This chapter alludes to Israel's rejection of Jesus at his first coming, and her near 2,000 year exile as a consequence. It then fast-forwards to Israel's end-time repentance and dramatic deliverance from the Antichrist by Jesus the warrior.
This chapter alludes to Israel's rejection of Jesus at his first coming, and the consequences that Israel subsequently faced during nearly 2,000 years of exile. It then fast-forwards to Israel's end-time repentance and dramatic deliverance from the Antichrist by Jesus the warrior.

Israel's rejection of Jesus
Verses 1 to 8 challenge Israel with their rebellion against God. But which time period of Israel's history (or future) is in view in this passage? Verse 1 declares that the Lord's hand is not too weak to deliver them - so a time is in view when God was ready to deliver and save Israel. But verse 2 tells us that instead of receiving his salvation, they alienated themselves from God by their sinful acts, so God rejected them and chose not to listen to their prayers. My understanding is that this passage describes Israel's rejection of Jesus, 2,000 years ago. Jesus came to save Israel (v1), but instead they concocted lies (v3-4) and hatched an evil plot (v5) against Jesus, ending up with his blood on their hands (v3). Nothing can cover up the sinfulness of their violence against him (v6). They were quick to shed his innocent blood, to crush and kill him (v7). Jesus came to bring peace, but Israel could not relate to the kind of peace he offered, and they responded deceitfully (v8).

The consequences of Israel's sin
In verses 9 to 11, Israel describes what it is like to live with the consequences of her sin (her rejection of Jesus). God's salvation is far from them, and instead of the light they hoped for (see Isaiah 60:1-3), they experience deep darkness (v9). They grope about in the darkness like blind men, and are like dead men while others are strong (v10). They growl and moan, but the deliverance they wait for doesn't come (v11). This would seem to describe Israel's near 2,000 years of exile, suffering all kinds of oppression, and ultimately the deep darkness of the Holocaust. Up to this point, there is yet to be a recognition of why - it is more of a lament than confession and repentance.

Israel's confession
That recognition comes in verse 12. Israel confesses that God knows her rebellious deeds, her sins which testify against her. Not only does God know them, but now Israel recognises them, her sins that she 'knows all too well' (v12). The circumstances that bring about this conviction and self-awareness are described in verses 16 to 20, and coincide with Zechariah 12:10, "I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn". By that point in time, Israel will once again have passed through deep darkness, that of the Great Tribulation. In their confession of verse 13, they seem to have Christ's trial in mind, recognising that they stirred up oppression and rebellion, and concocted lies. Consequently, justice was driven back and godliness stood far off. Honesty stumbled in the city square, perhaps a metaphorical picture of Jesus, who is The Truth, stumbling on his way to Calvary. As Jesus died, honesty disappeared, and he that avoided evil (the sinless one) was robbed. Meanwhile, God was watching and was displeased at the absence of justice in Israel (v15).

Jesus the Warrior intervenes
Verses 16 to 20 describe Jesus' intervention and deliverance of Israel that bring about such confession. Verse 16 portrays the time when Jerusalem falls to the Antichrist, as in Zechariah 14. Jesus sees that there is no-one intervening to help Israel, so he takes matters into his own hands, literally 'his arm delivers for him'. The Arm of the Lord is a metaphor for God's mighty military intervention, as when he defeated Pharaoh's armies at the Red Sea and enabled Israel to escape. This time round, Jesus divides the Mount of Olives to enable Israel's escape from the Antichrist (Zechariah 14:3-5). Jesus' desire for justice drives him on (v16). Jesus the warrior puts on his body armour, and garments of vengeance (v17). He then goes to war, dispensing judgment and punishing his enemies. He repays the coastlands, symbolic of sea-faring nations (v18). This passage is a brief introduction to Jesus' military intervention on Israel's behalf. Isaiah describes it in more graphic and gory detail in chapter 63:1-6, and it is described in even more detail in Habakkuk 3. According to verse 19, people in the west will fear the Lord, and those in the east will recognise his splendour (glory). Jesus was probably alluding to this verse when he said in Matthew 24:27, "For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be". Jesus will come like a rushing stream, driven on by the wind of the Lord (v19b). Isaiah uses two metaphors, water and wind, that are both used in the New Testament to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the intervention of the Trinity, Jehovah in all his fullness. A protector (redeemer) comes to Zion, to those who repent of their rebellious deeds (v20). When Israel repents of rejecting Jesus, God's response will be astounding. God promises that his Holy Spirit will come upon Israel and her descendants, and never again depart from them (v21). It is as though repentant Israel has just prayed Psalm 51. God forgives them and assures them that he will never again reject them, or take his Holy Spirit away from them (Psalm 51:11).
Places: Israel, West, East, Coastlands, Zion
Symbols: Arm of the Lord, Water as the Holy Spirit, Wind as the Holy Spirit, Armour of God, Robes of vengeance, Snake eggs as a plot, Spider web of deception, Light and darkness
Tags: Israel rejects Jesus, Consequences of Israel rejecting Jesus, Roman exile, Israel repents, Jesus as a mighty warrior, Jesus fights his enemies, Israel as the blind servant, End-time exile, Great Tribulation, Jesus delivers Israel, God as the kinsman redeemer of Israel, Holy Spirit outpouring
Injustice Brings Alienation from God
1 Look, the Lord’s hand is not too weak to deliver you; his ear is not too deaf to hear you.
2 But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God; your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers.
3 For your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with sin; your lips speak lies, your tongue utters malicious words.
4 No one is concerned about justice; no one sets forth his case truthfully. They depend on false words and tell lies; they conceive of oppression and give birth to sin.
5 They hatch the eggs of a poisonous snake and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, a poisonous snake is hatched.
6 Their webs cannot be used for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are sinful; they commit violent crimes.
7 They are eager to do evil, quick to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are sinful; they crush and destroy.
8 They are unfamiliar with peace; their deeds are unjust. They use deceitful methods, and whoever deals with them is unfamiliar with peace.

Israel Confesses its Sin
9 For this reason deliverance is far from us and salvation does not reach us. We wait for light, but see only darkness; we wait for a bright light, but live in deep darkness.
10 We grope along the wall like the blind, we grope like those who cannot see; we stumble at noontime as if it were evening. Though others are strong, we are like dead men.
11 We all growl like bears, we coo mournfully like doves; we wait for deliverance, but there is none, for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For you are aware of our many rebellious deeds, and our sins testify against us; indeed, we are aware of our rebellious deeds; we know our sins all too well.
13 We have rebelled and tried to deceive the Lord; we turned back from following our God. We stir up oppression and rebellion; we tell lies we concocted in our minds.
14 Justice is driven back; godliness stands far off. Indeed, honesty stumbles in the city square and morality is not even able to enter.
15 Honesty has disappeared; the one who tries to avoid evil is robbed. The Lord watches and is displeased, for there is no justice.

The Lord Intervenes

16 He sees there is no advocate; he is shocked that no one intervenes. So he takes matters into his own hands; his desire for justice drives him on.
17 He wears his desire for justice like body armor, and his desire to deliver is like a helmet on his head. He puts on the garments of vengeance and wears zeal like a robe.
18 He repays them for what they have done, dispensing angry judgment to his adversaries and punishing his enemies. He repays the coastlands.
19 In the west, people respect the Lord’s reputation; in the east they recognize his splendor. For he comes like a rushing stream driven on by wind sent from the Lord.
20 “A protector comes to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their rebellious deeds,” says the Lord.
21 “As for me, this is my promise to them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is upon you, and my words, which I have placed in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth or from the mouths of your children and descendants from this time forward,” says the Lord.