15 “Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. 16 For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. 17 O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. 18 Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. 19 We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name.” (Isaiah 63:15–19)
Isaiah, in the context of his praising God for His mercy (Isaiah 63:7-9) and for His faithfulness as in the days of old (Isaiah 63:10-14), offered a prayer of repentance on behalf of God’s people because of its desolate, spiritual condition. The prophet’s prayer also comprises all of chapter 64. The prayer is reminiscent of Daniel’s, which also was on behalf of God’s people, Israel (Daniel 9).
Isiah began his prayer by asking a series of rhetorical questions of God. The prophet wanted to know if God had changed His mind regarding His chosen people. Isaiah wanted to know where God’s zeal and mighty power on behalf of His people. Was the LORD no longer compassionate and merciful?
Isaiah invoked the names of the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. Much like the Pharisees and other religious leaders during Jesus’ day who presumed their national heritage endeared them to God (John 8), so too did the Jews of Isaiah’s day. Isaiah pleaded that God would forgive Israel of this besetting sin and redeem the nation as their heavenly Father.
Isaiah then prayed that God would not give up on His people. The sense of the prophet’s prayer is that the LORD had turned His people over to the natural consequences of their sin (Isaiah 6:9-10; Psalm 81:11-12; Hosea 4:1-17; Romans 1:18-32). The prophet wanted God to return to His people and remove the heathen conquerors from the Promised Land. He no longer wanted the people of God to be like other nations who did not know the LORD.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The remnant would beg God to look down on them and remember their plight in the same way He had remembered the distress of their forefathers in Egypt (cf. v. 9). They would long for a display of both His strength and His love. Though they had not been following in the tradition of Abraham or Israel (i.e., Jacob), God was still their Father (cf. 64:8) and Redeemer (41:14). Penitently the remnant would ask that God sovereignly return them, His servants, to Him, reminding Him that the temple (Your sanctuary) was destroyed (63:17–18). (This is one of many places in chaps. 40–66 which shows that Isaiah, living more than 100 years before the Babylonian Captivity, wrote prophetically to prepare that future generation of exiles for it.) Though the nation had belonged to God for centuries (from of old), it had been a long time since the people were in a proper relationship with God and His theocratic rule over them.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul concludes that, “God has always been the Father of His people (Exodus 4:22-23; Jeremiah 3:1-19). They are His children by adoption (Deuteronomy 32:1-6; Romans 8:15). They are rebellious children, and so might be disowned by earthly fathers such as Abraham or Jacob, but God will still be their father and their redeemer, buying them back from their self-inflicted bondage because of His grace and mercy.”
Isaiah’s prayer continues in chapter 64. The prophet pleaded that God would display His power as in days of old. We will examine the rest of his prayer tomorrow.
Soli deo Gloria!