Chapter 59 reminds us against too much literalness in reading scripture, and the importance of a comprehensive read rather than a narrow one.
At the end of the chapter, despite the catalog of sins presented in its 21 verses and despite the notion of separation from God because of those sins, God proclaims that His Spirit will never desert His people.
But it does.
In Ezekiel 11, the glory of the Lord, His presence, departs the temple and Jerusalem, symbolizing His departure from His people.
So, in the intervening years between Isaiah and Ezekiel, did God change His mind?
The answer is no.
Isaiah points out that it certainly seems like God has deserted His people given their sorry state. But the problem is not the distance of God from them as much as it is the distance of them from God. Sin is the culprit, and it is of course their sin. And yet, God promises that no matter how bad things get, He will always be there for them. After all, ten chapters earlier He tells the names of His people are engraved on the palms of His hands. The point is, there are times when it will seem God is distant, but He is really not.
On the cross, Jesus cried out to a God who had seemingly forsaken him. His cry comes from the opening line of Psalm 22. But the Psalm is not a Psalm about being forsaken, but about the ever abiding presence of the Lord. It’s only when we read all of scripture and begin to put it together in a comprehensive way that the truth of God begins not only to become clear, but also more hopeful.