Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear. Isa 59:1-2
We saw this theme yesterday as well: God being far from us is not the norm for people who are in relationship with God. He gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle in the wilderness because He desires to dwell with and be with His people. He established Sabbaths and feast days as appointed times between Himself and His people because He desires to meet with His people. Togetherness is the norm, communion is the norm, communication is the norm, fellowship is the norm, relationship is the norm.
When God seems afar off, when our prayers are hitting a sky of bronze, that is not the norm. When that is the case between us and God, there is a reason for it! God did not withdraw just to be mean or arbitrary. There is iniquity and sin somewhere that causes God to hide His face. What about Jesus, someone might say, He died on the cross for the sins of the whole world; in fact this reading is about Him:
Then 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 intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. Isa 59:15-16
Yes, Jesus is YHVH who brought salvation by His own righteousness. He paid the price that we could not pay, for the sins of the whole world. We touched on this a few days ago: that in our Greek way of thinking, there are two kinds of hearing: receiving the sound of God’s word with the ears, which may result in no response of obedience at all, and then receiving God’s word in the heart, which produces the resulting action of obedience. In Hebrew, however, there is only one kind of hearing, the hearing that is received with the heart, that results in obedience. In Hebrew, the verb “to hear,” shama, means to both hear and obey.
In the same way, in our Greek way of thinking, there are two kinds of righteousness. There is the righteousness that Jesus imputes to us, that determines our legal status before God regarding heaven and hell, and sets us in right standing with God, apart from our works of obedience or compliance with the Law. This is the righteousness that Isaiah is talking about, when he says that the LORD’s own arm brought righteousness, because He looked but found no man who did justice, who was pure from iniquity and sin.
Then in our Greek way of thinking, there is a second righteousness that means rightness of action and behavior. What we do. In the Hebrew way of thinking, just as the single verb for to hear, means, to hear and obey, the single word for righteousness means right standing and right acting. Therefore, the result of God’s own arm bringing righteousness, is:
Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified. Isa 60:21
Let’s not forget the big picture, the context that Isaiah is speaking from. Israel received God’s instruction in and definition of righteous and sinful behavior and actions when Moses received the Torah from the mouth of the LORD on Mt Sinai. God asked them to obey Him and walk in it — Torah is His way of walking, and describes the path of His feet — the narrow path. They did not. Because they did not, as the LORD has said through Isaiah and the other prophets, over and over again for 60 chapters now, destruction is coming upon them. Israel has been taken captive by Assyria, and Judah will be taken captive by Babylonia, Isaiah has prophesied. But then God will solve the root problem of disobedience, through Messiah who is coming, the Righteous Servant who will bear our iniquities, sorrows, and griefs; who will make many righteous (Isa 53).
He will make many righteous by putting them in right standing, yes, by brushing His blood over their legal status and changing it to not guilty. But He puts us in right standing by transforming our hearts and giving us hearts after His heart. Right actions must flow from a heart like that because it is the nature of the right heart to produce right actions. The man who says he is in right standing with God, who does not walk in His ways, is deceived, because you cannot have one without the other. They go together, just as hearing and obeying also go together.
This is not a gospel of salvation by works! This is the gospel of grace, that our works were evil, and God saves us even though we have not deserved it, by grace, through faith. The process of salvation includes a heart transplant! Just as our works before were evil, because they flowed from an evil heart, our works now are righteous because they flow from a right heart.
It may be that someone with a right heart, does something God considers sin, because hey, we are steeped from infancy in a world covered in deep darkness, and we likely are ignorant to some degree of every detail of the definition of righteousness and sin. This is why He has given us His word. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. We can read and learn His ways and His thoughts, and allow His plumb line of the word to instruct us and correct us. When we discover something we are doing, we repent, that is all — and stop doing it.
Now if God is far off, that is our huge gigantic signal surrounded by neon flashing lights, that SOMETHING is not right. SOMETHING is offending God’s holiness. So what do we do? With a pure heart, we start asking for it to be revealed. We do not ask in pride, offended ourselves at the notion that we are doing something that needs changing. We ask in humility, and resolve that with the LORD’s help, whatever He reveals, we will repent of and correct because we love Him.
If we need to, we can begin reading His word again from the beginning, because the entire book is His instruction in what is righteousness and sin (among other things). He will reveal it to us by His Spirit, and if our hearts are sincere, it will not take long. Praise God that He is such a perfect and good Heavenly Father!