Israel's Prayer for Deliverance
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 63. In our last study we looked at verses 1-6, which describe the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to defend the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. It is an event yet future. Isaiah realized that before that event could occur, the nation of Israel was going to have to experience a real spiritual revival. God gave him the words which are contained in the paragraph which begins with verse 7 and concludes with the last verse of chapter 64 as a prayer for the moving of the Spirit of God in his midst.

I recognize that this was a prayer that Isaiah wanted to see answered in his day, but God was not pleased to answer it in its entirety. It is a prayer that every sincere Israelite wants to see answered in this day, and it will be the prayer that will be prayed with great intensity as the Tribulation period approaches the end and that which is described here becomes increasingly unbearable.

These things that I have just represented to you are what we call the interpretation of this passage of Scripture, but as we go through it, I would like for you to listen for the application as well, keeping in mind that every passage of Scripture has one interpretation and as many applications as are consistent with the plain teaching of the Word of God.

I am going to suggest that we read the entire prayer to begin with, and then we will go back over it, dividing it up into sections whereby it will be more easily digested. It begins with verse 7, where Isaiah said:

Isaiah 63

7I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
8For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.
9In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
10But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
11Then he [in original text the word is they ] remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?
12That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?
13That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?
14As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.
15Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies toward me? are they restrained?
16Doubtless [without a doubt] thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.
17O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.
18The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.
19We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.

Isaiah 64

1Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
2As 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!
3When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
4For 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.
5Thou 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 [more literally, we have continued so long in sin, is there any chance for us to be saved?] .
6But 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.
7And 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.
8But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
9Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
10Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
11Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.
12Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?

The Amen to the prayer could come right there, and the answer is found in the next chapter, but we won't take the time to look at the answer at this time.

A Paragraph of Remembrance

As we go back over this prayer to divide it up into paragraphs or sections, which might be more easily understood, may I draw to your attention verses 7-9, which is a paragraph of remembrance. When Isaiah realized that soon his LORD would have to come for him, he realized that for God to come into deliverance of His own was not a strange thing, because it did seem to him that that had been the constant history of the nation of Israel—God's coming to her defense and to her deliverance one time after another.

He begins his prayer by remembering the good things, and may I suggest that that is a good way to pray. Do you know why you get off your knees so often not feeling any different than when you knelt down? Do you know the reason that after you have prayed about something the burden is just as heavy as it was when you first prayed about it? Do you know why? You are defeated before you ever start. You need to get on shouting ground, as old time Methodists used to say, before you ever start to pray. One of the ways to do it is to mention the loving kindnesses of the LORD, to remember what He is and what He has done.

Isaiah has said, “I am going to meditate upon the loving kindnesses of the LORD.” There is another translation of this phrase, loving kindnesses , that I like just as well or perhaps even a little better, and I want to share it with you. It is two words for the Hebrew word that is translated by our English words, loving kindnesses . It can also be translated by two English words, steadfast love . Don't you like that? I do. He said, “I am going to mention the steadfast love of the LORD.” It is not hard to pray. It is not hard to ask God to do something for you if you remember not only that He loves you, but that His love is steadfast.

We don't know an awful lot about steadfast love today because human love has a way of fluctuating. Today you can be very much in love and think you can't live without the other party involved. Then you live with them a couple of years, and you wonder how you ever thought you could live with them at all. Love isn't very steadfast, but God's love is steadfast. It never changes.

He said, “I am going to meditate on the loving kindnesses of the LORD, the steadfast love of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD. Those are the things for which I can praise Him according to all that the LORD has bestowed upon us and the great goodness towards the house of Israel, which He hath bestowed upon them according to His mercies and according to the multitude of His loving kindnesses. I'm just going to keep on thinking about how wonderful and how good God is, and I am going to remember what God said about us.” Notice verse 8:

Isaiah 63

8For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour [they belong to Me, and they really love Me even though they act, at times, as though they don't] .

Isaiah continued to meditate in the steadfast love of the LORD in verse 9. This is a lovely verse, and some of you may have it marked in your Bibles. If you have no aversion to marking in your Bibles you might want to mark this, for the Lord might minister it to your heart at some later date in a time of need. Notice what it says:

Isaiah 63

9In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

I love that: “In all their affliction, he was afflicted.” You have never gone through anything alone. Will you remember that? Sometimes you and I have the habit of saying, “Well, we stood alone on such and such a thing.” No, we didn't. We feel that way sometimes, but we didn't. “In all of our afflictions, He was afflicted.”

Then notice in verse 9, as well, “and the Angel of his Presence saved them.” Let me suggest that you don't relate the word saved solely to the matter of salvation . It means “deliverance.” You are saved many times. You are saved once in relation to the penalty of sin when you are born again, and then you are delivered innumerable times.

Have you ever seen “the Angel of His Presence?” No, you haven't. The Angel of His Presence is the Old Testament name for our precious Christ. It is the Old Testament name for Jesus. Do you realize what this verse is saying? It is saying that the Angel of His Presence delivers you when you need it, and I verily believe that one of the joys of Heaven is going to be learning about those so-called narrow escapes we had which we didn't know were narrow. You know what a narrow escape is. That is when you get scared real good and yet the thing that you feared never happens. Then you say, “Oops, that was a narrow escape.”

I wonder if we fully understand how many narrow escapes we have had that we don't know were narrow because the Angel of His Presence delivered us. When we get to Heaven, I think that He will tell us about them. Notice what the Angel of His Presence does after He delivers. “He bears us and He carries us.” You know, sometimes you get delivered from something and you are too weak to walk. If somebody saved your life and said, “Okay, now run,” you wouldn't have the strength to run. Well, the Savior never does that. He delivers you, then He carries you until you have strength enough to walk again. That is the Angel of His Presence. My, you wouldn't think, would you, that anybody would ever dream of turning their back on somebody like that. But, they did, for in verse 10, we read:

Isaiah 63

10But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.

You see what happened? No sooner were they delivered by the Angel of His Presence than they rebelled against the Holy Spirit. Are you being observant? I'm not going to ask for an answer, but I would like to ask you a question. Do you realize that in this paragraph there is portrayed for us the blessed Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Let me emphasize it for you. Look in verse 7 at the word LORD . Every letter is capitalized. We have learned that this is a reference to Jehovah, God the Father, and I have already suggested to you that in verse 9, we have the Angel of His Presence, which is the Old Testament name for the Lord Jesus Christ, and down in verse 10, the Holy Spirit is referred to. There is the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is referred to in verse 11 also. May I remind you that the only other place that the Holy Spirit is referred to in this fashion, by the name Holy Spirit , is in Psalm 51, where David, conscious of his sin, said, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit away from me.” Of course, that reminds us today that we are living in a blessed age, this Age of Grace, because we never need to worry about that.

Old Testament saints had to worry about it, because the Holy Spirit came and He stayed for a time, and while He was there, things were so wonderful, but He would go back to Heaven. He didn't stay on the earth all the time, but after the Lord Jesus Christ went back to Heaven, He sent Him to stay. He promised us that He would do that, because the Disciples were greatly concerned about His going away. They said, “What are we going to do? We can't get along without you.” He said, “I'm going to tell you what I will do. I am going to send you another Comforter, another person just like I am, and He will stay with you forever. He will never leave you, and from that day forward you will never be alone.”

Before we leave this paragraph, I want to share with you the Septuagint translation of verse 9. The Septuagint is a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, and it is called the Septuagint because it was done by seventy Greek scholars. Septuagint is the Greek word for seventy . Sometimes when we read the Septuagint in the Old Testament, there are little nuggets of truth that thrill our own hearts, and we want to share them with you. Look at verse 9 again:

Isaiah 63

9In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

There is nothing wrong with that translation. As I have told you many times, it is difficult to get all of the meaning out of a verse in one translation. When these Greek scholars were translating this verse, they preferred to translate it this way: “He became their Savior in all their affliction. Neither ambassador nor angel, but the Lord Himself saved them by loving them and sparing them. He Himself redeemed them and lifted them and held them high all the days of old.”

There is not a great deal of difference in the translation, but there are one or two little nuggets of grace that I love to think about. Did you notice that “He became their Savior in all of their affliction?” Will you remember that about Jesus? You know, so often you are told to get out of trouble, then come see the big man, and after you get out of trouble, he will take care of you. But not Jesus. He said, “In all of your trouble, I will take care of you right there.”

The thought that impresses me deeply about this verse is where the translator said, “Neither ambassador nor angel, but the Lord Himself…” I love that, don't you? This business was too big for an ambassador. This business was too important for an angel. The Lord Himself did it. You see, when the law was given in the Old Testament, He sent the angels to do that, but when it came to delivering you out of your trouble, He said, “I can't let anybody do that. I will have to do that all by Myself.”

Israel's Rebellion

Israel rebelled just as you and I rebel again and again against the loving kindness of the Lord. Then the going got rough and we see in the paragraph which begins with verse 11 that they were brought to sorrowing remembrance of what they had given up. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a vision of what we give up before we give it up? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could make our decision on that basis? But you know we can't. It is after we give it up that we realize how much we miss it. It is after we surrender it, it is after we waste it that we realize what we have lost. Now, notice verse 11:

Isaiah 63

11Then he [remember this should be they ] remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?

“We don't see God around anymore like He was in Moses' day, when He brought the Israelites up out of the sea. Where is He that put His Holy Spirit in him? We haven't sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit in so long. Where is He?” In verse 12, they said:

Isaiah 63

12That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?

That is one of the most beautiful pictures of God's delivering power for the nation of Israel that I think is found anywhere in the Word of God. Get the picture. God said, “Moses, I want you to go lead My people out.” You know the story. Moses wasn't too sold on the job, but he finally yielded. How do you suppose he led them out? Did he get in front of them with a great big baton and prance up and down and expect them to follow him? No. Here is how he led them out: He reached out his left hand and got hold of their hand, and he kept his right hand free to do whatever he needed to do. He led them all through the wilderness holding on to their hand, and when he came to that impassable body of water with the Egyptians right behind them and nothing could save them, he lifted up that glorious arm and brought it down. The water parted, and he still had hold of their hand with his left hand. He led them through on dry ground.

You see, these folk who had surrendered everything said, “Where is God? He did that for them. Why can't He do it for us?” I wish you could get that picture of God today. I wish you could realize that He wants to lead you just like that. He wants to take hold of your hand with one hand and with His glorious arm He will push everything out of the way that needs to be removed. Couldn't you relax a little bit if you knew He was leading you that way? Couldn't you rest a little bit easier if you knew that you wouldn't have to get up in the morning and move every obstacle out of the way? Couldn't you relax a bit more if you knew when you went to bed tonight that you could say to the Lord, “Lord, you know what is out there tomorrow. Just keep hold of my hand, please, Lord, and use Your arm to get everything out of the way.” He will do that.

He Will Lead Through the Wilderness

Look at verse 13:

Isaiah 63

13That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?

That is a wonderful picture. Do you get it? I don't know anything about riding. I couldn't stay on a horse if I had to, but I have seen a little bit of television, and I imagine that you have too. You have seen some of these fellows riding their horses. They will come to some real rough terrain. That looks like the time they should stay on. As awkward as I am, that would be the time that I would want to hang on, but what do they do? They get off and take the reins in their hands and they pick out the step very carefully and the horse follows. Why do they do that? They don't want that horse to break its leg. That's why. They lead him through the wilderness. Beloved, that is exactly what God says He does for us. Look at it again:

Isaiah 63

13That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?

If I had a bit of advice to give you, I would say, “Let Him hold the reins. Don't ever take the reins of your life out of His hands. As long as He has the reins of your life in His hand, He will know what path to take through the wilderness, and you won't even stumble in the process, because He knows the way through the wilderness, and it is always a safe way.”

Look at verse 14, and recognize that a better word for the word beast is the word cattle for that is what it is a reference to:

Isaiah 63

14As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.

Keep in mind that the word cattle , as it is used in the Bible, refers to cows, to sheep, to goats, or whatever might be under the subject of discussion. Aren't you reminded of Psalm 23 when you read verse 14? “As the cattle goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD causeth them to rest so that Thou lead Thy people to make Thyself a glorious name.”

David said, in Psalm 23:

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…

The LORD will do the same thing for us. Isaiah, in the midst of his heart cry, remembering everything that God had done wonderfully, and then remembering everything that they had missed because of their rebellion, utters a cry of prayer which begins with verse 15. He pours out his heart to God, and the first thing he says is, “Look down, LORD. Look down.” Then as we read to you, he asked God to look down on all the sad state in which they were. He said in so many words, “God, do You realize what a sad state we are in? Oh LORD, look down.”

Then He encouraged his own heart by saying, in verse 16, “Without a doubt, You are our Father. Other people may not recognize us, but God, we know that You will never forget us.”

They Blamed God for Their Rebellion

Then look at verse 17 and notice that human nature hasn't changed. You see, they rebelled against God. That is what we read over there in verse 11. They rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit, and now in verse 17, they said, “God, why did You let us do it?” Doesn't that sound pretty natural? We walk away from God. We have our own way and our own will. We do what we want to do and when the trouble comes, we say, “God, why did You let us do it?” We blame Him for it.

May I digress for just a moment as I say to you parents, when you are tempted to restrain to give the advice that you feel you ought to give to your children or to withhold the reprimand or the restriction which you feel that you ought to give to your children, don't withhold it. If you do, you may live to hear your children say, “Daddy, why did you let me do it?” You may live to hear them say, “Mother, why didn't you stop me?” But it will be too late then, and you have to accept that on faith.

In verses 18-19, they said, “LORD, we have occupied the city that You have given us, but for such a little while. Won't You do something to give it back to us?” They were talking about the city of Jerusalem. Will you remember that at the beginning of this discussion, I said that this is a prayer that fitted Isaiah's day. It fits the remnant in any particular period, but right at the end of the Tribulation period, it will particularly fit them.

They have Jerusalem now. I don't know whether they will be able to keep it, but if they are able to keep it, the Lord will come, the world will go into the Tribulation , the Antichrist will pat them on the back and give them a subsidy to help them keep it. Then right in the middle of the Tribulation, he will show himself for what he is, and he will persecute to such an extent that they will have to flee for their very lives. As the tribulation grows in intensity, they will say, “LORD, we had it for such a little while, only about three and one half years. We didn't have it for long. Oh, LORD, give us our city back.”

A Plea for Christ to Come Again

In chapter 64, verse 1, they say:

Isaiah 64

1Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down [or quake] at thy presence,

Beloved, if you are going to accept language at its ordinary, literal meaning, then you are going to have to accept this as a plea from the hearts of the believing remnant for the Lord Jesus Christ to split the heavens wide open and come down. That is more clearly seen if you remember that in the suceeding verses, they reminded God that He came down one other time when He came down on Mount Sinai. There is no Bible scholar that I know who says that the experience on Mount Sinai is figurative of something. There is nobody that I know who says that the giving of the law was not a literal thing. Isaiah said, “LORD, You came down once. Come again, because we have had just about all that we can take.”

God wasn't too interested in coming until they got down to business, and they get down to business in verse 5, where they said, “LORD, we have come to this realization:

Isaiah 64

5Thou 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.

That translation is not a happy translation. What it actually says is, “LORD, we have sinned, and the thing that is worrying us now is have we gone too far? The thing that is worrying us now is have we gone so far that You won't be able to do anything for us?” Then in verse 6, they gave a good confession. They said:

A Prayer of Confession

Isaiah 64

6But 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.

Then in verse 7: “There doesn't seem to be anybody who is willing to lay hold on You. There doesn't seem to be anybody who cares.”

I wonder, Beloved, if that couldn't be applied to some of our hearts. I wonder if it couldn't be applied, somewhat, to our nation. Things are happening. We are fading away as a leaf, and there doesn't seem to be anybody who is able to lay hold of God.

This is where the expression comes from that we use quite frequently when we say to you that if you really want something done, lay hold of God in prayer. That means to get it done. You see, there is a difference between praying and laying hold of God. It is easy to say words, but it is a little bit harder to lay hold of it. Here they said, “There is nobody who seems to be able to lay hold of Him.” But, in verse 8, they reach the peak of their penitential prayer. In verse 8, they reach the peak of their prayer of confession, and it reads:

Isaiah 64

8But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

We have a colloquial expression when we want to speak of someone who doesn't seem to be able to withstand the suggestions of other people. Of these people we are prone to say that such and such an individual was putty in our hands. If we find it easy to persuade someone to do something, we say, “Oh, it wasn't any trouble. He was putty in my hands.”

Let me lift that a little higher and say to you that I do not know of anything more wonderful than to be putty in the potter's hand—clay in the potter's hand. That is the state of surrender to which God would bring all of us. It is the state of surrender to which God would bring Israel. It is the state of surrender to which God would bring you and me, that state of surrender where we are putty in His hands. Whatever He wants to do with us, He can do. Into whatever shape He wants to make us, it is up to Him. I covet that experience for all of our hearts.

Our Eternal Hope

I have saved one verse with which to close, and that is the verse that is found earlier in the paragraph, Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 4:

Isaiah 64

4For 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.

Those of you who are familiar with your Bibles will remember that the Apostle Paul borrowed that and used it in a message to the Corinthians, recorded in his first letter. He added something to it. He applied it to spiritual things, and he said:

I Corinthians 2

9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10[The Apostle Paul adds something to it] But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…

The Spirit hath revealed them unto us. That is true in relation to spiritual things, but over here in the book of Isaiah we are not talking about spiritual things. We are talking about literal things. We are talking about tangible things, and what God is saying is, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared…” More accurately, “is in the process of preparing,” for the grammatical sense will evaluate it in that fashion. It says, “…what God is preparing for those who love Him.” Beloved, He is talking about our eternal hope, and that is why I said to you boys and girls, earlier in the service, when we talked about the Lord's coming. Because it is something new and because it is different, don't let it frighten you. Just think about it as a trip that you are going on with the whole family.

Then, let me add this other thought. Think about all the sightseeing that you are going to be able to do when you get there. That is what He means. He has things prepared for us that these human eyes have never seen nor these human ears ever heard. He has things prepared for us that these finite minds cannot even begin to comprehend. That is the reason I will be glad to see Him come.


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