The prevalence of sin as described in Isaiah  59:1–15(a), cannot be tolerated as it  threatens Yahweh’s purpose to fill the earth with His glory. In the absence of any human agency  to effect a change Yahweh Himself intervenes. Victory over sin and the forces of evil results in  universal respect for Him (v19), the conversion of Jacob (v20), and a covenant made with Israel promising the abiding of Yahweh’s Spirit (which was in their Redeemer) in future generations (v21).

So in this eloquent part of Isaiah we have  proclaimed the ultimate victory of right over  might; that Yahweh will not acquiesce with human  indifference and insolence; that He is determined that  righteousness will triumph over sin and evil: indeed as  Paul expressed it, “That as sin hath reigned unto death,  even so might grace reign through righteousness unto  eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:21).

59:15(b)–18 The mighty arm of Yahweh is  compelled to intervene, to vanquish evil,  redeem Jacob and establish his fear in all the  earth

59:15(b)–16 “and Yahweh saw it, and it displeased  him that there was no judgment. And he saw that  there was no man, and wondered that there was no  intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation [rsv  ‘victory’] unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained  [rsv ‘upheld’] him.”

These words describe Yahweh’s reaction to the appalling state of human affairs. That there was  no judgment or justice was evil in Yahweh’s eyes, because He loves justice (Isa 61:8; Psa 99:4). The  establishment of justice in all the earth is declared  three times at the commencement of the Servant  Songs as His ultimate objective (Isa 42:1,3,4).

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered  that there was no intercessor” In verse 16 Yahweh  is depicted as being surprised that there was no  man, no intercessor to stem the tide of evil. It was  a situation that could not be tolerated because it  challenged His purpose in creation, to fill the earth  with His glory.

There are other places where we read that there  was “no man” (50:2; 51:18; cp 63:5; Ezek 22:30) to  intercede, to “stand in the gap”, but the most notable  is in Revelation 5 where the Apostle John weeps  because there was “no man in heaven, nor in earth,  neither under the earth … able to open the book.”  His sorrow is alleviated when one of the elders says,  “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda,  the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book,  and to loose the seven seals thereof ” (v5).

The identification of the intercessor has already  been revealed: he has prevailed and will “divide the  spoil with the strong; because … he bare the sin of  many, and made intercession for the transgressors”  (53:12). Qualities required by an intercessor are  given in Hebrews 5:1–4.

“therefore his arm brought salvation” (rsv ‘victory’)  Absence of an intercessor in the ranks of mankind,  and the deplorable state of men and society, called  for divine intervention. “His arm” refers to Yahweh’s  own power and resource, the extension of His being  to either save (cp v1) or destroy (52:10; Exod 15:6,  12). Again the identity of “the arm of the Lord”  has already been revealed to be His Servant (53:1).  The Servant was His arm because he was His Son,  conceived by the Spirit of God overshadowing the  virgin Mary (Luke 1:35).

The incipient phase of this victory over evil lay  in the Son of God’s conquest of sin, his obedience  to his Father’s will even to the death on the cross. In  this victory over sin and death, in this upholding of  God’s righteousness, is to be found the basis upon  which the total abolition of sin and evil will take  place in the Kingdom.

“and his righteousness, it sustained [rsv ‘upheld’] him”  Righteousness and justice are intrinsic elements of  God’s character. His righteousness was declared in  Jesus’ death on the cross. Acknowledging this in  belief and baptism brings sinners within the scope  of God’s mercy and forgiveness (Rom 5:21).

But because of the Father’s great love for justice,  this quality in itself is represented as upholding Him  in His contention with sin and evil.

59:17 “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate  [roth ‘coat of mail’], and an helmet of salvation  [roth ‘victory’] upon his head; and he put on the  garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad  with zeal as a cloak.”

Righteousness, salvation, vengeance and zeal are  all aspects of God. He is here depicted as clothing  Himself with them as a warrior in the battle against  sin and evil.

Referring to these words in Ephesians 6, Paul  calls upon us as spiritual warriors to “have on the  breastplate of righteousness” and to “take the helmet  of salvation” (v14,17).

Mention of “vengeance” introduces an integral  part of this prophecy. In the divine context, unlike  the human, it represents the just punishment due  to those who have flouted the Creator’s laws (cp  34:8; 61:2; 63:4; Luke 21:22). This huge work of  bringing justice to bear on a wicked world will be  sustained and endured because of Yahweh’s “zeal”.  It is a dramatic picture of a mighty, determined  warrior, not resting until total conquest has been  achieved. There is a direct relationship between  might and right. It does not appear so today, but  the Lord will come and His enemies will become  His footstool (Psa 110:1).

59:18 “According to their deeds, accordingly he will  repay, fury to his adversaries, recompense to his  enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense.”

“The king’s strength also loveth judgment; thou  dost establish equity, thou executest judgment and  righteousness in Jacob” (Psa 99:4).

The one described as being “fairer than the sons  of men” is called on to “Gird thy sword upon thy  thigh … with thy glory and thy majesty. And in  thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and  meekness and righteousness” (Psa 45:3–4).

Punishments will be meted out justly on an evil  generation: “According to their deeds, accordingly  he will repay”. God has a burning hostility to sin;  there will be a final day of settlement between Him  and His enemies; there will be “recompense” (niv  ‘retribution’) with exactitude, and this will apply “to  the islands”, earth’s remotest bounds (11:11; 24:15).

59:19–21 A new world with Zion and Christ at  its centre

59:19(a) “So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from  the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun.”

Only when the judgments of God are poured out  upon an unheeding world will the peoples “learn  righteousness”. The favour of God, shown for  example in the preaching of the Gospel, will in the  end be seen to have ‘failed’, so comprehensive is the  darkness (26:10,11; 60:2).

The “name” of Yahweh embraces His purpose,  character, power, wisdom – all that He essentially  and uniquely is; and this is equated with “His glory”  (42:8; 48:11). From all nations men shall come to  seek Him and to learn His ways (2:3; Zech 14:16):  then shall the earth be filled with His glory.

59:19 (b) “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the  Spirit of Yahweh shall lift up a standard against him.”

The av is different to rsv, niv, roth, mlb, all of  which are in agreement. No translation is free of  ‘difficulties’. So Rotherham reads, “For he [the  Redeemer] will come in like a rushing stream, The  breath of Yahweh driving it on …”

Accepting this translation, the manner of the  Redeemer’s coming is described like a contracted pentup  river (nahar), released and whipped into a storm  by a driving wind – no doubt towards his enemies.

This judgment of the nations coincides with  natural Israel’s, that is, Jacob’s redemption (Deut  32:36–43). Christ will intervene at Jerusalem where  all nations will be gathered (Zech 12;14; Joel 3).  Some Jews will be turning back to the God of the  fathers as a result of the work of Elijah (Mal 4:6),  others as a consequence of seeing him whom they  pierced, and “the spirit of grace and of supplications”  being poured upon them (Zech 12:10).

59:20 “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and  unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob,  saith Yahweh.”

These words along with the following in verse 21,  “As for me, this is my covenant with them”, are cited  in Romans 11:26–27 of the ultimate conversion of Israel. God has not cast off His people – “blindness  in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the  Gentiles be come in” (v25).

59:21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith  the Lord, My spirit that is upon thee [cp 61:1], and  my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not  depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy  seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the  Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”

Yahweh is plainly the speaker of these words and  twice in this verse we read “saith the Lord”, giving  emphasis to what is said. It is a double affirmation.  The one addressed is the Anointed, the Messiah,

as he is the one on whom God has placed His Spirit  (see also 61:1; Luke 4:18–19). He was the prophet like  unto Moses, into whose mouth God’s words would  be put (Deut 18:18; John 12:47–50; Acts 3:22–24; Isa  51:16; 49:2), for to him was given the Spirit of God  without measure (Matt 3:16; John 3:34).

In this verse God Himself makes a “covenant  with them”, primarily with the converted seed of  Jacob; the new covenant (Jer 31:31–34), confirmed  in the Anointed (Matt 26:28). Copious reference  has already been made to this covenant (42:6; 49:8;  54:10; 55:3).

Yahweh assures His Anointed that the Spirit  that was “upon” him and His words, which were  “in the mouth” of him will not depart out of the  mouth of his seed for generations, “from henceforth  and forever”.

Who comprises the Anointed’s seed? All the  redeemed, of whom we read, “he shall see his seed”  (53:10), and this will include those of Jacob whom  he will turn away from transgression (v20).

“My Spirit … my words”

What is meant by saying that these will be the  possession of Messiah’s seed? The Anointed himself  said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh  profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you,  they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). As  Redeemer the Lord Jesus could say, “I am the way,  the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the  Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). He is the mediator of  the new covenant in which the Father’s blessings of  life, peace … are made available to the whole body of  the Redeemed, his seed. He spoke of the Father and  himself making their abode in his disciples (John  14:23,24).Being of one mind with the Son ensures  unity with the Father also, and assures blessings  forevermore: “And I have declared unto them thy  name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith  thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them”  (John 17:26).