What separates us from God?

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, NKJV).

Few activities are more common to mankind than what we often call “the blame game.” Whatever problem I may face, it is never my fault. My difficulties are either caused by or should have been prevented by someone else. If “the devil did not make me do it” then “the government should do something about it.” Rarely do we hear, “I guess I need to make some changes.”

In ancient Israel many Jews were apparently blaming God for their sinful condition. Perhaps they were making the same claim we sometimes hear today: “If God was really a loving God he would not let this kind of thing happen.”

In response the prophet insisted that God’s hand is not weak nor is his ear dim that he cannot hear or act on the people’s needs. The problem was not in heaven. It was right there in Israel, where the sinful rebellion of the people had separated them from their God.

Later in the chapter Isaiah made it explicit.

“For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them; in transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood” (Isaiah 59:12-13).

When sin overtakes us and our lives turn downward into regret, unhappiness, and the miserable consequences of unrighteousness, it is easy to blame our problems on other people, adverse circumstances, or God’s failure to do for us all that we think he should do. Even if we don’t think his arm is too short to reach us, we may feel that he is not as responsive as he should be.

But the prophet of old tells a completely different story.

“Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was not justice. He saw that there was not man, and wondered that there was not intercessor; therefore his own arm brought salvation for him; and his own righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak” (Isaiah 59:15-17).

God not only heard man’s pleas for help, but has intervened personally by sending an intercessor to provide salvation. That savior is Jesus, and he came not only for ancient Israel, but for all mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

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