This is a Bible study on Isaiah 63:7-64:12.

6 pages.

Isaiah 63:7-64:12 - How to Approach an Offended God

Read Isaiah 63:7­-64:12.


One day some little boys were playing baseball in the parking lot of a local bank. One of them hit a ball that sailed through the big plate glass window of the bank. The window shattered with an awful sound. A shower of glass fell onto the pavement. A dozen little boys ran for home as fast as they could.

A contemporary re-play of that scene might go as follows. The little boys would band together in a support group. They would defiantly demand that the banker give them back their baseball, thereby affirming their “rights.” They would then proceed to lay the blame on the city for failing to provide adequate playground facilities, and on the sporting goods manufacturer for making the baseballs too hard.

Consider some of the responses to sin and guilt that are recorded in the Scriptures. Adam and Eve hid behind the trees:

Then they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves among the trees of the garden from the presence of the LORD God. Gen. 3:8

Aaron invented a fantastic story to excuse his sin:

[The people] said to me, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.' 24So I told them, 'Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.' Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf! Ex. 32:23-24

King Saul re-interpreted his sin, redefining it as an act of devotion. When Samuel inquired as to why he heard the bleating of sheep when the LORD had commanded the destruction of all the Amalekites’ possessions,

Saul answered, 'The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.' 1 Sam. 15:15

What do we do when we have offended the LORD our God?

Let us consider the instructions given to us in Isaiah 63-64 as to how to approach God when we have offended Him with our sins.

You Must Make an Honest Confession of Sin🔗

Isaiah testifies that the LORD is pleased with the man who does what is right and remembers the commandments by keeping them: “You hold fellowship with the one who rejoices in the practice of righteousness, [you hold fellowship with] those who remember you by observing your ways” (Isa. 64:5a).

But Isaiah must confess that he and his people do not fit the description of the man whose life elicits God’s favor, “You were angry [with us], because we sinned” (vs. 5b). Note: Some versions render this verse as follows: “You were angry [with us], and we sinned.” But the Hebrew conjunction ( ו ), which normally has the meaning, “and,” also on occasion has the meaning, “since,” or “because,” such may be the preferable rendering here. The latter part of verse five contains the confession that the way of sin has now been practiced for a considerably long time: “for a long time we have continued in our sins.”

In verse six of chapter 64 Isaiah continues to make an honest confession before the LORD: “All of us have become like one who is unclean.” Here is the confession of universal guilt and moral pollution without exception and without excuse; note, also, Isaiah’s confession in chapter 53:6a, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” The Apostle Paul asserts, “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Isaiah goes on to confess, “All of us shrivel up like a leaf; and, like the wind, our iniquities sweep us away.” Here is the confession that we are overpowered by our sins and swept away by them. The Lord Jesus declares, “I tell you the truth, Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (Jn. 8:34).

When we have offended God, we must approach Him with an honest confession of sin. Consider the experience of David:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long; 4for day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD;' and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psl. 32:3-5

Consider the example of the Prodigal Son; he declared,

18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you... 20So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Lk. 15:18,20

Consider the testimony of 1 John 1:8-9,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The LORD is “faithful and just to forgive our sins;” by virtue of His commitment to the covenant of grace He has established with His people, the LORD is faithful to receive us back; and by virtue of the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the LORD is able to receive us back without violating His justice.

You Must Appeal to the LORD’s Covenant Mercy🔗

In chapter 63:7-9, Isaiah looks back to the Exodus; the time when “the angel of his presence saved them.” In those verses Isaiah is referring to the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the LORD’s miraculous provisions for His people in the wilderness, His bringing them to Mt. Sinai, and finally bringing them into the Promised Land of Canaan.

When Isaiah reports that the LORD declared that the people of Israel would be “children who shall not lie to me,” the LORD is declaring the purpose of their salvation: the “shall not” has the same connotation as the “shall not” found in the Ten Commandments. It is declaring the divine intention as to how our lives are to be governed. Furthermore, the LORD, in uttering this declaration, is also looking to the final, finished product of His work of grace in His people, namely, devotion to Him. Note, for instance, Revelation 22:3b, “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.”

In verses 10-11a of chapter sixty-three, Isaiah recalls that in later days, when Israel rebelled and the LORD’s anger was provoked against them, the LORD remembered the Exodus and the events that immediately followed thereafter: “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore, he turned and became their enemy; he himself fought against them. 11Then he remembered the days of old, [the time of] Moses [and] his people.” Here Isaiah seems to be specifically referring to the time when Moses interceded on behalf of the people after they had provoked the LORD by making the golden calf. The LORD remembered that Israel is His people, and He did not cast them away.

Reminiscing upon those past displays of pity and compassion, and the restraining of divine judgment, Isaiah implores the LORD to again remember His love for His people and to not forsake them utterly. Recalling how the LORD had previously looked down upon His people in their affliction and bondage, Isaiah beseeches Him to do so again: “Look down from heaven” (vs.15a). Isaiah inquires, “Where are your zeal and your mighty acts?” Isaiah questions, “Has the LORD lost His zeal for His people?” Isaiah’s question is not one of doubt; rather it is intended to move the LORD to once again display His zeal for His people. Isaiah is bold to complain to the LORD, “the yearning of your heart and your compassions are withheld from me.” He is protesting and pleading that the LORD is not allowing His compassion to flow forth and move Him to act on behalf of His people. Note: When Isaiah uses the singular pronoun, “me,” he is speaking of himself as he represents the entire nation.

In verses 16-17, Isaiah reminds the LORD of the relationship that exists between Himself and His people, a relationship that is in jeopardy: “You, O LORD, are our Father; from everlasting your name has been, Our Redeemer.” That is to say, continuously since the time of the Exodus, the LORD has shown Himself to be a compassionate father to Israel and a faithful redeemer; indeed, in His eternal counsel and purposes, the LORD has ever assumed the role of the redeemer of His chosen covenant people.

Isaiah now inquires, “O LORD, why do you cause us to wander from your ways?” (Isa. 63:17a) Initially, it was Israel’s embracing of their sins that produced an estrangement from the LORD, causing Him to withdraw His divine presence from them: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have caused him to hide his face from you” (Isa. 59:2). This divine withdrawal in turn “caused” the people to abandon themselves to their chosen course of sin: “There is no one who calls on your name, [no one] who arouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us” (Isa. 64:7a). With the withdrawal of the divine presence, the people have been released from the sin-restraining effect of that holy presence; consequently, they now pursue their chosen course with abandon.

Isaiah goes on to ask the LORD, “[Why do you] harden our hearts so that we do not fear you?” (Isa. 63:17b) When the heart has been hardened, there is no longer a holy fear of God, which causes one to abandon their sin and plead with Him for mercy. But in what sense, or in what way, did the LORD harden Israel’s heart? Just as Isaiah 64:7a helps us to understand the prophet’s initial question (posed in 63:17a), so Isaiah 64:7c assists us in gaining an understanding of his next question (posed in 63:17b). The withdrawing of the LORD’s restraining presence “caused” the people to abandon themselves to their chosen course of sin (64:7a); and the LORD now hardens the people’s heart by “abandoning” them to their chosen course: “[you] have delivered us over to the clutches of our iniquities” (Isa. 64:7c).

Note: In Scripture, an individual or nation who is said to have “hardened his heart,” is one that defiantly chooses the course of disobedience (by way of example, see Ex. 9:34-35, printed below). When Scripture speaks of the LORD “hardening the heart” of an individual or a nation, it is referring to the fact that, as an act of judgment, the LORD has confirmed the adamantly disobedient in his chosen course of disobedience (again, by way of example, see Ex. 10:20, printed below), or, as expressed in Isaiah 64:7c, the LORD has “delivered us over to the clutches of our iniquities.”

Pharaoh...hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the children of Israel go Ex. 9:34-35

...the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go. Ex. 10:20

Now, in the latter part of verse seventeen, we hear Isaiah pleading with the LORD, “Desist, for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.” Isaiah is praying that the LORD would cease from carrying out this act of judicial hardening of the heart; that He would relent. Isaiah is imploring the LORD to reverse this damnable process for the sake of His people, because they are His “servants” (i.e. His possession, they belong to Him) and they are His “inheritance” (i.e. His treasure).

Just as the prophet Isaiah pleaded with the LORD on behalf of His Old Testament people, so the Lord Jesus pleads for all those whom His heavenly Father has given to Him. An example of such intercessory prayer offered on behalf of the LORD’s people when they are on the road to apostasy is found in Luke 22:31-32,

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Truly, Satan has asked for you.Lk. 22:31a

Here is a reference to the devil’s request, which was granted, that he might tempt Peter to deny his Lord, which Peter did, indeed, do. When, in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, Peter was asked of his relationship to Jesus, he responded, “I do not know him” (Lk. 22:57), and again, “I am not [one of his disciples]” (Lk. 22:58).

But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren. Lk. 22:32

The Greek word, εκλειπω, translated, “fail,” has the meaning, “to cease, to end, to give out.” What Jesus is praying is that Peter’s faith would not give way to apostasy. Due to the Lord’s intercession, Peter was restored.

In verses 18-19 Isaiah points the LORD to the deplorable state of His land and His people. God’s people have been removed from the inheritance, and the LORD’s sanctuary has been trampled down. God’s holy people, (those who have been called to be His own possession and to possess His holy character), are no longer distinguishable from the people of the world. That is to say, like the surrounding nations, Israel, too, has been carried away by God’s instrument of judgment, the Babylonians. Isaiah is imploring the LORD to act because the great work of redemption and the fulfillment of its purpose are in danger of being nullified. If God’s people are not restored, they will finally suffer the same fate as those who are eternally lost. Thus, throughout this passage Isaiah is appealing to the LORD to act on the basis of His covenant mercy and faithfulness.

When we have offended God, we must appeal to His covenant mercy and faithfulness. Just as Isaiah looked back to the Exodus, and pleaded with the LORD on the basis of that great act of redemption, so we must look back to Calvary and appeal to the LORD on the basis of Christ’s act of redemption. Our prayer must be: “Father, Your Son’s sacrificial death has satisfied Your justice and has paid the price, so that I may receive forgiveness. Now Father, restore me, so that the purpose of Christ’s redemptive work can be accomplished; namely, to make me Your own possession as a holy child and faithful servant forever.” Note: The very fact that a professing Christian, who has willingly indulged in his sin, would make such a prayer is itself an evidence of the LORD’s covenant mercy and faithfulness. It is an evidence of our Savior’s intercessory prayer on our behalf.


How do you approach an offended God? In answer to that question, this passage of Scripture instructs us as follows: when we have offended the LORD our God by our sins, 1) we must approach Him with honesty; and, 2) we must appeal to His covenant mercy and faithfulness.

The Book of Hebrews instructs us, indeed, exhorts us with these words: “Since we have a great high priest...Jesus, the Son of God...let us...approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy” (Heb. 4:14-16)

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. How does Isaiah describe the LORD’s attitude toward His people when they were enslaved in Egypt? See Isa. 63:9a; note, Ex. 3:7. What did He do for them? See Isa. 63:9b, note Ex. 3:8a. As a Christian, how has the LORD expressed His love for you? See Rom. 5:8. In what personal ways has He expressed His love for you?

In all their anguish, he, too, felt anguish, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Isa. 63:9

Then the LORD said, I have certainly seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard them crying out because of their taskmasters. I know their sorrows. Ex. 3:7

But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8

  1. What did the LORD expect from His people in response to the love He showed them? See Isa. 63:8. But how did they reciprocate to His covenantal love? See Isa. 63:10a. What does the LORD expect us, we who have been redeemed by His blood and brought into a covenantal relationship with Him? See 2 Cor. 5:15. Have we reciprocated to His covenantal faithfulness to us by being faithfully committed to Him; or, must what is said of Israel also be said of us?

He said, Surely, they are my people, children who shall not lie [to me]; so he became their Savior. Isa. 63:8

But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit... Isa. 63:10a

...he died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.2 Cor. 5:15

  1. How did the LORD react to Israel’s covenantal unfaithfulness? See Isa. 63:10b. What solemn warning does the Apostle James give us with regard to covenantal unfaithfulness to the LORD our God? See Jas. 4:4. Is there any way in which you have cultivated friendship with the world (prioritizing material wealth, cf. Matt. 6:24; engaging in an immoral lifestyle, cf. Heb. 13:4; maintaining unholy relationships, cf. 2 Cor. 6:14); and by so doing, have made yourself an enemy of God? Note Prov.13:15b,

But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore, he turned and became their enemy; he himself fought against them. Isa. 63:10

Adulterers and adulteress! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Jas. 4:4

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and material wealth.Matt. 6:24

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Heb. 13:4

Do not become unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what communion does light have with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14

...the way of the unfaithful is hard. Prov. 13:15b

  1. What change of attitude on the LORD’s part is reported in Isaiah 63:11a? What brought about this change in attitude? See Psl. 106:44-45. (Note: The plaintive questions of Isaiah 63:11b-14 are actually those of Israel as they remorsefully sought reconciliation with the LORD.) What appeal does Isaiah now make on behalf of the covenant people? See Isa. 63:15-16. As a Christian, when you need to seek restoration to the LORD, do you base your appeal on the futile promise that you will reform your ways, or, like Isaiah, do you appeal to the LORD’s compassion and covenantal faithfulness?

Then he remembered the days of old, [the time of] Moses [and] his people... Isa. 63:11

Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry; 45and for their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the multitude of his mercies. Psl. 106:44­-45

Where is he who brought them through the sea with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who put his Holy Spirit in their midst? 12[Where is he] who caused his glorious arm to be with Moses’ right hand? [He] who parted the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting fame? 13[He] who led them through the depths as [one leads] a horse through the desert, so that they would not stumble? 14Like cattle that go down into the valley, so the Spirit of the LORD caused them to rest. This is how you led your people, to make a glorious name for yourself.Isa. 63:11b-14

Look down from heaven, observe from your holy and glorious habitation. Where are your zeal and your mighty acts? The yearning of your heart and your compassions are withheld from me. 16You are our Father, [even] though Abraham does not recognize us and Israel [i.e. Jacob] does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; from everlasting your name has been, Our Redeemer. Isa. 63:15-16

  1. What incredible questions does Isaiah ask in Isaiah 63:17a and b? Who initially chose the course of sin, and what was the consequence of that choice? See Isa. 59:2. What has been the result of the removal of the divine presence? See Isa. 64:7a, b. Having chosen the path of sin, which resulted in the withdrawal of the LORD’s holy presence, which in turn resulted in the wanton perpetuation of their sins (cf. Isa. 64:7a), which in turn resulted in a judicial hardening of their hearts, (i.e. the LORD’s releasing them to their chosen, defiant course), would have happened to the covenant people if Isaiah had not made intercession for them? See Isa. 64:8-9. As Christians, for what must we be ever so thankful? See Heb. 7:25,

O LORD, why do you cause us to wander from your ways; [why do you] harden our hearts so that we do not fear you? Desist, for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. Isa. 63:17

...your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have caused him to hide his face from you, so that he refuses to hear [you]. Isa. 59:2

There is no one who calls on your name, [no one] who arouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us over to the clutches of our iniquities. Isa. 64:7

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our Potter—all of us are the work made by your hand. 9Do not be exceedingly angry with us, O LORD, and do not remember our iniquity forever. Oh, look, we pray, consider that we are all your people! Isa. 64:8-9

...[Christ] is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he ever lives to make intercession for them. Heb. 7:25

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