Is God Too Holy? A Look At Isaiah 59:2

Today we preach a gospel that says our sin separates us from God…. and that only those not in sin have a relationship or fellowship with God.  We categorize believers as those not in sin and unbelievers as those still in sin.  The problem with that is that there are plenty of believers who sin just like there are unbelievers who do not sin, who live pretty moral, upright lives.

But Paul preached a Gospel that wasn’t based on our actions but rather on the finished work of Christ.  He preached a Gospel that proclaimed that all mankind had been reconciled back to God regardless of their right or wrong actions.

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; ~ 2 Cor 5:18-19

We were reconciled back to God not because of anything we believed, or anything we did.   But only because God desired us… desired to be reconciled to us.  So He was in Christ on the Cross and reconciled ALL men back to Himself.

Reconciling according to Webster’s Dictionary means to restore to friendship; to settle or resolve differences;  It also means to change from an enemy to a friend; and to admit into a community;

2 Corinthians 5:19 also says He didn’t impute their sins against them.  Actually, it says trespasses.  Trespasses in the Greek is paraptóma and means to fall away after being close beside;  a lapse from the truth, a slip-up, an error; sin; wrongdoing that can be unconscious or intentional.  He reconciled ALL men without considering their sins… those that were willful and those that were just slip-ups or mistakes.

Romans 5:10 says God did this reconciliation while we were enemies.  An enemy is someone with a deep-seated hatred for another!  Romans 5:8 says this is how God demonstrated His love for us, He did it while we were sinners.  No repentance or confession required on our part….. it was totally His doing.  It says this all happened while we were weak and ungodly (verse 6)… while we were sinners (verse 8).

HE reconciled us…. restored us back to friendship with Him, settled and resolved the differences we had with Him, changed us from an enemy to a friend and admitted us into His community of love.  He did that while we (all mankind) had a deep-seated hatred for Him, while we were powerless, ungodly, and sinners.

That verse in the Greek says “Moreover (on top of all that)… talking about v. 17, which we’ll have to save for another post!  Moreover, ALL are of God who reconciled us to Himself!  It doesn’t say “all things.”  It says ALL are of God!  I love that.  He reconciled ALL mankind to Himself on the Cross and that same mankind is His!  They are the ALL that is of God.  They belong to Him…. believers, unbelievers, sinners, non-sinners…. ALL are of God!  That doesn’t sound like separation to me!

And He did ALL of this on His own without requiring believing, faith, repentance, confession, a “sinner’s prayer,” etc.  It was simply to demonstrate His love for us.  His relentless, passionate, pursuing covenant love…. His chesed!  To demonstrate His resolve to never let go of us, no matter how far we had gone.  No matter how alienated we had become in our own minds toward Him (Col 1:21)!

So, if that’s Truth… if that’s the Gospel, where did we get the wrong idea of separation from God?  That God was too holy to have a relationship with us when we sin?

This concept of separation from God uses the verse Isaiah 59:2: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

This verse doesn’t say God has hidden His face from you and can’t hear you because of your sin.  But for years that’s what I thought it said!  I pictured God with His fingers in His ears and turning His head away from me….. because of sin.  How sad!  That must grieve God when we think about Him like that.

Let’s read it Isaiah 59:2 in context…..

Go to verse 1 of Isaiah 59:  Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

Thank God for verse 1!  What a beautiful description of God… His hand is not so short that it cannot save!  And His ear is not so heavy (so burdened or dull) that it can’t hear!

That’s our Daddy!!  Always reaching towards us… always listening to us!

Then verse 2 says:  “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”

Yes, sin caused a separation, a hiding of God’s face, an inability to hear.  But it wasn’t on God’s part… it was on man’s.  Sin consciousness causes men to see and hear God through a lens of condemnation and judgment.  It wasn’t God who was in hiding, it was Adam.

In Genesis 3 Adam sinned but God did not turn His face from Adam, nor was He unable or unwilling to hear Adam. In fact, He showed up ready to fellowship with him just like always.  He didn’t hide His face and plug His ears because of Adam’s sin…. He listens and talks with him.  

It was Adam who hid.  God came looking for him.  Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard (shema) the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”  They hid from His face, from His presence.  Hid in Hebrew is chaba and means to withdraw; conceal.  Adam withdrew from God’s face.  Sin consciousness concealed God’s face. 

The word we translate obey is shema in Hebrew and means hearing with understanding, attention, and with a response.   God didn’t close His ears to Adam.  Sin consciousness closed Adam’s ears to God… he could no longer hear with understanding.  His hearing became dull and heavy…. burdened by sin.

God came looking for Adam.  Asking “Adam where are you?”  In the Hebrew, it is an idiom meaning “he is nowhere.”  God wasn’t asking a question; He wasn’t asking where Adam was.  He was crying out “Son, why did you leave My heart?”

This is not a picture of an angry God who is looking for Adam so that he can punish his “disobedience.”  This is not judgmental, condemning God who is hiding His face and closing His ears to His son.  This first look at sin for us is a picture of a caring Father.  One who is full of grief that His son left His heart.  A son who can no longer see and hear Him.

Adam, because of his sin, can no longer see God accurately.  Sin consciousness has hidden God’s face from him.  It is not God that is hiding from Adam because He’s too holy to look on sin!  Adam’s sin has hidden from Adam who God is.  Hidden his true nature from him.

He now sees God through a warped identity, through the lens of sin, guilt, judgment, and condemnation.  Instead of seeing God as a loving Father, he sees Him as judgmental and condemning.  

And it’s not God that refuses or can’t hear but it’s Adam that has a hearing problem.  Oh, he still hears God, but not accurately and not by the Spirit.  Now he hears Him through sin.  Instead of love and affirmation, he hears guilt and condemnation… he hears judgment.

Adam became a man with an identity problem…. no longer seeing himself as a son.  No longer seeing himself as loved and accepted.  Instead, seeing himself separated from God.

Isaiah is not saying that God is separated from man… turning His face and plugging His ears because He is too holy to look at a sinful man. He is saying that God is displeased with the whole situation that sin has caused.  

And what does Isaiah tell us that God does in response to man’s sin?  He doesn’t reject or abandon us.  He doesn’t separate Himself from us!  We must keep reading and not just stop at verse two and form a wrong opinion about God.  According to Isaiah, God springs into action.  He initiates a saving act whereby he rolls up his sleeves and comes to us Himself through his Son.  Through the beautiful incarnation of Jesus!!

And then he tells us that those who turn to God will find that He was ALREADY for them and toward them!  In other words, our repentance does not cause God to come, but rather, God’s grace precedes and even generates our repentance.  Isn’t that what Paul said in Romans 2:4?  That it’s God’s goodness (His covenant love for us – chesed!) causes men to repent, NOT men’s repentance causes God to be good!  He’s ALWAYS good… good is just who He is.  

This is how the New Covenant (announced in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and elsewhere) works.  Grace to His children who in their sin can no longer see Him for who He is or hear Him.  Thinking He has hidden His face and closed His ears to them! 

God’s great mercy………

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.  ~  Genesis 1:27

made in his image

That has become one of my favorite verses lately.  It’s our blueprint… our original design.  No matter what mankind may look like on the outside, no matter what sins we may commit, this is truly who we were created to be and how God sees us – because He always sees us according to our potential in Him not as we are at the moment.

The very first man walked in that design, and all mankind afterward were supposed to walk in the same pattern.  But although Adam was created in that design and walked in it for at least a few days, he sinned and introduced sin and consequently death into ALL the world.

SIN DIDN’T MAKE US SINNERS

All men born after him forgot they were born in God’s likeness and image. Adam gave birth to Seth and in the verse the order is reversed… instead of image and likeness it says likeness and image. I believe that reveals man’s distorted view of who they were.  Genesis 5:3 “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”  Sin had been introduced into the world through Adam’s disobedience. 

Sin in the Greek is hamartia and means to miss the mark.  To sin is to behave out of tune with God’s original harmony.  It is to believe a lie about ourselves.  It is to miss out on sonship.  Sonship is our blueprint… our true, original, chosen design.  Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”

God’s timing was absolutely perfect.

He always had a plan to redeem us.  He had found us in Christ before He lost us in Adam!  Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”  He always loved us too much to leave us in such a wretched state…. God never abandoned His creation!  Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s great mercy is FAR reaching and ALL encompassing.  Just as it took Adam’s one act of sin to condemn ALL of mankind, it only took Jesus’ one act of righteousness to completely declare ALL mankind innocent.  Romans 5:18  “So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life.”  Freely acquitted in the sight of God.

Through Adam, we were ALL were condemned and death reigned in BUT through Jesus, we are ALL declared righteous and life reigns in us.

Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciled us back to God (2 Cor 5:19) and to our original design of sonship.  The sin nature has been completely removed and we received a new heart.. a new spirit… His Spirit.  Ezekiel 36:26-27A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”   

Jesus defeated sin and death ONCE and for ALL.

God did not love us more once we were reconciled.  Reconciliation simply made us free to realize how much He has always loved us and free to enjoy our redeemed original identity — made in His image and in His likeness.  To see ourselves as He sees us — IN CHRIST.  Free to enjoy sonship and all of it’s joys and privileges.  And not just to see ourselves in this new light, but our old ways of seeing others is over as well (2 Cor 5:16).  We are now to see everyone through the eyes of our Redeemer.

He has made us ambassadors or ministers of His reconciliation with the world.  Our lives are now to exhibit the urgency of God to persuade everyone to be reconciled to God — because Jesus took their life to the Cross in exchange for His resurrected life in them.  He did a finished, completed work on the Cross for ALL mankind.

The language of the Old Covenant… of the old written code was “Do in order to become”.  The language of the New Covenant is “Be, because of what has been done.”  It’s simply a matter of saying yes to God through faith in the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s simply a matter of the lost awakening to their righteousness… of seeing themselves as God already sees them…. IN CHRIST.  So that then they will be able to say “I once was blind, but now I see.”

God’s great mercy for mankind is seen in the riches of His goodness toward us and His absolute passionate refusal to let us go.  His Covenant love for us is because He continues to hear the echo of His image and His likeness in us.

I love the Mirror Translation of Romans 3:23-26:

Humanity is in the same boat; their distorted behavior is proof of a lost blueprint. (24) Jesus Christ is proof of God’s grace gift;  He redeemed the glory of God in human life; mankind condemned is now mankind justified!  (25) Jesus exhibits God’s mercy.  In His blood conciliation, God’s faith persuades mankind of His righteousness and the fact that He has brought closure to the historic record of their sins (not by demanding a sacrifice but providing the sacrifice of Himself).  Jesus is the unveiling of the Father’s heart toward us.  (26) All along God refused to let go of mankind.  At this very moment, God’s act of righteousness is pointing them to the evidence of their innocence, with Jesus as the source of their faith.

It is the revelation of God’s goodness that leads men to repentance, not our repentance that leads to God’s goodness.

~ Robin