Oh That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down
Isaiah 64 utters a longing that the people of God have often expressed, usually when under trying circumstances, but also from a heart of love and devotion: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil.” And why this prayer? “To make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!” It is a longing and prayer for God to vindicate His great name, which is to say His character and glory. “From of old, no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you.” And yet, humankind darkens God’s revelation of Himself with vain idols: in olden times, with hand-carved images; in our time, with materialism, entertainment, political ideologies, and countless other things. The believer awaits the day when every eye shall see, every knee bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10). It is why we pray, indeed, were taught to pray, by our Lord, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:7-15).
But then Isaiah turns to the reality: It is God’s own people who have sinned. Worldlings will be worldlings, pagans will be pagans, but those who have been chosen by Him from the foundation of the world – these are supposed to be different. And so Isaiah asks, “In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?…We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” You desire that the Lord rend the heavens? You desire “the day of the Lord?” The prophet Amos reminds us, “Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.” (Amos 5:18-20).
And so Isaiah pleads the mercy of the Lord to “remember not iniquity forever.” He pleads the pity of the Lord by calling on God to look upon the devastations of Jerusalem and His once beautiful house. We should do the same. In too much of the world, Christians are persecuted to death (though not reported by the media), and in Europe and America, the Church of God languishes under oppressive secularism. Her members have strayed, too concerned about self. Divorce, infidelity, porn addiction, and materialism are as present among Christians as they are among pagans. “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter.” Mold and shape us after thy will, and make us a people ready for your Son’s coming.