“And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede”
Isaiah 59:16 (NAS)
The earth was a mess. Earlier in Isaiah 59 we see that the people’s “iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (vs 2). It goes on to explain in more detail what separated man from God, the sins that made God hide his face, but the bottom line is that man was a mess.
Ok, so that’s the bottom line about man, but not the end of the line, because it’s NOT the bottom line about God. Before Isaiah writes about the mess man is in, he writes about God. In particular, he writes about God’s ability to save man FROM the mess he’s in. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (vs 1). God can save. He can hear. BUT… BUT man’s sin has caused a rift.
Verses 9-13 tell us that man is hoping for a way out of the mess, but can’t find it. “We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom” (vs. 9). “We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (vs. 11).
SO??? What next? I mean, it tells us to begin with that God’s arm is not too short to save, (in other words, there’s no one He can’t reach), and we’re told that man would like some help, but somehow the two aren’t connecting. Here’s man, wanting a hand out of their mess, and here’s God, with a hand that can reach and the power to pull… yet man remains in the mess.
So what’s missing?
An intercessor. Someone to pray on behalf of the people.
It says that God looked around for someone to intercede, and he “wondered” (ESV) or was “astonished” (NAS) that there was no one to do so. God is able to save, but apparently He waits for His people to pray on the behalf of others. God wants our partnership in the gospel.
Since His people weren’t interceding, God raised up another intercessor, one He could really count on—Jesus. Isaiah says, “then his own arm brought him salvation” (vs. 16), and the passage goes on to talk about Jesus – the very Jesus who would come to earth, work out salvation for us through His death on the cross, raise from the dead, and then sit at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, on our behalf (Romans 8:34).
God wondered that there was no one to intercede for man, so He appointed Jesus to intercede. It’s his full-time job, if you will. Sitting at God’s right hand, interceding on our behalf.
Don’t think you and I are off the hook though! God still wants partners in the gospel and in intercession. How do I know this? Because we are supposed to be like Jesus, and that’s what Jesus is doing, right now. If we are to imitate Jesus, then we are to intercede for others. God is still looking around, wanting to work out salvation but choosing to do so in partnership with and response to our prayers. How many times is it so, that “we have not because we ask not” (James 4:2)? Let it not be said that so-and-so wasn’t saved because we never asked.
Oh what a good thing that Jesus is about the business of interceding! So even when we fail, He is there, catching the slack.
So who is it that God is asking you to intercede for? Who does Jesus want you to join with Him in prayer for? Who do you see that you are quite sure no one else is praying for, because they are the least, the lost, the lonely, the outcast, the unloveable…?
Let it not be said that God looks around at my town and/or at the people I know, and wonders (or is astonished) that there is no one interceding for them. I am asking God to put people on my heart that He wants someone to be interceding for. I am praying that God would say, “Look, there’s Joe-blow and he doesn’t have anyone to intercede for him. Let me tell Stacey about him, because I know she’ll join me in interceding for that one. I love him. I want to save him. I want Stacey and Jesus to start asking me to save that one. They’ll sure enjoy seeing it when I answer that prayer!”
 All scripture quoted is ESV unless noted otherwise.