In this prayer from Israel to God, the nation recognizes their own sin and makes their wishes know to Him. The tone is one of true repentance as Israel’s attitude is evident through their confession and the passion it contains.
Verses 1-5: A Plea from Israel
Israel seems to know by now that God is God and that it is time for them to return to Him and obey Him. The words in this section indicate that they are finished with their wayward phase. Recognition of God’s glory and His power over the earth is described. Israel is, however, hungering for what seems to be pagan representations of deistic power.
They ask for God to tear the sky and come down to earth and preform natural miracles that will impress and awe them with His power. McGuiggan calls their confession “half-hearted,” most likely owing to these desires that are immature and not necessarily reflective of an understanding of God.
They do make a mention of what seems to be God’s visit to Mt. Sinai to hand down the ten commandments. And they recognize that nations tremble at His presence, that He blesses those that wait for Him and also that He can save them: “You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.” Isaiah 64:5
Verses 6-7: Filthy Rags
Israel knows the depth of their iniquity here, recognizing the filth of their sins and how sin has made even their attempts at righteousness inept. The descriptions of sin are memorable and real. They also affirm that their sins have carried them away from God. Their shame is so deep that even in the midst of their knowledge, they are too ashamed to call out to Him. They know that God has turned away from them due to their great sin.
Verses 8-12: Recognition
This plea for mercy is full of respect and supplication to their holy Creator. They ask Him not to be furious with them and to forget their iniquity. Israel makes a plea that is based on the state of their land, their city and their temple. This plea is earnest and forthright. Even though it is not spiritual, it is still representative of a people that know exactly who is in control.
Israel wants reconciliation and this time they have it right. God is the One that can help them; God is the One that can save. This simple and humble state of spirit imparts clarity of thought, which is an indication of true repentance.