Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What is being described in Isaiah 65:1 (printed below?)
I have revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I allowed myself to be found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call upon my name, I said, Here I am! Here I am! (Isaiah 65:1)
Verse 1 is describing an unexpected, but inevitable, encounter with God: the Lord has granted an audience to a people who did not request an audience with Him; the Lord suddenly revealed Himself to a people who were not looking for Him; the Lord presented Himself to a people who were not calling for Him. The Scriptures assure us that each one of us shall finally and inevitably stand before God when He reveals Himself to us face to face—we each will have the kind of inevitable encounter with the Lord God as did the Old Testament people of Israel described in Isaiah 65 (note Revelation 1:7).
2. How does God describe these people to whom He has expectantly revealed Himself? See Isaiah 65:2-4 (printed below)
All day long I have held out my hands to a rebellious people, a people who walk in a way that is not good, following their own thoughts. (3) A people who provoke me to my face continually, offering pagan sacrifices in gardens and burning incense upon altars of bricks. (4) A people who sit among the graves and spend the night in caves, who eat the meat of pigs, and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots. (Isaiah 65:2-4)
God suddenly and inescapably reveals Himself to a thoroughly unresponsive people (verses 1b-2). The Lord declares, “All day long I have held out my hands” (as a loving father) “to a rebellious people” (a people who turn their backs and walk away). Here are a people who “walk in a way that is not good, following their own thoughts”—they will not listen to the Word of God; they stubbornly walk in the way that is appealing to them and appears to them to be wise and profitable. God reveals Himself to a people who provoke Him to His face continually (verses 3-4). The Lord has continuously demonstrated lovingkindness, patience, and a desire for these people; but they constantly provoke Him with their idolatry.
3. According to verses 6-7 (printed below), what will God do?
See, their conduct has been recorded in my presence; therefore, I will not remain silent, but will pay them what is just; indeed, I will deliver their recompense into their bosom—(7) both for your own iniquities as well as for the iniquities of your fathers, declares Jehovah—into the bosom of those who have burned incense on the mountains and scorned me on the hills. Therefore I will first measure their recompense into their bosom. (Isaiah 65:6-7)
God declares, “I will not remain silent” (verse 6b). The Lord will not remain passive forever and let the sinful, insolent conduct of the people pass by without comment and without judgment. On the contrary, the Lord “will pay them what is just; indeed, I will deliver their recompense into their bosom—(7) both for your own iniquities as well as for the iniquities of your fathers, declares Jehovah” (verse 6c-7). The sins of one generation have been passed on to the next. Whereas formerly the Lord abstained from bringing about a totally devastating act of judgment upon the nation, giving the people warning and time to repent, He will now abstain no longer.
4. What illustration does the Lord use in verse 8 (printed below?) What is He teaching?
This is what Jehovah says, As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes, and men say, Do not destroy it, for there is still some good in it, so will I do for the sake of my servants, so that I will not destroy them all. (Isaiah 65:8)
Using the illustration of harvesting grapes from the vineyard, the Lord shows us the distinction He makes between those who are spiritually alive and fruitful and those who are not. When the harvesters come upon a juicy cluster of grapes in the midst of clusters that have rotted or are shriveled, they spare that good cluster before chopping down the unproductive vine. Let us carefully consider such passages as the following that emphasize the Lord’s demand for spiritual fruit: “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. (2) He removes every branch in me that does not bear fruit. But he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).
5. How does the Lord describe the respective fate and rewards of those whom He identifies as “my servants” in distinction from those whom He has identified as “a rebellious people?” See Isaiah 65:13-15 (printed below)
Therefore, this is what the Lord Jehovah says, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. (14) My servants will sing with a joyful heart, but you will cry out with a sorrowful heart and will wail with a broken spirit. (15) You will leave your name to my chosen ones to be used for the pronouncing of a curse, and the Lord Jehovah will put you to death; then he will bestow upon his servants another name. (Isaiah 65:13-15)
In verses 13-15 the Lord Himself reveals the respective fate and rewards of those whom He identifies as “my servants” in distinction to those whom He identifies as “a rebellious people.” The Lord declares, “my servants shall eat”—they shall be provided for and be satisfied, “but you will be hungry”—those who have lived for themselves and in opposition to the Lord shall at the end be denied His blessing and given over to His judgment (verse 13a). The Lord continues, “My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. (14) My servants will sing with a joyful heart, but you will cry out with a sorrowful heart and will wail with a broken spirit” (verses 13b-14). The servants of the Lord shall experience the joy of the divine promises being fulfilled, the joy of discovering that their investment in Christ reaps eternal dividends of blessing. But shame and suffering shall be the consequence of bad, ungodly life choices, the consequences that await those who have lived for themselves instead of for their Lord and God.