Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:…
Why in the hour of need is there no deliverance? Why are prayers for aid unanswered? A theory might obtain, or an objection might be raised, that Divine power was not sufficient, that the Divine sensibility was dulled. And yet this cannot be. The simplest knowledge of what God is must contradict an assumption so foolish. There must be another explanation; and that, the conscience says, is to be found on the human side of the relation.
I. THE CHANNEL OF DIVINE COMMUNICATION CLOSED. Only to the upright does Jehovah show himself upright, only pure to the pure. There is a state of the soul in which men see God, because his face is therein reflected; but those addressed have long been "belying their professions by their acts, and thus precluding an answer to their prayers" (Isaiah 58:2-4). The face is "the self-manifesting side of the Divine nature" (cf. Isaiah 63:9; 1:12; Isaiah 40:10). Where that is not given, there must be darkness in the mind, and bitterness in the heart.
II. SINFUL OBSTACLES TO BE BEHOVED. The defilement of the hands. With the guilt of blood. But probably this stands, by a strong figure, for sin in general. The lips are lying, and the tongue depraved. Here the organs of the body, ministers of the mind, express and set forth the state of the latter. There is a certain correspondence between cleanliness of the person and truthfulness and honesty of the soul. And it is just this which is wanting. Society is resting on a foundation of chaos. Men weave their schemes, vain and brittle as spiders' webs, or hatch policies pernicious as the eggs of basilisks. They tread with swiftness the paths of mischief; their thoughts are full of hate and destruction. They ignore the way of peace and the track of justice, and follow crooked paths of their own (Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 28:18; Proverbs 2:15). It is a picture of extreme social demoralization.
III. PENITENCE AND CONFESSION OF SINS. The prophet speaks in the name of the people. And here all the true elements of repentance and confession may be found.
1. The connection of sin with Divine disfavour. The first thing is to see that the curse does not "causeless come;" the next to fix upon the true cause. It is not because of want of will or want of power in God (ver. 12). They were entitled to expect his help, according to the covenant, but not apart from conditions on their side to be fulfilled. If, then, the judicial interference of Jehovah on their behalf was not witnessed, the cause must lie in the breach of those conditions - in "our sins."
2. Human darkness and bewilderment without God. "Jehovah shall be thy Light and thy Salvation." That light withdrawn, - what can there be groping and stumbling in the thick darkness? (Deuteronomy 28:29). How extreme the contrast of the "way which Jehovah knows," of the "path of the just, shining to the perfect day;" and the "knowing not whither he goeth," the "staggering as at noonday," the groping and stumbling of the man God-abandoned and left to himself.
3. Human sorrow and despair without God. Compared to the growling or moaning of beast or bird. Men long to have their own will and way, and find that to be "lords of themselves" is a "heritage of woe." Sooner or later they must find that their passionate autonomy means "rebellion" before God and in their own consciousness. And peace cannot be where they know that they are thus "kicking against the goads." The passage strongly shows how a violated conscience must be a tormenting conscience. God will not let us sin and forget. "As for our iniquities, we know them."
4. Human shame and self-contempt without God. It is contempt that "pierces through the shell of the tortoise;" above all, one's own contempt. The worst is when we look into the mirror held up, not by hand of enemy or critic, but by our own, and see the lineaments of the traitor, the expression of the infidel at heart, the base attitude of the deserter and backslider from the Holy One, the downcast mien of the convicted liar. There has been no truth, no rectitude, no justice. These, as fair spirits, have been banished from a polluted earth. And if one would live an innocent life, he is but game for any rude spoiler. In all this there is the deepest sense of the evil of sin, and of the need of humiliation. It is felt that humiliation cannot remove the evil, unless it first remove the sin. Misery is the natural effect of iniquity; and he that seeks to rid himself of the one before he is freed from the other would hinder the stream before he has stopped the fountain. "'Rend your hearts, and not your garments." If the heart be not torn off from sin, to rend only the garment further provokes God, and makes the breach wider. There is no religious duty attains its end, but when it weakens our sin." True fasting draws down, as here seen, the pity and invites the help of the Almighty. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: