Isaiah 64 Sermon – Rend the Heavens!

We conclude our amazing Isaiah Series as Tim looks at Isaiah 64 in light of the the tough two years we have been through with a global pandemic, as well as approaching Christmas, when we feel like we want God to rend the heavens and come down bringing his truth and justice! Tim encourages us to thing about what we are longing for this Christmas, and how we can come to God with confidence in prayer and ask for more of Him and for more of His Holy Spirit!

Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday December 19, 2021.

05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series Manly Life Church Podcast

In this sermon Tim introduces us to our first sermon series in 2023, The Farewell Discourse Series – messages from John 12-17! Tim helps us understand who John is and the book itself leading up to chapter 12, before diving into chapter 12 vs 20-33 and what it means to follow Jesus! We can't wait for this series so make sure you stay tuned each week! SERMON NOTES: Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday February 5, 2023. Find out more here: Find us on Facebook here:
  1. 05/02/23 – John 12:20-33 Following Jesus & Intro – by Tim Giovanelli – The Farewell Discourse Series
  2. 29/01/23 – The Glory of Christ – Greg Beech
  3. 22/01/23 – Luke 15:1-8 God's Heart for the Lost – by Lani Daniel
  4. 15/01/23 – 1 John 4:11 Friendship In Church by Tim Giovanelli
  5. 08/01/23 – Philipians 3:17-4:4 Stand Firm in 2023 – by Peter Brooks


I feel a bit guilty because I encouraged Victoria to speak too soon last week…

  • She spoke on that remarkable passage Isaiah 61 which Jesus picks up on in Luke 4 as announcing the beginning of his ministry… the Spirit of the Lord is on me…
  • I said, babe you got to use this line… “where Isaiah finishes, Jesus begins…”
  • And then I was reading the next section of Isaiah… whoops… 
  • Because it is really obvious that today is where Isaiah finishes and Jesus begins… so sorry Victoria… 
  • And I promise… this is our last week in Isaiah! What a great series this has been. 
  • And today as we continue the season of Advent where we await the coming of Jesus at Christmas… we have this amazing prayer in Isaiah 64!

Isaiah 64:1-4

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

How often have you prayed for God to show up and make things right?

  • Maybe you read or watch the news and it leads you to an exasperated plea for God to do something about it. 
  • I remember feeling that was a few years ago when ISIS was on the move and there was that harrowing footage of Egyptian Christians in orange jump suits who they were beheading.
  • Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down!
  • Or this year when COVID was running rampant through India and on the news you would see these people lined up outside hospitals begging for oxygen…
  • Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down!
  • It’s a prayer for divine intervention… 

As a Pastor, I am privileged through what is shared with me, into some really tough insights into people’s lives. 

  • Deep longings to see relationships get restored or children to be born
  • Family conflicts to be resolved, financial strains and impossible work situations…
  • And my heart gets broken by the human condition and all that we face as a community and personally. 
  • And you pray “Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down!”
  • A prayer rooted in a belief in a God who can change circumstances and make things right.

In Isaiah 64:1 the word for rend literally means “rip apart”

  • The Hebrew word rend is Kaw-rah, used elsewhere to speak of when someone’s clothes are torn in two.
  • It can have a quite violent connotation. As when Jacob thinks his son Joseph is dead and he tore his clothes. Genesis 37:34 Jacob kaw-rah his clothes. 
  • So this prayer denotes tearing apart the fabric that separates heaven and earth, God’s realm and ours…
  • Indeed the next verse suggests that God coming down would be akin to a fire setting twigs ablaze… 
  • It is the spark of the divine, coming to intervene!
  • And so the prayer here of Isaiah is that God would appear and act decisively. That he would move from his realm in heaven, to our realm on earth and as it says in verse 4
  • “act on behalf of those who wait for you.”

The reason Isaiah is praying this has been clear throughout this book.

  • Over the many decades that this Book was written by Isaiah and his disciples, the people of God have faced many difficulties.
  • The threat of the Assyrians empire hung over the southern kingdom. Then when that was finally dealt with, the Babylonian empire defeated them and took them into captivity.
  • And then even after being released by the Babylonian King Cyrus, they still don’t find themselves free or able to live faithfully. 
  • And remember they were meant to be faithful in fulfilling their side of the covenant, but like a vineyard planted by God…
  • They have only produced bad fruit. 
  • So they need a divine intervention. 

And the prayer of the people of God from Isaiah 64 is that God would send his presence and act to confound his enemies.

  • It’s a prayer that has echoes of what God did in Exodus 19 in meeting Moses on the mountain
  • And it is a prayer that God would fulfil all the prophecies given in Isaiah about God coming to act in the future. 

So firstly, let’s look back to Exodus 19

  • In Isaiah 64 so much of the language seems to point back to the events after the Exodus in which God had delivered his people. 
  • This was a time in their history when they had no doubt that God rend the heavens and intervened to save them.
  • The mountains trembling seems to be a direct reference to when Moses climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God. 
  • Having made His name known to his enemies, that being a reference to Egypt and God delivering them out of slavery
  • Exodus 19:4 God says; “You yourself have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself.”

So Moses met with God to receive the law and covenant on the mountain. 

  • It says in verse 18 “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire… and the whole mountain trembled violently.”
  • Now this moment in the people of God’s history was a unique moment of God’s presence being revealed. 
  • God came near from heaven. 
  • God spoke to them from heaven. 
  • God revealed his heart and plans for his people. 
  • God rend the heavens and came down.

If you have ever wondered why America is a more ostensibly religious society than us Aussies, a lot of it is due to still living in the aftermath of the Great Awakening around 1735.

  • This was a time of revivalist preachers and great spiritual awakening amongst the people. 
  • And it led not just to churches filling but also social reform… drops in drunkardness, theft and family break down. 
  • One of the main preachers was a man named Jonathan Edwards and he wrote about how God visited New England and thousands came to faith in Christ. 
  • He wrote;
  • “In the spring and summer following, 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love nor of joy.”
  • He said; “Several personas have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellence of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of Himself, it would have dissolved their frame.”
  • So it was a time of remarkable presence… this is what happens when God rends the heavens and comes down!

Well, if that is some of what Isaiah 64:1-4 is pointing back to… when God shows up!

  • Then of course it must also be pointing forward to something, something new where God would rend the heavens and come down!
  • And so much of this series in Isaiah has been pointing forward to a time when once again, the presence of God would be revealed. 
  • Now we don’t have time to revisit all of these passages… but I want to read a few key ones as we come to Christmas.

And I sometimes feel like reading Isaiah is akin to shaking up a champagne bottle…

  • With every promise in Isaiah the bottle gets shaken… the tension builds… 

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (shake)

Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (shake)

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom… (shake)

Isaiah 11:1-3 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (shake)

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (shake)

Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… (shake)

So in Isaiah 64:1-4 when he prays “oh that you would rend heaven and come down” this is what the people of God were hoping for…

  • These are the unfulfilled expectations and promises and prophecies that they were longing to see fulfilled. 
  • A child called the Prince of Peace who would reign on the throne of David who would be full of the Spirit and draw all nations to himself. 
  • A servant who would come and by his wounds bring us peace and healing. 
  • A light that would dawn that would reveal the glory of God

And so the tension builds… the promise is pregnant with expectation… the champagne bottle is ready to pop…

  • A virgin will conceive (shake)
  • A Son will be given (shake)
  • The Spirit will be on him (shake)
  • By his wound we are healed (shake)
  • He will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour… (shake)

And then 700 years after the first chapters of Isaiah were written… (pop)

  • The Son of God arrives… the first Christmas is celebrated… 
  • Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!
  • Jesus Christ. Saviour. Messiah. Lord. 


Plato: (Not playdo) Plato, the Greek Philosopher said: never can god and man ever meet.

  • Nd that would be true unless God stepped out of heaven and into earth…
  • The Gospel of John records what happens in Jesus like this.
  • The word (that is God) became flesh and dwelt amongst us, and we have seen his glory!
  • Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!

In Luke’s Gospel we get the details of what that looked like when the heavens were rendered open and heaven came down. Luke 2:26-33

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

  • Drenched in the promises and prophecies of Isaiah…
  • Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Well as I close, what are you longing for this Christmas? 

  • Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind? Haha – who wouldn’t be…
  • Or maybe you’re just hoping for enough respite from Covid that you can see family and friends…

Or are you longing for an encounter with God’s presence… 

  • Because the result according to Isaiah 64 of God rending the heavens and coming down!
  • Is akin to fire setting twigs ablaze. 
  • And I wonder if there is some reference there to what happens at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus disciples 
  • And it says what seemed to be tongues of fire came and rested upon them
  • And they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 
  • And a dejected, fearful, disappointed group went out from there and changed the world.

It’s the presence of God that rekindles their faith, their passions and their purpose. 

  • I wonder if you could do with some of that this Christmas?
  • To be see God move from heaven in your own life… and to put aside the disappointments and fear
  • And to be renewed by the very Spirit of Jesus Christ?
  • Shall we ask for that? His kingdom to come, his Holy Spirit to fill us?
  • Amen!

Published by timgiovanelli

My wife Victoria and I are planting a new church in Manly, NSW

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