1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
5 They hatch adders’ eggs;
they weave the spider’s web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil,
and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
desolation and destruction are in their highways.
8 The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
no one who treads on them knows peace. – Isaiah 59:1-8 ESV
Judah’s sorry state of affairs was not an indictment against God’s power to save. He was fully capable of bringing them relief. After all, He was the very source of their current condition. It was God who had chosen to use the Assyrians as His instruments of judgment against His rebellious people. And He was the one who had warned that future judgment would come in the form of the Babylonians. The circumstances in which the people of Judah found themselves were, in a sense, self-inflicted. They had brought it on themselves because they had refused to listen to God’s calls to acknowledge their sin and return to Him. They had repeatedly stiff-armed God’s prophets, including Isaiah, rejecting their messages and stubbornly maintaining their love affair with false gods.
So, in this chapter, we see Isaiah delivering a message to his fellow Judahites that leaves them without excuse. He will not allow them to blame God. He refuses to let them cast God as the villain and themselves as the innocent victims. This was not a case of divine parental abuse or abandonment. They were the cause of their own pain and suffering. And Isaiah conveys that message in stark terms.
It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
Because of your sins, he has turned away
and will not listen anymore. – Isaiah 59:2 NLT
They had abandoned God. Not the other way around. In fact, God had patiently and persistently called on them to repent. He had rescued them time and time again from the consequences of their own sinfulness. He had lovingly disciplined them for their unfaithfulness, welcoming them back with open arms. But they had responded to His grace with ingratitude and continued infidelity. And the prophet Jeremiah describes their stubborn refusal to repent with a sense of shock and surprise.
O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent. – Jeremiah 5:3 ESV
That the people of Judah were guilty was beyond debate, and Isaiah reveals why. He provides a list of evidence that is both lengthy and appalling. It includes murder, depravity, lying, injustice, perjury, dishonesty, and violence. And these manifestations of their own wickedness were showing up in every area of their lives – from their homes to their courts of law. Iniquity was ubiquitous. And while not every member of their society was equally complicit, they all stood equally condemned. There was a corporate culpability shared by all, from the youngest to the oldest and the richest to the poorest. At some level, every single individual in their community stood before God as guilty, having committed their own fair share of sins against Him.
The list Isaiah shares is similiar to one that the apostle Paul gave to the believers in Colossae. He reminded them that, even as Christians, they needed to continue to purge their lives of those sins which mark the lives of each and every human being who walks this planet.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. – Colossians 3:5-6 ESV
Mankind, apart from help from God, is hopelessly addicted and attracted to the very things that bring the wrath of God. We can’t help it. And Paul warned the believers in Rome how a holy God must deal with those who continue to live lives of unholiness.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18 ESV
But not only does a life of ungodliness and unrighteousness bring the judgment of God, it breeds destruction. Isaiah describes the people of Judah as hatching adders’ eggs. Their evil actions were going to produce some seriously negative consequenes. And it doesn’t take a herpetologist to understand that hatching the eggs of a poisonous snake brings more of the same.
And Isaiah compares their sinful actions with the weaving of spider webs. You can’t expect to produce clothes with that which is ephemeral and fragile. The life of ungodliness can produce nothing of lasting value. It may appear attractive but, in the end, it leaves you with nothing tangible or beneficial from all your effort.
Just how bad was it in Judah? Isaiah is unsparing in his assessment.
All their activity is filled with sin… – Isaiah 59:6 NLT
Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder… – Isaiah 59:7 NLT
They think only about sinning… – Isaiah 59:7 NLT
Not exactly a flattering picture. Their lives were inundated by sin and rebellion. It permeated their community. It influenced every facet of their corporate experience, from the halls of the king’s palace to the lowliest peasant’s hut. And, as a result, they were all experiencing the consequences that come from living in open rebellion against God and pursuing a way of life that is in direct violation to His call to holiness.
They don’t know where to find peace
or what it means to be just and good.
They have mapped out crooked roads,
and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace. – Isaiah 59:8 NLT
No peace. No joy. No justice. No righteousness. Without God, none of these things are achievable. You can’t walk away from Him and expect to find what only He can deliver. A life of sin is a dead end. It offers hope, fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace. But it can’t deliver on its promise. Pursuing the false gods of this world may appear attractive, but they will never produce a single promise they offer. God was offering His people peace. They could be restored to a right relationship with Him and enjoy peace with the One who had made them. They could enjoy peace in their community as they allowed God to guide their actions and change their attitudes. But as long as they continued to refuse Him and choose their own paths, they would find themselves living in turmoil and in constant pursuit of the one thing for which all men long: Peace.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.