A Redeemer Will Come To Zion
“Lo, Your Salvation Comes” – The Messiah in Isaiah Special Series
Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. – Isa. 59:1,2
Right away in this chapter (and much earlier, all the way back in Isaiah chapter one) God speaks through the prophet making it clear what the problem was.
God’s people, in Judah and Jerusalem, during the time of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah were not living under God’s authority; not abiding in His law. Through a series of wrong choices, they had moved away from God - - so far away, they were no longer living in His favor. Isaiah is saying, “Behold,” or “Look at this.” Here is the issue between you and God. It must be faced.
It is not any disability on the part of God: His hand is not shortened or his ear dull. The problem is on your side of the relationship, Isaiah and the other prophets said. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”
And, it is this bad: “…your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He does not hear.” The issue was not like, “you are not perfect. Ok. You’ve made a few mistakes. No big deal.” Their sins had caused this breach between them and God. God could not look on them with favor.
Now, Isaiah doesn’t speak of sin just in some vague, generic way. His indictment is specific; let’s keep reading at verse 3…
your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
5 They hatch adders' eggs;
they weave the spider's web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil,
and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
desolation and destruction are in their highways.
8 The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
no one who treads on them knows peace.
Think of the human body and consider hands, fingers, lips and feet. This may be more than just poetic imagery. Isaiah wants the people to understand they are using their physical bodies (given by God) to sin against Him!
Hands are defiled with blood. Even fingers are strained with iniquity. And in verse 7, “their feet run to evil.” The divine forensics proved their guilt. This was their condition; their sin; their crimes against God and against each other.
And you will notice, as they engaged in these sins they made a juvenile effort to cover themselves. This, no doubt, is figurative language yet gives clarity to the point of their cover-up. It was like trying to dress yourself or cover yourself with a spider web. These adults in God’s nation were like kids, “I didn’t do it. It isn’t my fault,” or other such efforts to deny or conceal their sin.
Yet (verse 6), their webs did not serve to cover their true condition. They were naked and open before God, guilty sinners engaged in open “deeds of violence.”
Their thoughts were thoughts of iniquity, as they ran toward evil. The way of peace, they did not know. There was no justice in their paths. Their lives were like drunk men walking on crooked roads.
God is speaking to His people through Isaiah. The indictment looked like this.
1. You have separated yourselves from me by your sins, your iniquities.
2. You are using the physical bodies I gave you to sin against Me.
3. No peace, No justice, No mercy.
4. You think about evil while you run as fast as you can to the next occasion.
5. You are attempting to cover yourselves, but it is like a spider web that isn’t adequate.
There is more in the text, taking the reader to the same conclusion for emphasis. They were like dangerous snakes, laying eggs they consumed, resulting in their spiritual demise.
What about Isaiah?
In verse 9, there is a shift. All of a sudden, the pronouncer includes himself. The verbs and pronouns shift to first personal plural. Isaiah is guilty too (as earlier indicated, see Isa. 6).
This next section continues the prosecution, but now includes the writer/speaker.
Therefore justice is
far from us,
and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind;
we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
11 We all growl like bears;
we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
is turned back,
and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord saw
it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
As the case is further stated here, one phrase that should be highlighted is: Truth is lacking. And, there was no good male spiritual leadership.
God has always given to man, absolute truth about what ought to be. When He spoke to Adam and Eve and to Abraham and his heirs, truth was given. Written in the law of Moses and delivered through the prophets, God gave truth with the expectation that people would listen, learn and live by the standard given.
And in Isaiah’s time truth was accessible, but was practically ignored in real life. Truth had been dismissed by people who fell in love with the world and who were turning their backs from following the Lord.
Also, look at the phrase: “He saw that there was no man,” in verse 16. No leadership. “No one to intercede.” It was time for something to happen. And what follows is this picture of God, getting ready to do something decisive.
He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
which the wind of the Lord drives.
This has this sound to it: If there is no man to stand up for truth or intercede – God says, I’m going to make things right. The adversaries or enemies of God were known to Him. God wouldn’t have to find the bad guys, the instigators, the proud nations and leaders. God knew exactly what to do.
He would take His vengeance; He would repay their evil deeds. And it is clear, this is about judgment God would execute “to the coastlands,” verse 18 says. This is likely about divine judgment toward the Gentile people who inhabited these regions, over along the Mediterranean coast.
It would demonstrate to God’s people how serious He was about justice and truth. I cannot put on a calendar exactly when this judgment took place. But this judgment of God, announced by Isaiah, happened in such a way as to put everybody in that age on notice. The Lord was displeased and there came a time for just punishment that would become a message for everybody, especially God’s people.
Where Is This Thread Headed?
I want to stress, this is more than just exposure of sin and moralizing. It wasn’t just change in behavior that would be needed by the Jews and the Gentiles. A confession of sin and change of behavior would provide no atonement. What was needed was salvation. Redemption – to be pardoned & brought back into fellowship with God
Here Is The Point (Verse 20): “And … a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression … declares the Lord.”
Before Christ came, God did a lot of cleansing work among the Gentiles and the Jews. It was repayment to His enemies. The coastlands would get the message. In these various judgments, God signaled to the world His sovereignty; His displeasure with sin; and His steadfast intention to send a Redeemer. A Redeemer would come to Zion. The people had no claim to make, that God owed them or that they deserved mercy or remedy. The previous 19 verses demonstrate no righteousness had been earned at all! They deserved wrath.
Verse 19 says – “the Lord saw” how the people were living, and “IT DISPLEASED HIM.” The people guilty of sin had no right to demand anything. Divine vengeance was earned. Divine mercy was not deserved. And I want to stress again even if every Jew and Gentile in the world of Isaiah’s time had changed – still, what was needed was a Redeemer. So God, who is rich in mercy and abundant in grace – longsuffering and generous – said, “I will send a Redeemer.”
This is Jesus Christ! Whatever intervention God took up in the history of His people before Jesus came, this Redeemer points to Jesus Christ. We can be certain by consulting what Paul wrote.
26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,”The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 ”and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26,27)
Homer Hailey – in his commentary on Isaiah, says –
“At least twelve times in [ the second part of
Isaiah ] … Jehovah is referred to as Israel’s
Redeemer. But in this instance, the prophet
has in mind the Servant-Messiah, who has
already been promised many times and whose
redemptive work has been clearly revealed.”
Before Christ – in the era of Isaiah – God came to Zion, dressed as a Warrior, taking vengeance against His enemies, Jew or Gentile. Yet, while engaged in that justice He knew He would send the Servant-Messiah to Zion, according to promises repeated over and over, from Genesis through Malachi.
Jesus, Our Redeemer
I’m convinced that this concept of Redemption - Christ as our Redeemer, paying the ransom - is a concept Christians need to be familiar with not to dissect, play around with and dig into with the tools of dispute, but to believe. This truth ought to be our confidence and joy and motivation. It equips us to serve the Lord with assurance of salvation, and teach and encourage others by the words of redemption.
There is this family of words: Redeem, Redemption, and the related term, “Ransom.” There is rich Old Testament background. When God caused the Israelites to be released from Egyptian bondage, it was written, God redeemed His enslaved people (Ex. 6:6; 15:13; Isa. 51:10).
Again, Isaiah prophesied God’s promise to get His people out of Babylonian exile same words were used (Isa. 35:9-10; 51:11). The concept is, being held or enslaved, and not having the ability to release yourself from enslavement. Think of it as – OWING A RANSOM YOU CANNOT PAY.
God steps in to pay that ransom price – so God becomes the Redeemer. In Egypt. In Babylon. God redeemed His people out of those two classic captivities.
Now – what Isaiah is announcing in Isaiah 59 is à God will send a Redeemer to pay the ransom, for sinners to be freed from sin. Any sinner who wants out of sin, can get out in response to the Redeemer. This tells us how good God is. It also tells us how bad sin is. We cannot buy our way out of sin. The only ransom is the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who died for us (1 Pet. 1:14-21). Sin separates us from God; comes between us and God. The only way is the way of forgiveness. That is offered by God through Jesus Christ. The book of Acts informs us of how to respond.
I read something one time about the great Pennsylvania astronomer, David Rittenhouse. He had great skill in measuring the size of the planets, and determining the position of the stars.
Of course, he used a powerful telescope in his work - and he taught his students to be extremely careful about the least flaw in the lens or glass of the telescope – He said one time that one little silk fibre, however small, could cover from your view, one entire star.
We should be careful - we should not be satisfied or content to allow any sin to come between us and God. We should guard against anything that might hide his face from us.
And what that all says is – We need The Redeemer God sent to Zion. From Zion, the Redeemer went out to offer salvation to all men. To those descendants of Jacob, willing to repent.
And Paul’s point in the Romans 11 context is – All men and women, Jew or Gentiles, can be redeemed. So, Isaiah 59 begins with the problem and ends with the solution. The problem is our sin that separates us from God. Only one solution will work – to bring our broken lives to the Redeemer. Change is necessary in repentance, but change only is mere moralizing.
Sin must be removed – and can only be removed by the Redeemer. Only as we understand the enormity of the problem – can we appreciate and then apply to ourselves, the solution – the Redemption God provides in Christ. If you don’t have this redeemer in your heart and life – the apostle Peter says – repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).
If you do have this Redeemer, be thankful and continue your commitment to obey Him. Heaven can be in your future.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 22.12; December 2015