59:9–15 Confession of sins: the cause of  calamities acknowledged

59:9–10 “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither  doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold  obscurity [rsv ‘darkness’]; for brightness, but we  walk in darkness [rsv ‘gloom’]. We grope for the wall  like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we  stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate  places as dead men [rsv ‘among those in full vigour  we are like dead men’].”

“Therefore” connects with the previous verses – the  sins listed are owned and the cause for calamity and social disintegration recognised. By use of the first person plural, we and us, Isaiah identifies himself with his people. Here is a national confession  and repentance, much like 53:2–6. Both of these prophecies will have their great fulfilment when the Redeemer comes to Zion and turns away ungodliness from Jacob (v20).

The metaphorical reference to light and darkness is a common theme almost exclusive to  Isaiah in the prophets (exception, Micah 7:8). It is often used in relation to Messiah (9:2; 49:6; 60:1, 3),  though here it describes the last days of the world  in which God’s people live, as well as Judah in the days of the prophet.

“we wait … for brightness, but we walk in darkness”  Everywhere there is gloom and disintegration of  all that was stable. Though looked for there is no glimmer of hope in the institutions of men (cp Isa  24); and this aptly describes our day and age. But  saints know that the darkest hour precedes the dawn of a new day, the millennial reign of Messiah.

Verse 10 presents an even bleaker state of affairs,  blindness without remedy, “we grope as if we have no eyes”. The only hope lay in recreation by Him Who made man’s eyes (Exod 4:11).

“we stumble at noonday” The defect lies with God’s  people, not in the circumstances – likened to the  noon day. Sin debilitates and blights all endeavours. By comparison with others they are a shadow of what they should be, “as dead men”.

In summary then they were blind, not seeing  life’s guiding light revealed in the Word of God  (Psa 119:105); stumbling had replaced certainty,  stability in life; and they were exhausted, devoid  of life’s vitality.

59:11 “We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like  doves: we look for judgment [Heb mishpat], but there  is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.”

They are bemoaning their fate, angry now at the  havoc sin has wrought in their lives and in their  world: they are in despair because of the inequities in  society, desperate for someone to bring deliverance  to them. In contrast, when the looked-for Messiah  came, he too groaned when he saw human frailty  and need: miracles of healing followed (Mark  7:34; John 11:38)! Paul also shared the groaning  of a frustrated creation, earnestly awaiting the  redemption of the body (Rom 8:22–23). Hezekiah,  Isaiah’s contemporary, was “sick unto death”, and  implored his God for deliverance: he said, “I did  mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking  upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for  me” (Isa 38:14).

We likewise mourn the absence of our Lord and  bemoan the sin that so easily besets us, earnestly  awaiting the promised gift of life eternal, unmarred  by sin.

59:12–13 “For our transgressions are multiplied  before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities,  we know them; In transgressing and lying against  Yahweh, and departing away from our God, speaking  oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from  the heart words of falsehood.”

The protest of righteousness (58:3) has been  silenced and now there is confession of sin and guilt.  A court scene is depicted with God as judge and  Sin as the prosecutor! So many and so undeniable  were their transgressions that effectively they  ‘testified’ against them – plural nouns are linked  with a singular verb; each one of their sins testifies!  So effective were the testimonies that there was no  point in defence, and not only that, the accusations  were true – their transgressions were with them  like constant companions: and of their iniquities  they said, “we know them”, we are personally and  intimately united with them.

Verse 13 lists in detail the four major sins in  the confession.

  1. “In transgressing [mlb ‘rebelling’] and lying against Yahweh” The Judge before Whom they stood (v12) is the One against Whom they  had rebelled and been treacherous. There was  unwillingness to heed His Word or hearken to  His prophets.
  2. “and departing away from our God” (niv ‘turning our backs on our God’) abandoning the Truth, apostatizing. As a young bride Israel  had vowed to do all that her Lord had said (Jer  2:2; Exod 24:7); and likewise the ecclesias are  espoused to one husband, as a “chaste virgin to  Christ” (2 Cor 11:2).
  3. “speaking oppression and revolt” Oppression is the mistreatment of those over whom we are in a position to exercise power, a social  crime against one’s fellows. But it also needed  to be confessed for it is not possible to have a  harmonious relationship with God if fellow  man is abused: Jesus made this clear when he  answered the scribe, he that loves God must  love his neighbour also (Matt 22:36–40; 1 John  4:21). “Revolt” is arrogant departure from God.
  4. “conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood” (lb ‘for we carefully plan our lies’)e heart, the mind is the fountain of words  and deeds: what is said and done outwardly  is a reflection of what has been determined  internally! It is impossible to plead purity of  heart if our conduct is otherwise; and God is  very interested in the heart, the motives, and  searches them (Jer 17:10).

59:14–15 “And judgment [rsv ‘justice’, cp v9,11,14  – Heb mishpat] is turned away backward, and justice  standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and  equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that  departeth from evil maketh himself a prey …”

This is a dramatic summary of the preceding  confession: the moral absolutes, essential for orderly,  godly living, for individuals and society at large, have  disappeared and collapsed. These foundation moral  qualities are personified and their estrangement  from society is described!

  1. “judgment” (rsv ‘justice’) is represented as trying to intervene, but is made unwelcome and dismissed.
  2. “justice” (rsv ‘righteousness’) will not come near such a hostile environment, for ‘he’ sees what has happened to “truth”!
  3. “for truth is fallen in the street” “Truth” is integrity, trust, probity, and is a casualty. It has collapsed and is non-existent as a moderating  force in public and personal life.
  4. “and equity cannot enter” (lb ‘justice is outlawed’, rsv ‘and uprightness cannot enter’, mlb ‘honesty is unable to enter’) The prevailing  absence of any respect for God and His Word,  has left this world bereft of integrity. Here  equity, honesty, straight dealing have gone  missing!

Verse 15 affirms that “truth is lacking” (rsv, lb  ‘is gone’) and anyone attempting to make a stand for  what is right is liable to attack and violence. Such  are the depths to which society has fallen.

It is not hard to see these conditions in our  world: “the dark places of the earth are full of the  habitations of cruelty.”