Pleading For God’s Presence

Title: Pleading For God's Presence

Bible Book: Isaiah 64

Author: Donnie L. Martin

Subject: Pray; Presence of God



Isaiah the prophet was a highly esteemed citizen of Jerusalem, who enjoyed access to the royal court and who later became the trusted advisor to king Hezekiah. His ministry basically involved the preaching of judgment against Judah. This was due to the fact that Judah had forsaken God, and had begun to trust in foreign powers for protection instead of Jehovah. This brought God’s disfavor and stern protest via the prophet Isaiah.

As we enter into chapter 64, we find Isaiah pleading for the help of God. The nation had long been without the power, presence, and protection of God, bringing near disastrous results. Isaiah however, remembered how it was when the children of Israel enjoyed the presence of God, and longed for the return of God’s presence.

In this portion of scripture Isaiah shares three basic thoughts with God in prayer. First, he shares his desire for the return of God’s presence. Secondly, Isaiah confesses the sinful condition of the children of Israel, which presently withheld the presence of God from them. And thirdly, Isaiah briefly outlines what must be done for God’s presence to be restored.

We would do well to take heed to Isaiah’s prayer, for in it we find many of the same conditions true of God’s people today. Many, if not most churches of our day have lost the reality of God’s presence. If there is anything that the Church of Jesus Christ cannot afford to do without, it is the presence of Almighty God. And it is the absence of that most vital ingredient that has produced the obvious deadness our churches now exhibit.

As for myself, I had rather not preach than to stand behind this pulpit knowing that God’s presence and power would not be upon me. To do otherwise would simply be a waste of my time, as well as yours. If you have ever really been in the presence of God, dead religious activity will never satisfy.

Let’s examine Isaiah’s desperate plea for the presence of God and see if there are any applications that can be made to God’s people and church of today.

I. The Desire For The Return Of God’s Presence

A. Isaiah Remembered How God Once Dwelt In Their Midst

Isaiah 64:1-2, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at they presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!”

Isaiah is alluding to God’s coming down upon Mt. Sinai to give the Law to His people.

Exodus 19:10-11, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.”

Isaiah was thinking back to the days when God was openly and obviously present with His people. His heart longed for the return to those days when God was so real to the children of Israel. But alas, Israel had strayed from God, causing Him to withdraw His presence. Sin always puts God at a distance. Isaiah spoke of this in Isa.59: 2, where he said, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

It is interesting that while visiting an archeological site on the Web some time ago (09/07/2000), I watched a video of a man by the name of Ron Wyatt, who believes he has found the historic site of Mt. Sinai. Galatians 4: 25 says that this mountain is in Arabia. However, what is really interesting is that Ex.19: 18 says, “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire…” When Mr. Wyatt showed pictures of the mountain he believed to be the ancient Mt. Sinai, the whole top of the mountain appeared to be blackened and charred.

Isaiah was referring to how the people of Israel were awed by the powerful presence of God at Sinai.

Exodus 19:16, “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.”

Exodus 20:18-19, “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Folks, it’s truly shameful how today’s society has lost its awe and respect for Almighty God. Madeleine L’Engle once said, “I share Einstein’s affirmation that anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe ‘is as good as a burnt out candle.’”1

Even in the beginning of God’s dealings with Israel as a nation, there were four different levels of intimacy with God that became obvious.

The people as a whole were kept at a distance from God. This was not because God preferred Moses over the people, but simply due to the fact that He knew their hearts. The people saw the glory of God descending upon Sinai in fire and feared. Moses saw the glory of God and worshiped. They could approach the Mountain of God, but they could not ascend the Mountain of God. As a matter of fact, barriers were erected so that the people would not get too close and die (Ex.24: 2). This group we could call, “the outer circle (Exod.19: 11-12).”2

A second level of intimacy with God is seen in a group consisting of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders from among the nation of Israel (Ex.24: 9-11). These were permitted beyond the barrier that excluded the rest of the people, where they received… …a limited vision of God in His transcendence, a glimpse of the Eternal. It was probably a theophany…They must have felt a very

real and conscious sense of the divine presence. Their experience was far in advance of that of the people, but it effected no permanent transformation. Only a short time later, they were found worshiping the golden calf.”3

Joshua illustrates for us yet another level of intimacy with God. He was the faithful servant of Moses, the man of God. In Ex.33: 10-11, it is noted that Joshua remained in the tent where Moses met and talked with God. The Tent of Meeting was the precursor of the Tabernacle, which was constructed later. Joshua liked to be where God manifested Himself. It was this desire for fellowship with God that paved the way for Joshua to accompany Moses up the mountain to meet with God (Ex.24: 13, 14). Joshua “ascended higher on the glory-covered mountain than any of his contemporaries.”4

The final level of intimacy with God is seen in the person of Moses. The Bible says of him, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend…” (Ex.33: 11a). Moses’ relationship with God was not casual or surface. There was real fellowship involved here. This intimate fellowship is made obvious by the fact that Moses wanted to know the purposes of God. He said, “…Shew me now thy way, that I may know thee…” (Ex.33: 13). As Moses learned more of God’s inner nature, he desired to know even more of God, for he said, “…Shew me thy glory” (Ex.33: 18).

However, the greatest evidence of the intimacy of fellowship between God and Moses is the fact that some of God’s glory rubbed off on Moses. Intimate fellowship with God changes us. It is inescapable. The scriptural account bears this out as follows:

Exodus 34:29-30, “And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him (God). 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.”

I remember when I was in my early teens, God settled in on Crestview Baptist Church in Petal, Mississippi with a great demonstration of His power and presence. Bro. Manley Beasley was preaching a revival meeting for us that week. One particular night, God’s presence came in such mighty conviction, that people were standing and confessing sin and getting right with one another. There was an awesomeness about the atmosphere. That service lasted until after midnight. At one point, people were even lying prostrate on the floor in the agony of conviction. Before that meeting was over, about two thirds of the church got saved. People were calling the pastor’s house at two and three o’clock in the morning under conviction. I have never forgotten those days.

I also remember going to Milldale Bible Conference almost every summer during my teen years. I saw many demonstrations of God’s presence and power there. God’s presence was especially strong during the services one night. A young man was asked to come and sing. As he sang his first note, the whole congregation, as one, began to weep. Some cried tears of joy, others cried tears of repentance. The sense of God’s presence was so keen, that at times, one almost felt afraid to breathe for fear of disturbing what God was doing. In actuality, the atmosphere in that place that night defies description. It has left an indelible mark upon my life.

B. Isaiah Remembered How God Once Demonstrated His Might

Isaiah 64:3, “When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.”

God had promised that He would do marvelous things for His people.

Exodus 34:10, “And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.”

The word translated “terrible,” in Isa.64: 3 and Ex.34: 10, refers to that which God would do among His people that would cause them “to revere”5 Him.

God’s intention was to so demonstrate His presence and power to Israel that all the nations among whom they dwelt would see the nature and character of the one true God. That’s the reason our churches of today need to seek God’s presence and power among them. The lost world needs to see evidence that God is among His people. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt.5: 16). God had fulfilled this promise in a number of ways.

He met all their physical needs in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 8:3-4, “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.”

He parted the Jordan River for them.

Joshua 3:17, “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.”

He gave Jericho into their hands.

Joshua 6:20,“So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.”

He satisfied their thirst in the wilderness.

Exodus 17:6, “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.”

As Israel journeyed through the wilderness, they experienced numerous series of problems and predicaments that were designed by God to show them that He was their provision. Israel never faced a problem that taxed God’s ability to provide.

God uses this same method today to teach His children that He is the answer to all their needs. God will permit situations that we can’t see our way out of, so that we will become aware of His ability to supply. By the way, which came first, “the problem” or “the provision?” God’s provision did. Notice what God’s Word says:

Isaiah 65:24, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

II. The Defilement That Restrained God’s Presence

A. Israel Had Become Unholy

Isaiah 64:5b-6, “…behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. 6 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.”

In the latter part of verse 5, Isaiah indicates that Israel’s sin was a continuous, ongoing problem. In light of that fact, the words, “…and we shall be saved” seem a little confusing. Actually, from the Hebrew, these words are in the form of a question rather than a statement. The idea here is, “How then can we be saved?”6 The idea here is not God’s unwillingness to forgive and deliver, but Israel’s unwillingness to sincerely turn from their sin and repent.

As was true so many times before, Israel’s love for God was merely a matter of empty ritual and words.

Isaiah 29:13, “…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:”

One cannot enjoy the presence of God, and intimacy with Him, apart from obedience.

John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”

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.”

In essence, Jesus said that if we love Him, our obedience would be the evidence of it. “Obedience is the test of love, and it is rewarded by deepening intimacy.”7

Arabian horses go through rigorous training in the deserts of the Middle East. The trainers require absolute obedience from the horses, and test them to see if they are completely trained. The final test is almost beyond the endurance of any living thing.

The trainers force the horses to do without water for many days. Then he turns them loose; and of course, they start running toward the water. But just as they get to the edge, ready to plunge in and drink, the trainer blows his whistle. The horses who have been completely trained and who have learned perfect obedience, stop. They turn around and come pacing back to the trainer. They stand there quivering, wanting water. But they wait in perfect obedience. When the trainer is sure that he has their obedience, he gives them a signal to go back to drink.

Now this may be severe, but when you are on the trackless desert of Arabia, and your life is entrusted to a horse, you had better have a trained, obedient horse. We must accept God’s training and obey Him.8

In verse six, Isaiah points out that even religious activity performed out of a disobedient heart is repugnant to God. Israel was still observing her religious rituals and animal sacrifices, while at the same time living in disobedience to God. The fact is that Israel was involved in mere religious sentiment devoid of real substance or surrender.

If we intend to have the presence and power of God in our personal lives and the life of our church, we will have to make a conscious choice to stop living for ourselves and start living in obedience to the Savior. That means living in daily submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul told the Galatian saints, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal.5: 16). As used in this verse, the word translated “walk” indicates more than mere motion. “It signifies a measured walk, marching in file or in step. The idea is that of concerted action or joint effort. ‘Let us keep in step with the Spirit.’”9

B. Israel Had Become Unconcerned

Isaiah 64:7, “And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

Isaiah had earlier told his people, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa.59: 2). Sin keeps us from enjoying God’s presence and power from two directions—from man’s side and from God’s side. Sin causes the child of God to become indifferent toward God; while from God’s side, sin puts up an invisible wall, preventing fellowship or communion with Him.

Can anyone really question the assertion that we are seeing a lot of indifference among the saints these days? Our churches are cold and dead, our communities are corrupt and devoid of moral direction, and our world is going to Hell; yet it’s hard to get saints to see the importance of seeking the presence and power of God among them.

III. The Decision That Would Restore God’s Presence

A. They Would Have To Let God Mold Them

Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are the work of thy hand.”

While in Eureka Springs, Arkansas some years ago, Shirley and I visited the Passion play. There on the grounds, you can visit a presentation by a real potter, who shaped vessels from clay. I will never forget his illustration of how God must change us before we can be useful to Him. While working on a piece of clay on his wheel, he said, “Before this piece of clay can be useful, it must be given a new heart. The clay must be pushed aside, leaving a void which can be filled with that for which it was prepared.” Folks, if we ever want to see the presence and power of God among us, we will have to be willing for God to mold us and make us into vessels of honor. We will have to allow Him to move the flesh out of the way, so that He might fill us with Himself.

B. They Would Have To Seek God’s Mercy Toward Them

Isaiah 64:9-12, “Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people. 10 Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste. 12 Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O Lord? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?”

What was the solution to Israel’s despicable spiritual condition? What would restore God’s presence among His people? The answer to both questions is simply, REPENTANCE.

Wabush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only one way he or she could leave—by turning around.

Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out—a road built by God Himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, there’s no way out of town.10


  1. Madeleine L’Engle.
  2. J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy With God, published by Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan; pg. 12.
  3. Ibid, pg. 13.
  4. Ibid, pg. 14.
  5. James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, published by MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia; #3372 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, pg. 52.
  6. Frank E. Gaebelein, editor, and Richard P. Polcyn, associate editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, Michigan, pg. 343.
  7. J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy With God, published by Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan; pg. 100.
  8. Source unknown. Acquired from
  9. J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy With God, published by Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan; pg. 86.
  10. Brian Weatherdon.
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