Keep Your Distance, Don't Come Near Me Because I am Holier Than You

65: 1-7

   DIG: Who is receiving the grace here? Jews or Gentiles? Who is being temporarily set aside for a time? These verses depict the practice of spiritual adultery. How does God react to these practices? Why did judgment have to come upon Isra'el? Although their sin of idolatry is the focus here, what other sins have led up to judgment (see 59:9-12, 58:3-4, 59:3-4)? How might these sins all stem from the practice of idolatry?

   REFLECT: When have you been so caught up with chasing after modern “idols” that you have been unable to hear the LORD calling you? What did it take for Him to finally break through and get your attention? Is there any area of your life today where God is holding out His hands, calling: Here am I, here am I? How will you respond?

    The fervent prayer of the believing remnant in Chapter 64 is answered by God in Chapters 65 and 66. ADONAI makes it very clear that their sins and unfaithfulness of the Jews were responsible for the judgment they had endured during the Great Tribulation.

    Constantly reaching out to Isra'el, ADONAI revealed Himself to those who did not even ask for that revelation. He said: I revealed Myself to Gentiles who did not ask for Me; I was found by Gentiles who did not seek Me. To a nation that did not call on My name, I said, “Here am I, here am I” (65:1). When Isaiah wants to emphasize something, he uses this doubling. He also quotes Deuteronomy 32:21 which is a parallel to this verse: They made Me jealous by what is no god and angered Me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. God was going to provoke Israel to jealousy by those who are not a people, or the Church. This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:6). It is not a nationality, or a nation, but is composed of every tribe and language, and people and nation (Rev 5:9). So the prediction is that the Gentiles will be brought into the Kingdom while Isra'el will be temporarily set aside (Romans 11).

    When Paul traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, they went down to Troas. During the night he had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:6-10). However, when he reached Macedonia he didn’t find a man wanting to hear the Gospel, but a woman named Lydia. On the Sabbath, Paul, Silas and Timothy went to the river to find a place of prayer. They sat down and began to speak to the Gentile women doing their washing. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message of salvation, and since they were down at the river she and the members of her household were baptized immediately (Acts 16:11-15). So Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1-2 in Romans 10:20-21, showing that the Old Covenant predicted a period of time when the Gentiles would be coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Now, while there will always be a faithful remnant, the nation of Isra'el, for a season, would be set aside.

    Looking back on their long history, ADONAI states that one of the reasons that Isra'el was to be set aside is because of her sinfulness. While the Gentiles had been coming to God, Isra'el had been in rebellion. God laments at the indifference of Isra'el to His calling. The LORD gave the Gospel first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). But Israel failed to respond. In response to the faithful remnant’s prayers, the LORD said: All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations (65:2). The phrase held out (spread) my hands is used elsewhere of prayer (Isaiah 1:15; First Kings 8:22). ADONAI wanted His wife to desire Him so much rather than commit spiritual adultery, that it was as if He was praying for her rather than Isra'el praying to Him! God sat Isra'el aside only after she rejected Him.

    On his first missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul traveled Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they went to the local synagogue where, as was the custom, they were given an opportunity to give an encouraging message. Well, they caused such a stir that on the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear them. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly, saying: We had to speak the word of God to you [Jews] first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord. And all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region (Acts 13:13-49). Therefore, God predicted a period of time called the Church Age when the Gentiles would call on His name, rather than Israel as a nation.

    God points out Isra'el’s history of spiritual idolatry. A people who continually provoke Me to My very face, offering sacrifices in pagan gardens (1:29, 57:5, 66:17) and burning incense on altars of brick (65:3). As ADONAI looks back at her long history, the LORD points out to the believing remnant that the nation of Israel had continually provoked Him with their spiritual adultery. During Isaiah’s day they had rebelled (1:2-14); during the days of Jeremiah and Ezeki'el idolatry had gotten so bad that it was even practiced in the Temple (Ezeki'el 8); the Messiah Himself said to them: Woe to you, teachers of the Torah and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matthew 23:27-28); and during the first three-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation the Jews thought they were worshiping in the wicked Tribulation Temple (see Ks – The Rejection of the Tribulation Temple). Consequently, during her long, sad history, Isra'el continually provoked God with her spiritual adultery.

    Isra'el was also continually involved with cultic uncleanness. Thus, God addressed them as those who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil (65:4a, also see 8:19).The Jews in the time of Isaiah were guilty of necromancy, or supposedly communicating with the dead through a medium while sitting among the graves! He chastised those who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat (65:4b; 66:3 and 17). In addition, they were guilty of eating grossly unclean food. It is interesting to note that during the Talmudic period and up to today that these types of things have been prevalent among the Jewish people. In the Hebrew prayer book, praying for the dead is still practiced today. There are concepts in Jewish thinking, like the “evil eye” concept, that come out of the occult because there is nothing biblical about it. This is merely a partial list of the reasons for Israel’s rejection. One by one, they broke all of the 613 commandments of the Torah.

    On the one hand they have been in a state of disobedience, yet they had a pride that they were holier than others were. They had said: Keep your distance, don’t come near me because I am holier than you (65:5a CJB). We would say, they had a “holier than thou” attitude. Even today secular Jews look down upon messianic Jews and Christians because they think we are involved in polytheism, while they themselves have been involved in spiritual adultery down through the centuries. ADONAI tells the believing remnant that as a consequence of their religious arrogance the nation as a whole, they had become as repulsive and irritating to Him as smoke in My nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day (65:5b). The LORD’s punishment had come in the form of the Great Tribulation, and God’s wrath was moved against the sin of the nation.

    See, it stands written before Me, I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back in a righteous and holy manner right into their laps - both of your sins and the sins of your fathers, says the LORD (65:6-7a). ADONAI will continue to speak until Israel’s affliction was complete. For all the Jews still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation, judgment preceded deliverance. In the whole land, declares the LORD, two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This one-third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are My people, and they will say, “ADONAI is our God” (Zechariah 13:8-9).

    Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defiled Me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment of the Great Tribulation for their former deeds (65:7). There is no suggestion that the faithful remnant was punished for the sins of their ancestors. Rather, the point is one of continuity, just as Jesus said to the people of His day, “Jerusalem has always killed the prophets and is just about to do so again” (Luke 13:34-35). For far to long, Israel was just going through the motions of their religious duties, but their hearts were far from God. They practiced wickedness as easily as they practiced the rituals in the Temple. But in reality, they cursed ADONAI.

    This was a picture of the Gentiles receiving favor from the LORD, coming to a saving knowledge of Yeshua Messiah, while at the very same time Israel has been totally set aside. The consequences of their sin had to be faced. ADONAI would pay them back through the judgment of the Great Tribulation for their idolatrous worship.


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