Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. – Isaiah 64:1-7
This is the first reference to boiling water that I can remember. Boiling water is interesting in that it is water present in two different states at the same time. I boiled some water while I was preparing this post and it was actually fascinating to watch. It is the process of water changing states from liquid to vapor. This reference to boiling is used as a metaphor for God’s arrival on earth, when He will “rend the heavens and come down”. This could be read as a prophetic description of the coming of the Messiah on earth, or it could be read as another event in the history of Israel.
In either case, upon the arrival of God will set “twigs ablaze and causes water to boil”. God will “come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!” So God’s arrival will cause a change in state of “water”, hmmm sounds familiar. In a spiritual sense that is what Jesus, the godly condensate, was describing when He came and made statements like “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).
I wonder if God may be alluding to a spiritual “boiling” of our souls — a necessary “change of state” and a separation of the body and soul that is to occur. In a way this is similar to the distress, or stretching apart, that was described in yesterday’s passage. Boiling is a chaotic and raucous process – similar to the process of trying to faithfully follow God with a soul bound to a body. The spiritual separation process is bound to be chaotic and raucous as well.
The character of the people awaiting God’s arrival is described this way, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” God has been waiting for people who are waiting for Him, a cosmic game of tag between us and God.
The last part of the passage seems to be describing a people doing more “hiding” than “seeking”. The people know that they are “like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” They even ask the question that is asked by most of us who realize we are flawed followers, “How then can we be saved?”
The answer to this question is found throughout the book of Isaiah, God extended His Arm and was pierced for our transgressions because of His unfailing love for us. Rather than fear that we will “shrivel up like a leaf” and the “wind” will “sweep us away”, perhaps we should welcome the wind and allow our souls to “boil” in God’s presence.
Prayer: God You came to save those who wait for You. Help us to embrace the wind of your Spirit.