ISAIAH, Part 10

Intercessors Needed!

Isaiah, 59:1—16

This is a stirring chapter. In it, Isaiah God’s faithful prophet, exposes the sins of his people. Isaiah, the man who could preach incredible words of comfort and encouragement, could also confront his people and take them to task for the sins they allowed to continue in their lives. He forced them to face the ugliness of sin unapologetically.

To put this chapter in context, Isaiah had previously dealt with Israel’s paganism in chapter 57; then in chapter 58 he dealt with their hypocritical approach to their faith, using fasting as an example. And here in chapter 59, Isaiah confronts the corruption of the nation. Each of the three chapters (57, 58, and 59) also deal with prayer. In chapter 57, prayers went unanswered because the people weren’t praying to God; in 58 God turned a deaf ear to their prayers because they were hypocrites; and here, it is because of their sins.

This chapter brings to mind a handful of verses written by Jesus’ half-brother in the New Testament:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13—14)

The people of Judah were wondering why God had forsaken them. They wondered if God was impotent or just indifferent. But, if this chapter teaches us anything, it’s that the problems believers face have nothing to do with a lack of concern or ability on God’s part, but rather their own sins. Given their skewed perspective on things, the prophet asked a serious question in verse one:

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

In other words, God was ready to step in and help, but the people hadn’t bothered to approach Him in the proper fashion:

He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene… (verse 16)

Imagine: not one person could take the time to intercede.

1. There was a desperate need for intercessors

The people of Judah were in a sad state. God seemed far away from His people, but there was a good reason for that feeling. Their sin had separated them from Him. Sin does that; it builds a wall of separation between the two. One Bible scholar noted:

Sin-dwarfed men lack the capacity to discern God’s presence.

God was still there, but the people had lost the ability to sense His presence. God was just as powerful and just as able as ever to deliver His people as He always had been in the past.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (verse 2)

What is particularly sad is that the people actually anticipated some kind of divine intervention, they prayed for it after a fashion, but their sinful lifestyle precluded any kind of help. They prayed selfishly; their desires were selfish; their whole way of living was one big rebellion against God’s will. These were people who knew God, they knew all about God, but continued to live under the delusion that they could serve God their way, not His way.

Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (verse 10)

Just like the person who turns his back on the sun stands facing his own shadow, so the people had no perception that God was there, at the ready. The blindness was self-inflicted. These people were living quite literally in their own Twilight Zone, a world of their own creation; miserable and separated from God, yet pitifully trying to win His favor their own way.

2. There should have been intercessors

Verse 1 made it perfectly clear; the Lord had not changed; He was more than able to deliver His people. This was something the apostle Paul believed with all his heart, and he based his whole ministry around it:

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us… (2 Corinthians 1:10)

Here was a man—a great servant of God—who faced peril after peril, yet his unwavering faith in God was rooted in historical facts! He knew what God had done in the past and as far as Paul was concerned, God would do it again. He never doubted that.

Faithful Christians make the best intercessors; when your heart is right with God, there is no reason for your prayer, prayed in faith, to go unanswered.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

What an encouragement to believers today! There is no reason not to be an intercessor. Some believers have a difficult time praying for a more than a few minutes at a stretch because they run out of things to pray for. That’s hard to imagine, given all the misery surrounding us, but assuming that’s the case, the Lord has taken care of that problem, too:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)

The Lord wants intercessors so badly, that He makes a way for them intercede even when they think they think they can’t.

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest… (Isaiah 62:6)

When should you be an intercessor? Any time is a good time to pray for others! Those who would call on the Lord should not cease to call on the Lord. He’s always listening, so why aren’t believers always praying?

3. The possibilities are endless in prayer

Isaiah’s world was a mess. Assuming Isaiah was writing to his contemporaries, then he was writing during the early days of Manasseh. The war was over and a measure of prosperity was returning to the nation. But the people were hardened. They were hardened not only to God but also to their friends and neighbors. The nation had become cold and corrupt because the people refused to repent of their sins, and sin perverts everything; from family relationships to politics to business and commerce: sin ruins everything.

We look around at the state of the world today and it’s tempting to blame the riots in the U.K. on the British welfare state or on poverty, and it’s tempting to blame the flash mob violence in America on unemployment, but the reality is that sin is what causes these problems. Moral depravity and insensitivity to others follow on the heels of living in sin. Deeds and words always reveal a person’s character.

For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. (Isaiah 59:3)

The people were wicked and growing more so. The mystery of iniquity increases. But there is something more powerful than evil: the power of prayer. If the Lord could have found one faithful intercessor, what a difference that would have made! A classic example of the power of one intercessor is Aaron:

So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. (Numbers 16:47-48)

One faithful intercessor can change the course of history. One faithful intercessor can change the destiny of another:

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. (Acts 12:4-7)

To be an effective intercessor, however, means persistence. The faithful intercessor never gives up; he never goes by he sees. Recall how the widow got justice from the unjust judge. She never stopped; she persisted:

So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. (Luke 18:6, MSG)

Never stop praying. Never give up on that particular need, whatever it may be. No matter what it looks like, keep praying; keep interceding because Christians walk by faith, not by sight. We cannot see into the spirit-world, but when our hearts are right and we are praying as we ought, things are happening.

Another classic example of a godly intercessor is the prophet Habakkuk. He was praying for his people and his nation, but his prayers seemed to go unanswered:

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)

Here was a prophet, an undeniable man of God, who was getting frustrated. God had called him to pray and intercede for his people, but nothing was happening. He prayed and prayed, but things stayed the same. Any Christian would get frustrated! But here is what God said to his prophet:

Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.” (Habakkuk 1:5-7)

Habakkuk had no way of knowing what was going on. God in His sovereignty and grace explained His plans to the prophet, to give him reassurance.

God will give you reassurance, too. If your heart is right. If you pray in faith. If you walk in repentance, then God will come through for you and your prayers will get results.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James :16)

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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