These chapters, although some of it is Thus saith the LORD, is a prayer of Isaiah for the LORD to turn from His anger over His people’s sin, and remember them, and save them from their sins. It is an admission that they rebelled against their heavenly Father, who made them and carried them, and therefore the things that have come upon them were deserved, but for His mercy’s sake, remember His people and restore them to Himself.
Even though I have heard preachers and teachers say that the God of the Old Testament demanded salvation by works and obedience to the Law, while the God of the New Testament gives salvation as a free gift of grace, nowhere in these chapters can the idea be found that we can save ourselves by our own effort and works if we just obey God’s Law perfectly enough. Instead,
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isa 64:6
Isaiah acknowledges that every good thing Israel has, has been given to them because of the LORD’s lovingkindness, goodness, and mercy toward them:
I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD
And the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,
According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. Isa 63:7
Where is this gospel of works that I keep hearing the Old Testament is all about? I have not found it, but instead, I have found the same love, compassion and undeserved mercy that the New Testament teaches.
The misunderstanding might come in because Isaiah has prophesied of the LORD’s anger, that the temple, and Israel’s cities lie waste and are desolate, and that One is coming who is mighty to save, who is treading the winepress of the peoples in His wrath and has stained His garments with their blood (Isa 63:3). The prophecy of the LORD’s anger is of two instances in time, 1) when He brought judgment on His people and they were carried to Babylon — something still in the future in Isaiah’s day — and 2) of the coming judgment of the world when they align themselves against Israel and the LORD’s people, and Messiah Yeshua returns in glory and strength to save His people and reduce the nations to obedience.
In the first instance, the LORD said that His anger was but for a moment in time, while His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting (Isa 54:8). And in the second instance, the anger of the LORD that is coming onto the world, throughout the Scriptures is called the Day of the LORD. It is one day long. One day is long enough.
So this is the balance, and this is why the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Rebellion, sin, wickedness, evil, malice, dishonor and slapping His face — these things do provoke Him to wrath. He is angry with the wicked every day (Psa 7:11), although because He is also patient and merciful, He does not act on His anger against sin every day. He is holding His peace for now to give everyone an opportunity to hear the truth and repent, but the day is coming — one day we will wake up and the Day of the LORD will have fully come.
So let us not provoke Him with sin and wickedness! Let us, because He is the Potter and we the clay, yield to Him in love, and obey His word, and then rejoice in Him, in His salvation which we have not earned, in His great lovingkindness and goodness toward us! And if we are not there yet, but see it and want to be there, as Israel was not there, we can pray Isaiah’s prayer:
“Return [us to You] for Your servants’ sake,
The tribes of Your inheritance!” Isa 63:17
God is so good that He even makes up the difference for us, when we acknowledge that our zeal is lacking and ask for His help in blowing on that fire to make it burn brighter and hotter for Him! He will!