Isaiah 59:15, 16
Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey: and the LORD saw it…
This text contains, in part, the confession of social iniquity. "Truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil is accounted mad. There is no judgment" - that is, no social righteousness, no sense of the "right" manifestly ruling in the common relations of life. God looked down upon this degenerate and hopeless condition. He knew how far the evil spread, until the whole people was corrupted, and there was no man able to plead against the prevailing evil; no days-man to stand up for righteousness and truth; no intercessor to check the on-coming judgments, and plead for their withdrawal - none such as Moses, or as Aaron, or as Phinehas. As no human intercessor could be found among the exiles, God himself wrought salvation; "his arm brought salvation unto him." The point suggested is this: Social and moral evils, being but inadequately dealt with by man, demand Divine intervention; but the Divine operations for redemption from evil are committed to men, as agents, to apply and carry out.
I. MAN CANNOT SAVE MAN. In every age the experiment has been tried. In every form of the trial it has proved a failure. There have been a great variety of religions in the world; they were all just this - man trying to save man. Great teachers and reformers have appeared - they were men trying to save man. There have been philosophical, and moral, and educational, and scientific, and ceremonial, and artistic systems, but no one of them was ever anything more than this - man trying to save man. The issue of nineteenth-century humanity schemes will exactly repeat the old story; it has been proved, over and over again, until we wonder that any one should be foolish enough to try a fresh experiment, that man cannot save man.
II. GOD ALONE CAN SAVE MAN. This is stating the truth again, with an important addition. It is entirely a question between man saving himself, and God saving him. There is no third party to the question. And God can save man. He has always been ridding out man's extremity, and making it his gracious opportunity; ever saving tribes, saving cities, saving societies, saving families, saving individuals. God, the Redeemer, is the name for God that is blazoned on the history of every age and clime. "God can save man" is the great truth written in the large record of the whole human race. Spared for four thousand years that he might try to save himself, man ]earned at last to put away the schemes in which he had trusted, and then, when the fulness of the times had come, God sent forth his Son, and called his name Jesus Immanuel, because he was to be in the world, "God himself saving men from their sins."
III. GOD ONLY SAVES MAN BY MAN. One of the most difficult truths for which to get men's acceptance is the truth that man's salvation is a moral miracle, for the accomplishment of which man is made the agent. God's salvation for moral beings is not a display of august force, as is his correction of disorder in his world of created things; it is the exertion of moral power upon them through moral influences and moral agents. The great deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian bondage was manifestly God's redemption, altogether God's; and yet even in that case God only saved man by man. He found an instrument and agent by whom to carry out his purposes. The man Moses is prominent throughout the whole scene, and yet he never stands before God; he is only the agent. Illustrate further by the salvation from Babylon. In that case too a man was found. Cyrus was the Divine agent. The law is working in all the society around us. God is in the midst of men, saving still. But he is only saving men through human agencies. Social and moral evils cannot lie mastered by merely human forces, since man cannot, of himself, reach those deeper religious evils that lie at the root of the social ones. God is saving men. This is the glory of our present-day life, with all its seeming failures and oppressive burdens and amazing self-will. He is saving men, and we are to be his witnesses, co-workers together with him. As we preach Christ to men, we have no power to save men; but as we lift Christ up in sight of men, we become God's agents, and through our words of faith and persuasion God moves and sways careless hearts, and wins sinners unto himself. This is our honour, our trust, our sacred burden. God would save this country, but he will only save it by us - by the Christian people in it. We must prophesy and preach to these dry bones, and then only will the breath of Heaven give them life. We must spend the strength of our manhood in giving, preaching, visiting, pleading, and then only will the ends of the land see the salvation of the Lord. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.