Isaiah 63:16 (ESV) … “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.”
The prophet looks ahead in 63:1–6 and sees Jesus Christ returning from the battle of Armageddon that climaxes the Day of the Lord (Rev. 19:11–21). Edom is named here as a representative of the nations that have oppressed the Jews. Bozrah was one of its main cities, and its name means “grape gathering.” This is significant since the image here is that of the wine press (Joel 3:13; Rev. 14:17–20). The name “Edom” means “red” and was a nickname for Esau (Gen. 25:30).
The ancient wine press was a large, hollowed rock into which the grapes were put for the people to tread on them. The juice ran out a hole in the rock and was caught in vessels. As the people crushed the grapes, some of the juice would splash on their garments. Our Lord’s garments were dyed with blood as the result of the great victory over His enemies (Rev. 19:13).
When Jesus came to earth the first time, it was to inaugurate “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa. 61:2; Luke 4:19). When He comes the second time, it will be to climax “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 63:4; 61:2). The enemy will be crushed like grapes and forced to drink their own blood from the cup of God’s wrath (51:17; Jer. 25:15–16). These images may not appeal to sophisticated people today, but the Jews in that day fully understood them.
Then the prophet looks back at what God has done for Israel (Isa. 63:7–14). He praises God for His loving-kindness and goodness, for the pity and love bestowed on Israel. God identified with their sufferings (v. 9; Jud. 10:16; Deut. 32:10–12) as He does with His people today (1 Peter 5:7). The Jews asked, “Where is our God who did wonders for His people? Why is He not working on our behalf?”
The prophet looks up and calls on God to bare His arm and display His power (Isa. 63:15–64:12). For Abraham’s sake, for Israel’s sake, because God is their Father, he pleads for a demonstration of power just as God did in the ancient days.
He asks God to “look down” (63:15) and to “come down” (64:1). This is one of the greatest “revival prayers” found in Scripture. Just as God came down in fire at Sinai (Ex. 19:16–19), so let Him come down again and reveal His awesome power to the nations. They trust in dead idols, so let them see what the living God of Israel can do!
Why is God not working wonders? They have sinned (Isa. 64:5–6) and must confess their sins and turn from them. If our righteousness is filthy, what must our sins look like in His sight! According to verse 4, God has planned for His people wonderful things beyond their imagination; but their sins prevent Him from sharing His blessings. (See 1 Cor. 2:9 and Eph. 3:20–21.) Is there any hope? Yes, because God is a forgiving Father and a patient Potter (Jer. 18). He can cleanse us and make us anew if we will let Him have His way.
This prayer (and the believing remnant) ends with a question: Why is God silent? His temple has been destroyed, His glorious land has been ravaged, and His people are in exile. “After all this, O Lord, will You hold Yourself back? Will You keep silent and punish us beyond measure?” (Isa. 64:12, NIV) God’s reply is found in the next two chapters.