By Sam E. Stone
This lesson begins the final month in this quarter’s study about God’s desire for justice, as outlined by various Old Testament prophets. God expects his people to know right from wrong and then to do what is right. Justice is as serious a requirement for Christians today as it was for the people of Israel in Bible times.
Isaiah 59 climaxes with what W. Fitch called “the manifestation of the divine deliverance and succour in response to the cry of the people.” He noted, “When things are at their worst and there is none to help, the Lord God himself comes in might to deliver and save the inheritance of his people. Only by such intervention of God can the situation be saved at all.”
Injustice and Righteousness
The remnant of the nation recognized that their problems had been caused by their sins—sins of the heart (treason and unfaithfulness), sins of the lips (speaking oppression, revolt, and falsehood), and perversion of justice. J. A. Alexander noted, “What was wanting was not merely a qualified man, but any man wherever to maintain the cause of Israel and Jehovah.” A similar observation is found in Isaiah 63:5 (also compare Ezekiel 22:30).
James E. Smith observed, “God was aware of the true condition of Israel. The Lord expressed amazement that no one arose to defend the helpless. He therefore determined that he must intervene.” Isaiah pictured God preparing for battle against injustice and transgression. When people saw the irresistible power of his judgment, all would come to reverence Yahweh. God arms himself as a warrior to engage in battle on behalf of his community (also in Isaiah 42:13; Exodus 15:3).
This theme is found elsewhere in Scripture as well. In Romans 3:15-17, Paul uses language similar to that of Isaiah 59:3-8 to describe the behavior of the entire, sinful human race. God girds himself like a warrior to do battle against sin. Paul’s description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-17 also uses language reminiscent of Isaiah. The armor in Isaiah is God’s own armor, while the armor in Ephesians 6 is that of the believer.
Repayment and Glory
Isaiah 59:18, 19
God’s judgment was certain. It would be completely fair and appropriate. His punishment of sinners would be according to what they have done. Justice was coming—and it would be fair. All who were the Lord’s enemies would be judged accordingly. God would not only judge the nations, but he also had to punish wicked Israelites, added John H. Stek. Only the remnant would be blessed (v. 20). All people in all places were under his absolute authority and judgment—even those not on the mainland, but on the islands.
The universal character of God’s justice is seen in the fact that it extended from the west to the rising of the sun. No longer would God tolerate evil. No more would he continue to withhold appropriate punishment for those opposing him. Instead, at this time all of the people would revere his glory. H. S. Coffin suggested, “God appears in a mighty and universal theophany. Clothed in his mantle of awful purity and the intensity of his zeal, he comes in judgment like a pent-up stream that breaks through its channels and is driven on by the mighty wind of Yahweh.”
Redeemer and Covenant
Isaiah 59:20, 21
With the establishment of universal justice would come the restoration of God’s people. Judah would be taken captive because of their rebellion against God. But, as when the Israelites were captives in Egypt, God would not abandon them. Just as the Lord led his people out of slavery then, so he would once more restore all of those who repented and sought his mercy. Jeremiah affirmed this fact as well (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
James E. Smith summed it up well: “A Redeemer would come to Zion. Those who turn from transgression would recognize him. Associated with this Redeemer is a new covenant. God would anoint this Redeemer with his Spirit (see Isaiah 42:1) and put his words in the Redeemer’s mouth (50:4). The Redeemer would faithfully convey the words forward through the generations forever (59:20). That this Redeemer is Christ Jesus is made clear in Romans 11:26, 27.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.