It’s tempting to read the first fifteen verses of the prophetic 59th chapter of Isaiah by only looking outward. The world heaves under the oppression of those who shed blood, whose mouths drip lies and obscenities, whose hands commit wicked acts of violence. These are the ones who know nothing of peace, who have rejected God. But the prophet’s invitation is not so much for us to look outward as it is for us to look inward. “The wrong,” he writes, “is in you.” Whether I like to admit it or not, sin lives in me.
What are the sins that get between God and us so that he doesn’t hear our cries? To understand our complicity in the collective acts of violence the prophet describes, we must open our minds to see our sinfulness and wrongdoings as they really are.
The God we serve is holy and all-righteous. Anything in us that is less than one hundred percent pure is necessarily offensive to him—not because he’s a mean, demanding God, but because his nature is holy. To a holy God, there is no small sin. Anything that goes against his pure nature is rebellion, anarchy against his perfect rule and reign. When our lips utter little white lies. When we mutter unkind words under our breaths. If we don’t speak up for what’s right and play it safe instead. When we harbor anger or hatred in our hearts. The times we insist on our own way, eschewing peace and sowing seeds of chaos instead. When we choose to spread rumors and gossip because it puts us in the seat of power. The evil is in us.
Because sin lives in me, Jesus made a Way
The wrongdoing described in this chapter isn’t for “those out there.” It’s for us. Right here. “Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God, our sins stand up and accuse us.” (v. 12) Our need for a savior is palpable. And into the chaos of our own making steps a savior. Four little words in verse fifteen change everything. God looked and saw.
What did he see? A chasm between his holy way of being and our sin-filled selves, and he made a Way. The lies we tell ourselves—that we’re not as sinful as the guy we hear about on the news—and he declares to us the Truth. Hearts lacking actionable compassion for the human injustice all around us, and he points us toward compassionate Life. “He did it himself, took on the work of salvation” by becoming the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
How can it be that the all-righteous King of Glory would condescend to leave his throne to become the sacrifice for our salvation? What God does this? Have we really grasped that we’re just as much in need of the Savior as a murderer? Lord have mercy on us that we might see our great need for your sacrifice.
Even when we long to live lives that please God, we fumble and falter. “We long for light but sink into darkness, long for brightness but stumble through the night.” Only in the light of Jesus can we see light, and see ourselves as we truly are. Beloved children of God in desperate need of a Savior. Thanks be to God who has provided the Way to Truth and Life and has given us his Spirit that we might be transformed step by step into the image of our Lord.