William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,Isaiah Chapter 64
This leads out the heart in still more earnestness. "Look down from heaven" suffices no more. "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down - that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as fire kindleth brushwood, [as] fire causeth the waters to boil - to make thy name known to thine adversaries, [that] the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things we looked not for, thou tamest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. Ever since the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, a God besides thee, who will act for him that waiteth for him" (vv. 1-4).
It is interesting here to note the great difference for which the accomplishment of redemption gives occasion by the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Cp. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10) We see that God now does reveal the things He has prepared for them that love Him. We do not wait for the emergence of the great High Priest to know our blessedness; for while He is still in the holiest, the Holy Spirit, as the gospel teaches, has come out and given us to enter in as anointed of God and made free to go boldly within the veil. Indeed for us the veil is rent, and all things hidden are revealed. But Israel (and the prophet speaks of Israel) must wait till they see Him Whom their fathers so guiltily pierced, though undoubtedly their heart will be then converted to Jehovah-Messiah. They are born again but not in peace till they actually behold Him, and even then what searchings of heart, what self-reproach!
Hence we have in what follows the language of true repentance. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth to work righteousness, [those that] remember thee in thy ways (behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned): in those is perpetuity, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. 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 made us melt away through our iniquities But, now O Jehovah, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Jehovah, neither remember iniquity for ever. Behold, see, we beseech thee, we [are] all thy people. Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt thou refrain thyself for these [things], O Jehovah? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?" (vv. 5-12).
The truth is that we must leave room in our faith for others to be blessed in the grace of God, when the saints called to a distinctively heavenly portion are no longer on earth. God will prepare Israel, His firstborn son here below, to be His destined chief among all the families of the earth, whom He will surely bless according to promise, and in honour of His Only-begotten Son. And thus it is that the Jew must, after his long and varied failure, undergo so searching a spiritual process to fit him for his assigned post as the most honoured nation. For this he is kept now, the standing witness (in spite of his present heart-unbelief) of divine chastening, in order to obtain mercy in "that day," when he renounces self-confidence, confesses his sins unreservedly in truth, and hails in Jehovah's name Him Whom heretofore he slew by the hand of lawless men. It was a grand discovery for faith, that Jehovah's honour was concerned in their blessing; and that the desolation touched Him at least as much as them, though the sins were theirs and the grace was His.
There is a remarkable form of expression in the Hebrew of ver. 9, where the substantive verb occurs and is repeated, contrary to the well-known Hebrew usage which ordinarily omits it. As its insertion cannot be without a sufficient reason, we are entitled to infer that the revealing Spirit had in His mind by the preterite form employed a continuous state of desolation from a past act of judgement. This entirely agrees with the facts, not so much of the Babylonian infliction but of the more permanent ruin which followed the destruction by the Romans. For God was marking His sense, not only of the national defection of His people in idolatry, but of the returned remnant's still more heinous and fatal rejection of the Messiah. All hope therefore turns on His mercy and faithfulness to His gifts and calling. All must be vain, unless Jehovah rent the heavens and came down in the person of Him Who had already come to suffer for all their iniquities and all their transgressions in all their sins, banishing and effacing their guilt for ever. This, we know from other scriptures, He will assuredly do for His own great name, and in virtue of the atonement already effected.
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!
When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.
Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?