithful love and powerful acts that YHWH has done for them - his kinsmen of the flesh. A detailed review of how the Lord God had been compassionate to national Israel is found in several places, including Psalms 78:11-72 and 105:5-45. It was not due to their status as a nation or their moral character that God had compassion on them. His compassion on them was due entirely to His covenant to keep them as a unique people to Himself - until the appointed time, when the promised seed would come. In our passage here, the language of YHWH as Savior points us to the New Covenant, wherein He saved us according to the covenant He cut, not because of our status as a people apart from Him or any goodness He saw in us. We are redeemed because of His love - read Ephesians 1:3-10 and 2:4-7 to see the eternal nature of the love God has poured out upon His elect people. We are lifted up and carried by the One Who cannot fail!
Isaiah 63:10-14 (HCSB) But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He became their enemy ⌊and⌋ fought against them. Then He remembered the days of the past, ⌊the days⌋ of Moses ⌊and⌋ his people. Where is He who brought them out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit among the flock? He sent His glorious arm to be at Moses’ right hand, divided the waters before them to obtain eternal fame for Himself, and led them through the depths like a horse in the wilderness, so that they did not stumble. Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. You led Your people this way to make a glorious name for Yourself.
We switch back to the covenant people led by Moses. Even in that covenant, rebellion against God grieved the Holy Spirit, for He is always attending to the people of God. Here is one difference between the old and new covenants: Rebellion against God by those in the New Covenant do not become enemies of God; He does not fight against us but for us. Rebellion against God by those in the Mosaic Covenant became enemies of God, against whom He fought. For a time. For then He thought about the covenant He made with them, as we read in Exodus 32:11-13 and Lev 26:40-45.
In our passage, we read of YHWH's glorious triumph over the Egyptians, with several word pictures to show His kindness towards them, giving them rest from their enemies on every side (Josh 21:44). All of this was done by God for the sake of His glorious name. Not for our sake did He sacrifice Himself for us, but for the sake of the Father's name.
Isaiah 63:15-19 (HCSB) Look down from heaven and see from Your lofty home—holy and beautiful. Where is Your zeal and Your might? Your yearning and Your compassion are withheld from me. Yet You are our Father, even though Abraham does not know us and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Yahweh, are our Father; from ancient times, Your name is our Redeemer. Why, Yahweh, do You make us stray from Your ways? You harden our hearts so we do not fear You. Return, because of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. Your holy people had a possession for a little while, ⌊but⌋ our enemies have trampled down Your sanctuary. We have become like those You never ruled over, like those not called by Your name.
This passage begins a prayer of lament by ethnic Israel which stretches through chapter 64. It begins with a petition for God to look down from heaven and see them, wanting pity and compassion (see Deut 26:15; Psalms 33:14; and 102:19). They realized His habitation was holy and beautiful; they yearned to see His zeal and might in defending and lifting them up. Their appeal is partially based on Psalms 25:6 - "Remember, LORD, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they ⌊have existed⌋ from antiquity." His Word is the surest guide to what pleases Him; our emotions are not, our circumstances are not.
Notice in this passage that everything is of and from God - 17 times "You" and "Your" is used, reflecting the basis of the appeal is YHWH: His character, His might, His name. As God hardened Pharaoh's heart when he rebelled, so He has done so with national Israel when they rebelled. They realize this and know He must act if they are to repent and enjoy His compassion again. Without His active, positive engagement with them, Israel knows they will cease being His possession - trampled down and no different from those who were not His people, those not called by His name.
Saints - we have much in common with these souls that were in national Israel so long ago. If God pulled back from holding us up, we would fall. If we live in and enjoy our sin, He will harden our hearts. There is a line that cannot be crossed: those who were made His people and reconciled to the Father by the death of Christ CANNOT become "no longer His people." If you are in Christ, do not harden your heart like they did in the wilderness. When you and I grow weak and burdened by sin, the only effective recourse is to cry out God, draw close the Christ, plead for renewed love, repentance, humility, and joy. There is no other course that can restore us. There is nothing else that would please God.