Isaiah 59:12 “Our sins testify against us; our transgressions are with us; we know our iniquities.”
An atheist recently questioned the portrayal of God as loving by claiming contradictions in His character everywhere in the Bible: “The Bible is full of verses and stories that repeat the narrative ‘You are pathetic and deserve to burn. Even if you say you love Jesus, don’t get too comfortable because judgment is coming and only then will you know whether you did it right. Very, very few are going to make it. God as already decided who those few are, and He hardened the rest so he could watch them burn. And how dare you ask why. He does what he wants, He’s God.” She turned to Isaiah 64:6 to try and prove her point.
“We are all like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Her interpretation: “Even our good deeds aren’t good enough. In fact your good deeds are like rags in God’s eyes. Everyone sucks. You all deserve to die. Christians should be afraid – fear, fear, you’re not good enough, be afraid.”
This atheist’s use of Isaiah 64:6 is a perfect example of twisting the meaning to fit her picture of God. She has completely ignored the context behind Isaiah 64:6. And the sad thing is that it doesn’t take much investigation to find out why God would say this verse to the nation of Israel at that time.
If we turn back just a few chapters to Isaiah 59, the prophet has this to say:
The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor is 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. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
Isaiah proclaims God’s desire to save everyone! His desire is to hear and act on the needs of everyone in Israel. Isaiah then explains why God cannot. It’s not because He has left them. It’s because they have left Him. The next two verses detail what their sin looks like: “Your hands are defiled with bloodshed. Your lips speak lies, and your tongue utters perverse things. No one calls for justice, nor does anyone plead for truth. You trust in empty words and speak lies, you conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” (Isaiah 64:3-4).
The northern kingdom of Israel was about to go into captivity by the Assyrians because they created an immoral culture where lies, perversity and bloodshed were commonplace. Isaiah goes on in more detail.
“Justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places.” (Isaiah 59: 9-10).
Isaiah now confesses that Israel is desperate. Their sin is their destruction, not their salvation. They thought that by rejecting God’s moral standards, they would be free to enjoy life on their terms. But to their horror, the exact opposite happened. They became blind and lifeless, stumbling around in the dark as they searched for justice in a perverted culture. Isaiah then explains why this happened in Israel.
“For our transgressions are multiplied before You, 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 the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”(Isaiah 59: 11-17).
When it says we “KNOW” our sins, it literally means we have sexual intimacy with our sins. In other words, sin isn’t something we do – sin is who we are, what we embrace as our lover. This is what destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. And it is the same thing destroying American culture today.
This atheist, with her objection “you can’t know whether you did it right”, with her message of “fear, fear, you’re not good enough, be afraid” is missing the meaning of the text. It’s not about trying to please God. These verses in Isaiah are about people who deliberately mock God, who not only have no desire to please Him but flaunt their rebellion against Him. They are the people who should fear Him.
But Isaiah doesn’t leave the nation of Israel in this self-made state of blindness and desperation. Next week, we will examine another atheist question, “Isn’t the God of the Old Testament different than the God of the New Testament?”, by continuing in Isaiah 59 to see Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinful mankind.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #368