ISAIAH 59:1-21

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood
    and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
    your tongue mutters wickedness.
No one enters suit justly;
    no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
    they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
They hatch adders' eggs;
    they weave the spider's web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
    and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
Their webs will not serve as clothing;
    men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
    and deeds of violence are in their hands.
Their feet run to evil,
    and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
    desolation and destruction are in their highways.
The way of peace they do not know,
    and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
    no one who treads on them knows peace.

Therefore justice is far from us,
    and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
    and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope for the wall like the blind;
    we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
    among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
We all growl like bears;
    we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
    for salvation, but it is far from us.
For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
    and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
    and we know our iniquities:
transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
    conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

Justice is turned back,
    and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
    and uprightness cannot enter.
Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
    that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
    and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
    and his righteousness upheld him.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
    and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
    and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, so will he repay,
    wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
    to the coastlands he will render repayment.
So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
    and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
    which the wind of the Lord drives.

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.


You are hardwired for hope. You don’t live by instinct. Every decision you make, every choice you make, every response you have to the situations and relationships of your life is fueled by and motivated by hope. The story of your life is a hope story. Your happiest moments are hope moments. Your saddest moments are about hope dashed, hope destroyed. You’re always looking for hope. You’re always attaching the hope of your heart to something.

Hope is always an object and an expectation. You’re always hoping in something and asking that something to deliver something to you. We tend to look for hope in all the wrong places. We look for hope where it can’t be found, and so we’re often disappointed, often frustrated, and often confused. This disappointment comes from wanting things to give us hope that just are incapable to do so.

Our text is a brilliant hope passage because it is written in a dark moment - one of the darkest moments in the history of Israel. The children of Israel had been in captivity in Babylon, and they have come back now to Jerusalem, and it’s a mess. In the middle of this dark moment comes a brilliant discussion about hope.

Here are four main things I want you to see in today’s passage:

  • The Christmas story is itself a hope story
  • The doorway to hope is hopelessness
  • Hope must fix what is broken
  • Hope is a person and His name is Jesus

Let’s unpack the text.

A False Charge

Verse 1 is God, through the prophet Isaiah, answering a charge that God’s people are making against God. When we suffer, are disappointed, become uncomfortable, or face trials, it is very tempting to question His faithfulness, question His goodness, question His wisdom, and question His love. That is precisely what God’s people were doing and God is addressing it in our text. This is a spiritually dangerous practice. When we convince ourselves that God is less than faithful to His promises, less than loving, and not as near as you thought He was - we will quit running to Him. This is what was happening at this point of history.

So God says, “No, you’ve got it wrong. What’s going on is not a sign that My hands are too short to reach you. What’s going on is not a sign that My ears are so dull that I can’t hear you. I’m not the problem.” God is addressing a misplaced and false charge against Him.

A Divine Accusation 

God gives a perfected accusation and lays out the problem in verse 2. We all like to think that our biggest, deepest problems in life are outside of us, not inside us. We like to think that they are simply problems of situations, they are problems of location, or they are problems of relationships. We all like to think that we are the good guys. However, here God in effect says, “I am not the problem - you’re the problem - the problem actually is inside of you”. 

There is something that lurks inside of us that is dark and dangerous, that kidnaps our thoughts, that diverts our desires, that distorts our words, that drives our behavior. The prophet uses three words to describe the what it is: iniquity, transgression, and sin.

Hope is a person and His name is Jesus.

A HOPELESS CONFESSION 

This accusation is followed by a confession (verses 9-11).  This describes people who have completely lost their way - the lights have been turned off - they are in the dark - and they are groping along a wall. Instead of pointing a finger this is a confession (verse 12). There is a hopeless acceptance of the bleak reality - we cannot escape or solve the problem because we are the problem. 

This hopelessness is the doorway to hope. It is hopeless to hope in you or anyone else. It’s only when you give up on horizontal hope that you are ready to find hope where only hope can be found. 

DIVINE INTERVENTION

God saw this hopeless dilemma (verse 15b-16a). In the light of this disaster, in the light of all the lostness, in the light of all the rebellion, transgression, sin and iniquity,  God doesn’t turn His back, He doesn’t walk away. Verse 16b describes “the arm of the Lord” which is one of the names of the Messiah - Jesus. God sends hope by sending a person, and His name is Jesus. Hope is going to come. The Christmas story is hope is coming! This promised hope will bring two things with Him: justice and grace (verses 17-19). God will deal with evil and make sure that evil is repaid. These pictures should make us afraid and comforted at the same time. Our holy God is committed to justice but also armed with grace (verse 20). Jesus will redeem us - satisfy God’s wrath - and allow us to stand before God as if we never sinned. This is the loving arms of acceptance that we are invited into. That is redemption.

ALREADY, NOT YET

The Old Testament saints were living in the messiness between the “already” and “not yet”. Already they had been redeemed from Egypt, already the Law had been given, already the prophets had spoken, already the glory of God had lived in the center of the people of Israel, but not yet had the promised Messiah come. They were living in messiness and holding on to hope. The same is true for you and me today. Already Jesus has come the first time, already He has lived, died and rose again on our behalf, already the Word has been given, already the Spirit has been given but not yet has sin been completely defeated, not yet are we yet in that final kingdom. We are living in messiness and holding on to hope.

HOPE HAS COME AND HOPE WILL COME AGAIN!


IN COMMUNITY

This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.

BLESS RHYTHMS

This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.

Bless
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.

Listen
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.

Eat
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.

Speak
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.

Sabbath
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.

COMMUNITY DISCUSSION

Read: Isaiah 59:1-21

Describe a time in your life when you were in a difficult situation that seemingly had no hope.

How is hopelessness a ‘doorway’ to hope? Have you experienced this personally?

One of the pillars of advent is a candle representing hope. In what ways is Jesus the ultimate expression and fulfillment of our hope?

 NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE:  Luke 2;14