The context is that the people were complaining to Moses and then Moses complains to HaShem.
21 But Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you
say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!'
22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would
they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?"
23 The LORD answered Moses, "Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see
whether or not what I say will come true for you."
The prophet Isaiah answers this question:
1 Surely the arm of the LORD is NOT too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his
face from you, so that he will not hear.
God’s people wondered why God did not seem to rescue them from their trials. They wondered if perhaps God had diminished in strength – if His hand had become shortened. After all the effort of the Ten Blows in Egypt and the parting of the sea, perhaps God was tired and He had run out of steam.
I suspect that whereas we might not think along these lines, when we have found ourselves being squeezed between a rock and a hard place, we have questioned ‘where are You, Lord’? There were occasions when the Psalmist felt like this:
Ps 22:1- 2
1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and
am not silent.
Here, David is expressing his heart to the Father. But, notice, David doesn’t end with a kvetch and a cry for help. He strengthens himself in God (1 Sam 30:6). He mingles faith with his experience:
Psalm 22:3 - 5
3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them.
5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
So, the prophet Isaiah encourages them that HaShem’s Hand in NEVER too short; he assures them that this is not the case.
This touches on one of the greatest problems in practical theology:
how can there be a God of love and all power when
there is human suffering?
If we loved someone and had the power to end their suffering, wouldn’t we do it? Isaiah addresses those who wondered if God wasn’t all powerful, and that is why their suffering continues.
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a remarkably wide-selling book titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It sold more than a half a million copies before going to paperback and was on the New York Times best-seller list for a whole year. The whole point of his book is to say God is all loving but not all powerful, that God is good, but not sovereign. So, when bad things happen to good people, it is because events are out of God’s control. Kushner advises his readers to “learn to love [God] and forgive him despite his limitations.”
A book that I personally can recommend that deals with this topic is called “When God doesn’t make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. I found this particularly helpful when counselling someone who was dying of cancer. It helps believers avoid the ‘betrayal barrier’, the sense that God is abandoning them in the midst of life’s storms.
So, Harold Kushner’s foundational premise in his book certainly does not reflect the God of the Bible, because the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save. Isaiah contradicts Harold Kushner’s paradigm.
Nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
Perhaps the problem isn’t that God lacks power. Perhaps He lacks knowledge of our problem, or interest in our problem. But this isn’t the situation at all, as Isaiah reminds us. God’s ear is not heavy. He can hear us just fine. He promises in through the prophet, Jeremiah in chapter 33:3 – “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known’.
The problem is not with HaShem; as usual, the problem rests with people.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
The problem isn’t with God’s power, His knowledge, or His interest. The problem is with our iniquities. Sin has separated us from your God. Since Eden, this has been man’s ongoing dilemma.
How easy it is for us to blame our problems on everything except our iniquities! We will even blame God before seeing that the problem is with us! We will deny who God is before acknowledging that we are the problem.
Hastorat Panim – the Hidden Face of God
Our sins is the reason why His Face is concealed from us and this is why God’s people no longer felt the face of the LORD shining on them (Numbers 6:25). It was their sins, not the inability of God to hear, or his lack of interest in hearing.
A detailed description of the sins of God’s people.
For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity.
No one calls for justice,
Nor does any plead for truth.
They trust in empty words and speak lies;
They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.
They hatch vipers’ eggs and weave the spider’s web;
10. Their works are works of iniquity,
11. And the act of violence is in their hands.
12. Their feet run to evil,
13. And they make haste to shed innocent blood;
14. Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
15. The way of peace they have not known,
16. And there is no justice in their ways;
But when the light is taken away, we despair in the darkness. But there is a way forward to restore hope and blessing:
12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:
In creation, God spoke ight into creation and separated darkness from the light. HaShem saw their status and it angered Him and so, for the sake of His own Name and holiness, He acted in redemptive history.
15 The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained
God waited and waited for a disobedient Israel to turn to Him. He waited and waited for a man to lead them back to Him, or an intercessor to plead before Him. None arose; so, the LORD provided an intercessor Himself.
If a man or an intercessor would have stepped forth, it would have saved Israel a lot of calamity. But the fact that no man, or no intercessor stepped forward, didn’t derail God’s plan. He waited to work in partnership through a man. He waited to work through an intercessor.
But God’s work would still go forth if none arose, for it was planned before the world was created. The Father doesn’t respond to our failures; there is only plan A. That the Lamb oof God was slain before the foundations of the world were laid and that we were chosen for salvations in eternity!
The prophet Isaiah continues:
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his
head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a
18 According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies
And then, comes the promise of all promises:
The Redeemer will come to Zion
Isa 59:20 - 21
20 The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,"
declares the LORD.
21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on
you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your
mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their
descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD.
This promise of the LORD in Isaiah 59:20 could be reworded, “I will send My Messiah, the Redeemer for all humanity, Yeshua of Nazareth!”
The covenant God makes with His people promises an abiding Spirit and an enduring word. God accomplishes His purpose in people and through all creation through both the Spirit and the word, and Yeshua, is the living Word, the Word made flesh!
The message for us is GOD IS FAITHFUL; HIS PURPOSES CANNOT BE DERAILED!