Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
Isa 64:1-12. Transition from Complaint to Prayer.
1. rend … heavens—bursting forth to execute vengeance, suddenly descending on Thy people's foe (Ps 18:9; 144:5; Hab 3:5, 6).
flow down—(Jud 5:5; Mic 1:4).
As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
2. Oh, that Thy wrath would consume Thy foes as the fire. Rather, "as the fire burneth the dry brushwood" [Gesenius].
When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
3. When—Supply from Isa 64:2, "As when."
terrible things—(Ps 65:5).
we looked not for—far exceeding the expectation of any of our nation; unparalleled before (Ex 34:10; Ps 68:8).
camest down—on Mount Sinai.
mountains flowed—Repeated from Isa 64:1; they pray God to do the very same things for Israel now as in former ages. Gesenius, instead of "flowed" here, and "flow" in Isa 64:1, translates from a different Hebrew root, "quake … quaked"; but "fire" melts and causes to flow, rather than to quake (Isa 64:2).
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
4. perceived by the ear—Paul (1Co 2:9) has for this, "nor have entered into the heart of man"; the virtual sense, sanctioned by his inspired authority; men might hear with the outward ear, but they could only by the Spirit "perceive" with the "heart" the spiritual significancy of God's acts, both those in relation to Israel, primarily referred to here, and those relating to the Gospel secondarily, which Paul refers to.
O God … what he … prepared—rather, "nor hath eye seen a god beside thee who doeth such things." They refer to God's past marvellous acts in behalf of Israel as a plea for His now interposing for His people; but the Spirit, as Paul by inspiration shows, contemplated further God's revelation in the Gospel, which abounds in marvellous paradoxes never before heard of by carnal ear, not to be understood by mere human sagacity, and when foretold by the prophets not fully perceived or credited; and even after the manifestation of Christ not to be understood save through the inward teaching of the Holy Ghost. These are partly past and present, and partly future; therefore Paul substitutes "prepared" for "doeth," though his context shows he includes all three. For "waiteth" he has "love Him"; godly waiting on Him must flow from love, and not mere fear.
Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.
5. meetest—that is, Thou makest peace, or enterest into covenant with him (see on Isa 47:3).
rejoiceth and worketh—that is, who with joyful willingness worketh [Gesenius] (Ac 10:35; Joh 7:17).
those—Thou meetest "those," in apposition to "him" who represents a class whose characteristics "those that," &c., more fully describes.
remember thee in thy ways—(Isa 26:8).
sinned—literally, "tripped," carrying on the figure in "ways."
in those is continuance—a plea to deprecate the continuance of God's wrath; it is not in Thy wrath that there is continuance (Isa 54:7, 8; Ps 30:5; 103:9), but in Thy ways ("those"), namely, of covenant mercy to Thy people (Mic 7:18-20; Mal 3:6); on the strength of the everlasting continuance of His covenant they infer by faith, "we shall be saved." God "remembered" for them His covenant (Ps 106:45), though they often "remembered not" Him (Ps 78:42). Castellio translates, "we have sinned for long in them ('thy ways'), and could we then be saved?" But they hardly would use such a plea when their very object was to be saved.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
6. unclean thing—legally unclean, as a leper. True of Israel, everywhere now cut off by unbelief and by God's judgments from the congregation of the saints.
righteousness—plural, "uncleanness" extended to every particular act of theirs, even to their prayers and praises. True of the best doings of the unregenerate (Php 3:6-8; Tit 1:15; Heb 11:6).
filthy rags—literally, a "menstruous rag" (Le 15:33; 20:18; La 1:17).
fade … leaf—(Ps 90:5, 6).
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
7. stirreth—rouseth himself from spiritual drowsiness.
take hold—(Isa 27:5).
But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
8. father—(Isa 63:16).
clay … potter—(Isa 29:16; 45:9). Unable to mould themselves aright, they beg the sovereign will of God to mould them unto salvation, even as He made them at the first, and is their "Father."
Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
9. (Ps 74:1, 2).
we are … thy people—(Jer 14:9, 21).
Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
10. holy cities—No city but Jerusalem is called "the holy city" (Isa 48:2; 52:1); the plural, therefore, refers to the upper and the lower parts of the same city Jerusalem [Vitringa]; or all Judea was holy to God, so its cities were deemed "holy" [Maurer]. But the parallelism favors Vitringa. Zion and Jerusalem (the one city) answering to "holy cities."
Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.
11. house—the temple.
beautiful—includes the idea of glorious (Mr 13:1; Ac 3:2).
burned—(Ps 74:7; La 2:7; 2Ch 36:19). Its destruction under Nebuchadnezzar prefigured that under Titus.
pleasant things—Hebrew, "objects of desire"; our homes, our city, and all its dear associations.
Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?
12. for these things—Wilt Thou, notwithstanding these calamities of Thy people, still refuse Thy aid (Isa 42:14)?