Prayer for Mercy and Help
Isaiah continues his prayer from the last chapter and is pleading for God to intervene from heaven. This prayer points to a remembrance of how the Lord God shook Mount Sinai back in the days of Exodus. (Exodus 19:17-18) Because Isaiah is one who waits for the Lord he knows that God will act on his behalf. “There is, however, a special blessing connected with waiting for the Lord. Men, even church-going men, would rather work than wait. They also love the legalism more than the holiness of waiting. Church leaders of today think waiting for the Lord is foolish dreaming.” (Bultema)
Isaiah is asking the question, what kind of a man does the Lord answer? Isaiah answers that it is the man who waits upon the Lord. It is the man who rejoices in the Lord and lives righteously. And the man who remembers the ways of the Lord.
But Isaiah knows there is a barrier that breaks the fellowship and that barrier is sin. Isaiah knows that the people need to be saved. God only answers the prayers of the righteous, but it is not the righteous who need to be saved from the disaster of their evil deeds. Isaiah then describes that awful state of man’s sin. Sin makes us unclean, unacceptable, and unworthy before God. “Under the Jewish law, you know that when a person was unclean he could not go up to the house of the Lord. He could offer no sacrifice. God could accept nothing in his hands; he was an outcast and an alien so long as he remained unclean.” (Spurgeon)
Even our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord God. Even the good we do is polluted by our sin nature and evil motives. “Brethren, if our righteousness’s are so bad, what must our unrighteousness’s be?” (Spurgeon) The sin in our lives has made us weak and we are unstable and destroys any lasting power in our lives. Our sin as the wind will carry us away, as we have no power to stand against temptation. Even when knowing that we are sinful, still we do not seek the Lord. We as people become complacent before the Lord. “The verbs sin and angry are perfect tenses – it was your fixed mind to be angry and ours to continue in sin.” (Motyer) We live in a fallen state. “You must not merely know that you are lost, but you must feel it. Do not be content with simply feeling that it is so, but mourn before God that it is so, and hate yourself that it is so. Do not look upon it as being a misfortune, but as being your own willful sin, and look upon yourselves, therefore, as being guilty sinners.” (Spurgeon)
We become as filthy rags before the Lord. “Filthy rags is ‘a garment of menstruation’; bodily discharges were considered a defilement because they were the ‘outflow’ of a sinful, fallen human nature. So, even what we might consider being in our favor, righteous acts, partake of the defilement of fallenness.” (Motyer) A man is broken by his sin nature. “The expression, ‘filthy rags,’ in the Hebrew, is one which we could not with propriety explain in the present assembly. As the confession must be made privately and alone before God, so the full meaning of the comparison is not meant for the human ear.” (Spurgeon)
There are two conditions that man faces because of his sin, the fellowship between us and the Lord is broken or at least damaged and we are consumed by the Lord. Meaning that we will face His judgment.
The one who prays knows that they are in a desperate place and in need of the Lord to show His mercy towards them. God is just and our sin condemns us. The praying one reminds the Lord that He is their Father and he is asking for the mercy of his Father. as it is the Lord who has created us from the dust of the earth the prayer is asking to be molded according to God’s mercy.
A father is always a father and cannot disown his children, as a potter cannot disown the pot. Now the Father is asked for the sins to not be remembered forever. The final appeal is that we all are God’s people.
In the appeal for God’s mercy, he asks the Lord to look at the desolation of His Temple and the Holy City of Jerusalem. It is an appeal for God to act on behalf of His people and for Himself.
This prayer is concluded with a question. He has appealed to the sinful condition of the people and the destruction of the Temple and the city. But the question is will the Lord restrain Himself because of these conditions? He is asking that the Lord’s affliction end and that the Lord would show His mercy to the people.
The problems have been brought forward that sin has separated the people from God and He only hears the righteous prayers. The people are in desperate need of the Lord’s salvation. The answer comes in the New Covenant which is established by the Messiah. This is the reason that Jesus invited us to pray in His name.
In this prayer, the praying one deals with what seems to be an impossible problem. Because of our sin (Isaiah 64:5-7), we are in a desperate state and need the LORD’s salvation. But the LORD only answers the prayers of a righteous man (Isaiah 64:4-5 a) – and a righteous man wouldn’t be in the place we are! Ultimately, the answer is found in the New Covenant, where a righteous Man stands in our place and prays for us
This is why Jesus invited us to pray in His name (John 14:13-14). When we pray in Jesus’ name, He is the righteous Man who appeals to God for us.