A little-known prayer-testimonial by the Prophet Isaiah is found in Isaiah 63:7 through 64:1-12. Biblical commentaries refer to it as “the prayer for the whole people,” and it may be considered Isaiah’s national prayer. It gives timeless truths concerning God’s Israel, warning us not to commit the sins of the past.
It begins by the prophet declaring, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.” (v. 7) We often get the question, “what good is a knowledge of our connection with ancient Israel?” Here is Isaiah’s answer: because we need to recognize God’s great goodness to us and appreciate His lovingkindness! The rejection of the British-Israel message is a refusal to acknowledge and appreciate all that He has done for this people.
The prophet then acknowledges something almost universally denied from our American pulpits: “Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour…in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” What people historically have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior? What people have been redeemed by the blood of Christ? What other people during this age have a greater measure of these marks upon them than do the people of Christendom? Where is the Israel who exhibits the fact that God “put his holy Spirit within him?” (v. 11)
A fascinating neglected verse is found in Isaiah 63:16. The prophet says, “Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.” Many commentaries skip over this verse, or say little about it. A common explanation is that Abraham is now dead and therefore ignorant of our affairs today. This is a curious explanation, since most of these commentaries teach that Abraham along with all of the Old Testament saints have a conscious existence in heaven and therefore would indeed know about our affairs today. The “Israel” in this verse is the patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to “Israel.” (Gen. 32:28; 35:10) Could the true explanation instead be a hint that the ignorance is ours, a lack of acknowledgment of the fact of our true connection and descent from these biblical forefathers?
Protestant reformer John Calvin in his “Commentary” states, “They who say that Abraham and other believers care no more about the affairs of men, torture by excessive ingenuity the words of the Prophet. I do not speak of the fact itself, but I say that those words do not prove that the saints have no care about us. The natural and true meaning is, ‘O Lord, that thou art our Father will be so sure and so firmly established, that even though all parentage and all relationship should cease among men, yet thou wilt not fail to be our Father’.” Let us hope and pray that our true parentage does not cease among men!
The prophet proclaims in the closing verse of chapter 63, “We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name. (v. 19) What people today are called by the name of Christ, “Christian.”? What people does our Lord Jesus Christ bare rule over? The prophet is speaking concerning Israel’s traditional enemies, possibly including her nemeses Edom, when he says they were not called by the Lord’s name. Can this not help to identify the Lord’s true people today by using this simple, clear prophetic guide from the prophet: who is called by the Lord’s name, and who is not?
The modern pulpits have neglected Isaiah’s national prayer in the mistaken belief that it does not apply to us today, but the Apostle Paul quoted freely from it in the New Testament. The words in Isaiah 64:4 are a good example: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” The Apostle Paul quoted these words from the Septuagint Version in the Epistle to the Corinthians, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. . . the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9, 10). But he immediately adds, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.”
One verse more than any other has been quoted from Isaiah’s national prayer: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (64:6) Again the Apostle Paul echoes this theme in saying, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
The prophet states some important sad facts relating to the coming fall of Jerusalem and exile of the House of Judah: “Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.” (Isa 64:10) This was all due to their own national sins which bore tragic fruit with the collapse and exile of the nation. Today we see our cities becoming a wilderness of crime and violence. The situation is so bad in our own city of Detroit that over a third of the metropolis has become an uninhabited wilderness of burned out homes and abandoned neighborhoods. Detroit, in truth, is a desolation! How many more of our cities and towns will follow before we turn back to the Lord and His righteous principles?
In verse 11, Isaiah bemoans, “Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste.” For Isaiah, this was a future vision; for us it is happening before our very eyes. Our own land is being laid waste due to our sins as a people and a nation. Will we heed the prophet’s warning?
Bible commentaries believe that Isaiah’s ministry lasted from approximately 740 to 690 B.C., with the exact dates uncertain. However, it is known that he lived over a century before the fall of the nation of Judah and destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. Yet he wrote with a surety that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the land of Zion would become a wilderness, largely uninhabited. In contrast, the ministerial critics of British-Israel scoff at Isaiah’s words, claim that there was no exile of Israel of any size, and speak of “the myth of the empty land.” Modern scholars side with British-Israel on this, leaving no doubt that our critics are both agnostic regarding Scripture and ignorant concerning historic facts!
Isaiah closes the prayer for the nation by imploring, “Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” We have reaped what we sowed and are suffering the consequences. Will God judge us for our actions? Will God make us suffer more? Time will tell the exact consequences for our national sins.
Christ explained the principle, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…” (Luke 12:48) As God’s people, much is required of us whether we wish to acknowledge our heritage and responsibilities or not. This is yet another important reason for people to know the identification of Israel and their place in the plan of God. Let us be about our Father’s business as His children!