2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. 16 He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. – Isaiah 59:2,16 NKJV
Separated from God
In today’s key verse, we see the prophet Isaiah speaking on behalf of the Lord. God says, in this passage of scripture, that His face was hidden “from you”. Let’s understand who it is that the Lord is speaking to in this particular verse. God was directing this message to the Israelites who, at this point in time, had turned away from Him. Let’s notice that it was not God who chose to hide His face, but that it was their iniquity that caused God’s face to be hidden from them. What does this mean?
We can dig a bit deeper hear in our understanding of Isaiah 59:2. Typically, in scripture, we often see the Lord’s countenance mentioned when someone is speaking of His favor. My uncle often uses for his benediction Numbers 6:25-26. In it we see Moses say “The Lord make His face shine upon you”, and we also see him say, “The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The idea here is that if God is lifting up His countenance upon you, then you have found favor in His eyesight.
So when we see the prophet talking on behalf of God, and we read that His face has been hidden from His chosen people, then we can understand better what this means – they are out of favor with God. We also see that God says that the children of Israel have been “separated” from their God. In this scirpture, the children of Israel have completely fallen out of favor with God and they have been separated (blocked) because of their iniquity.
Iniquity: synonymous with words like wickedness and sinfulness.
Let’s flashback for a moment. Israel, we know, dwelled in Egypt for 430 years; we know they were also in bondage in Egypt. Eventually, after being led out of Egypt by Moses, we know that they were led into the Promised Land by Joshua. They enjoyed gaining wealth and coming to great prominence under King David. Under King Solomon, they built the Lord’s house and worshiped and sacrificed to God.
However, it was also under King Solomon that we started to see changes within the nation. During the reign of his son, Rehoboam, we know that the nation split and divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was home to ten of the twelve tribes, and the southern kingdom was home to Judah and another tribe. Iniquity (wickedness and sinfulness) filled both kingdoms and, due to their sins, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians. By the time of this scripture, the southern kingdom had yet to be conquered by the Babylonians.
The sinfulness of the nation of Israel had blocked them off from God. Today, I tell you that I don’t want to be blocked off! Palm Sunday is next Sunday and so I want to use today’s sermon to set up next Sunday’s sermon. You see, there is a reason for Palm Sunday and then Resurrection Sunday the following week. We are going to celebrate Christ, and as I said during the Christmas season, there was a reason for Christ.
What does it mean to blocked from God?
We are very familiar when it comes to blocking others off or being blocked by others. We know that when we choose to block somebody out of our life, that means no more communication or physical contact – they’re blocked. While we cannot come into physical contact with God, we certainly should not want His spiritual presence hidden from us.
The very idea of God hiding His face, or there being a barrier between you and God, means He has no presence with you. This means, no blessings are coming from the Lord. This also means that you cannot have a spiritual visit with the Lord or spiritual communication with the Lord. Why? The same thing that caused the barrier to come between God and Israel still exists now in the world – sin. The Lord does not open His doors to sin, and He will not allow sin to come into His presence – He blocks it off. We can clearly see this happening earlier in the book of Isaiah.
In Isaiah 1:13 we see that the Lord could no longer endure the futile sacrifices of Israel because of their sin. God says in that scripture, “I cannot endure iniquity”. Endure: to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. When a marathoner runs, their body agonizes over the distance, but they train their bodies to be able to suffer the agony. Relationships take endurance because there are always going to be rough times that a good relationship must be able to suffer (endure) through.
God is a God that is willing to endure and forgive, so this lets you know just how sinful the nation of Israel had become. The nation had become so full of wickedness that God said He would no longer have patience with their sin! God says in the following verse:
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
Isaiah 1:15 NKJV
Because of their sin, when they would spread their hands in prayer, God says that He would hide His eyes from them (remember what I said about countenance earlier). They would continue to seek the Lord in their prayer repeatedly because they would realize their prayers are going unanswered, but even still, the Lord would close up His ears and not listen to them! Why would God act this way to them? Their iniquity, living in sin, would be the only reason the Lord would act this way.
Question: do you think the Lord still acts that way today? I want to ask another question: do you think the Lord hears the sinner’s prayer?
We say that God hears a sinner’s prayer and we even sing songs about how God hears a sinner’s prayer. Truthfully, the Lord hides His eyes and closes up His ears to the prayers of a sinner. You may think to yourself, “that’s not true, Preacher, because he had to hear your prayers.” Here’s the truth: God only hears the prayers of the repentant sinner.
Let’s make this clear: you cannot live a life of sin, say a prayer, and go back to living a life of sin and believe that the Lord heard your prayer. I repeat: you must repent out of genuine faith before the Lord listens to your prayer and answers. I often throw around the words “genuine faith” because there are many people who are not sincere in their faith. Have you heard of the sorcerer named Simon?
In Acts 8:9-24, we are introduced to Simon, a sorcerer, who witnessed the disciples work miracles through the Holy Spirit. The disciples were able to perform these miracles because they were of genuine faith. Simon wanted this “power” and so scripture tells us he “believed”. Yet Simon, after seeing the “power” was given through the laying of hands, wanted to know if he could buy that power – Simon’s faith was not genuine.
There are many people whose faith is not genuine today – they’re just like Simon. Simon could never receive the Holy Spirit (God’s blessing) because his faith was not genuine, and so this same thing is true of many people in the world today. They decide to “try” prayer one day and believe that their trying of prayer should be answered at that moment. Then, when the prayer goes unanswered, they say, “prayer doesn’t work”. Frankly, that prayer will never work because it was not done out of faith anyway.
God hides His eye and closes up His ears to that kind of prayer! You see, I tell you today, that I don’t want to be blocked off from God. I have tasted what the Lord has to offer, and I tell you that you should not want to be blocked off from God as well. You may be thinking to yourself, “Preacher, isn’t your faith genuine? Why would God block you off?” The truth of the matter is that all of mankind was separated from the Lord at one point, and we needed someone to come and tear down the barrier that the Lord throws up to sin. Who could do that?
In their sin, no man stood up for the nation of Israel – not one. Who would stand to atone for the nation’s sin? Nobody. The Lord looked on this and it displeased Him that nobody would stand to intercede on the nation’s behalf. Those that would turn from evil or be righteous would become prey to those that were wicked (Isaiah 59:15). God saw this and God knew that He would have to move on mankind’s behalf.
He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
Isaiah 59:16 NKJV
There was no justice for those that became prey to the sinfulness of others. For you or I to not be blocked from the blessings of the Lord, He had to give His own arm! I want you to understand that when we see, in John 3:16, that He gave His only begotten Son – that was His arm (Himself)! God gave Himself for mankind! Thank God for God!
No man would stand to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel. No man would stand in this day to atone for the sins of you or I. This is not to say we aren’t good people because I see good done all around me everyday. Even with all of what goes on in our nation, at this time, I still witness people standing up for one another everyday. The truth is, no man could atone for anothers sins because our sins are so great. There simply was no sacrifice that could be offered up that would cover the sins of the whole world.
I am going to stop right there this week! As I said, this is the first part of a sermon that is coming next week. The barrier of sin must come down and we have reached the point in this part where we see God is going to move to bring down that barrier.