Isaiah 64:1-7 – The Prayer Of An Unrighteous Man
Isaiah 64 is a continuation of the prayer for mercy that started in chapter 63 verse 15, and this prayer uncovers a dilemma that Israel finds itself in: One the one hand, Israel is broken and destitute because of their sin, and desperately in need of intervention by the Lord… but will the Lord hear their prayer?
Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence. As fire burns brushwood, as fire causes water to boil— To make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, the mountains shook at Your presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. (Isaiah 63:1-5)
The praying one asks, “What kind of man does the LORD answer in prayer?” Verse 4 notes that that it is the one who waits for the LORD. Verse 5 adds that the LORD will answer the prayer (meet) the one who rejoices and does righteousness, the one who remembers the LORD in his ways.
This situation presents a dilemma: The praying one knows that God only answers the prayers of the righteous man, yet it isn’t the righteous man who needs to be saved. It is the unrighteous man that needs to be saved from the disaster he has brought on himself!
But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:6-7)
So what is the unrighteous man to do? He is clearly unworthy for God to hear his prayers, yet he clearly needs to be saved!
Saints, that dilemma still exists today – because of our sin (Isaiah 64:5-7), we are in a desperate state and need the LORD’s salvation. Our best efforts are as filthy rags before a holy God. So if we are unrighteous and unworthy, and God doesn’t hear the prayers of an unrighteous man, how will we be saved?
Ultimately, the answer is found in the New Covenant, where a righteous Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, stands in our place and prays for us.
This is the message of the gospel – that Christ died for our sins, was raised by the power of God, and now intercedes for us before God, declaring “I paid the price for this unrighteous person’s sin:”
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Roman’s 8:34)
Not only did He intercede once, His ministry in heaven is to continually intercede for us:
But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)
And even when we blow it, when we feel we’re unworthy to approach God and ask for mercy, because of our relationship with Christ, we can come to the throne to ask for, and receive, grace:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
So yes, the Lord doesn’t hear the prayer of an unrighteous man, but thankfully He does hear the prayers of His Son, who prays for us on our behalf.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
We can change the world, one life at a time…