“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence–…to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.”
In these verses we see a prayer that YHWH would rend the cosmic veil of separation between Himself and His people, that He would act in saving, mountain quaking power to bring them out of their sins (64:6-7) and into fellowship with Himself (v.8-12), and that by this redemptive work, His utterly unique name would be revealed to the nations so that they might tremble before His presence (v.2).
Now, what will it look like when YHWH answers this prayer? What will it look like when He tears the veil of separation? When He descends in mountain-shattering power to redeem His people from their sins and reveal His name to the nations? We find out in Matthew 27:
Now, what will it look like when YHWH answers this prayer? What will it look like when He tears the veil of separation? When He descends in mountain-shattering power to redeem His people from their sins and reveal His name to the nations?
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split…When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!'”
This is the answer to Isaiah’s plea; this is YHWH’s eschatological salvation of His own from their exile in sin; this is the definitive declaration of God’s name unto the trembling awe of the nations, this is the climax of redemption and of revelation.
On the cross, as His incarnate flesh is torn by Roman iron, YHWH does indeed rend the veil that separates God and man. The veil of the temple represented the division between the “2nd” and “3rd” heavens (that is, the heavens of the stars and the heaven of God’s dwelling). This is what Isaiah metaphorically longed for in Isaiah 64:1, and this is what YHWH symbolically accomplishes in the tearing of the temple veil upon the death of Jesus Christ.
Also, with the death of Jesus, the rocks are split and the earth quakes. This is the same sort of imagery that Isaiah uses in Is. 64 and is common imagery for a mighty act of God. Note also that–in Is.64:1-3–the earth-quaking work of YHWH results in the communication of His name to the nations such that they tremble in His presence. So too at the cross as the centurion (a Gentile) and those with him “saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!'” In other words, they saw earth-shaking redemption of YHWH and trembled at His presence and recognized His identity, recognized that “no eye has seen a God besides [Him], who acts for those who wait for Him” (Is.64:4).
Yes, God’s people had all become like one who was unclean and all of their righteousness was polluted in His sight (Is.64:6), they were melted in the hand of their sins and cut off from Him (64:7). And while they were in the exile of this spiritual death–truly, an exile initiated in Eden–He acted on their behalf. He rent the heavens and came down in the incarnation, taking on flesh, coming into their midst as one of themselves. And He bore their iniquities and He carried their sin and He swallowed their sorrows and was shattered under their griefs. He endured their wounds, He was crushed for their trespasses, and the punishment of His holy wrath that ought to have shut them out of His joy for eternity was absorbed into His own soul such that The Son Himself was shut out from the Father….the Beloved Son, was exiled to the hell of eternal annihilation from the presence of God so that the veil of separation between God and man might be torn.
The earth splintered under the weight of glory that descended upon Calvary when YHWH redeemed His own and revealed His name in the sovereign agonies of divine love…..truly, from of old no one has heard of a God like this, no eye has seen any other God….a God who acts with such self-giving love on behalf of those who wait for and hope in and depend upon Him.