In Chapter 57, Isaiah contrasts the wicked with the righteous. When reading a chapter like this one, I try to keep in mind that a Christian is nothing more than a sinner saved by grace. We have no righteousness of our own and without Christ we can do nothing. When I write about the new world order I have to remember, there but for the grace of God, go I. Although we need to be aware of these things, we also need to pray for the lost and be mindful that our Lord commands us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
Christians are the most persecuted group of people in the world, I believe maybe even more so than the Jews. Therefore, I see two meanings in this verse. The first would point to those who are martyred for their faith. Secondly, I believe the evil to come is a reference to the great tribulation period. The righteous, those who have received the free gift of salvation and obtained the righteousness of God through faith in Christ, will be taken away before the great tribulation period begins. One of the ways I know this to be true is because Jesus said that He would come when we least expect it, as a thief. He cited the examples of Noah and Lot. In Noah’s case, Enoch was raptured before the flood. In Lot’s case, he was dragged out of Sodom by angels, or taken away before the city was judged. (Just as it says angels will snatch the saints away at the rapture.) Some point to the parable of the wheat and say the tares were bundled first, supposing the wicked are the ones who are raptured. However, there is much in the Bible that does not fit a chronological order. In the following parable of the fish, it is the good fish that are separated first. (Matt 13) In the parable of the tares, the tares are bundled and burned but the fire of the apocalypse takes place on earth; Jesus said gather the wheat into my barn. The one scripture that confuses people the most is Matthew 24:31 which describes a rapture that takes place after the tribulation period, but if you read it carefully Jesus says his angels will gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other (Matt 24:31). The church is in heaven during the tribulation period. In Mark’s account, it says from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mark 13:27). I believe there are two raptures, one at the beginning of the tribulation period for the church and one at the end for the tribulation saints. Otherwise, Jesus could not come as a thief when nobody is expecting it.
2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
When somebody is martyred for his faith he enters into rest. Those who will be raptured will likewise enter into rest.
3 But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress [Semiramis?], the seed of the adulterer and the whore.
4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,
5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?
In Isaiah’s day, they worshiped Molech and other pagan deities. Some of them are still worshiped today. Although the names have been changed in some cases, basically the same idols are worshiped in our day. Those who live to party worship Bacchus. Those who devote their lives to the cause of abortion worship Molech. Those who live for money worship Mammon. Mammon literally means money, but the Greeks had a god of wealth known as Plutus, which is the same thing.
6 Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?
They also worshiped stones in Isaiah’s day. Kind of an odd bit of information for Isaiah to include, but I’m sure there is a reason for it. It may just be to show that God hates idolatry in any form, however trite or insignificant it may seem.
7 Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.
8 Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.
9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
10 Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.
Solomon wrote The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit. (Pr 18:11) Isaiah is speaking to people who are living in luxury. Their riches have blinded them and given them a false sense of security.
11 And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?
To fear man is a bad fear. To fear God is a good fear. (Pr 1:7; Luke 12:4,5)
12 I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.
13 When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
14 And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.
They are preparing the highway of the Lord. (Isa 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 62:10) They have to cast up earth to lay the foundation for the road.
15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
Here Isaiah is speaking of the nation of Israel, which must go through the great tribulation period. (Just as Noah had to go through the flood, but God delivered him safely thought it.)
19 I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.
20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Isaiah ends the chapter on a negative note. I have been reading a book by Dave Hunt called Beyond Seduction (Harvest House, 1987). In his book, Hunt talks about how the simplicity of Christ has been corrupted in these last days, twisting the gospel and replacing it with a counterfeit. One of the ways this has happened is through the positive confession movement. Those who subscribe to this doctrine would take issue with Isaiah’s negative preaching. They say that for good things to happen we must speak good things. This is a form of witchcraft akin to what is promoted in books like The Secret. Like most false doctrines, Satan mixes some truth in. It’s true that our words are powerful. (Pr 18:21) Christians should indeed be positive. (Phil 2:14) A W Tozer wrote that self-pity is “one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.” So in a certain sense, there is some truth to the doctrine of positive confession. What is not true (biblical) is the goal of the positive confession message, which is to get rich. Christians should use their powerful words to win souls for Christ, to comfort the afflicted (and afflict the comfortable), and to speak the truth. The truth is that Jesus told the rich young ruler to give his money away. Jesus said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! … It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Therefore, Isaiah’s negative message is exactly what the wicked need to hear. They need to hear that their money is not going to save them. They need to hear that the peace they crave is only found in Christ. Here is another negative message found in the Bible: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:17) The serpent’s message was more positive: Ye shall not surely die … ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Except it wasn’t true.
iiiiAnd he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
iiiiFor whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
Luke 9:23, 24
Father, help us to walk in the truth that the Truth may live in us, that in You we may live and move and have our being. If that makes us unpopular or costs us material wealth, we know that in You we have the true riches, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PS: In last week’s notes, I wrote that Trump was the first president to proudly address the annual March for Life in Washington DC. Two years ago, he did this from the Rose Garden at the White House by live video, but today he became the first sitting US president to attend the annual March for Life and speak in person. Reagan gave an audio message by telephone from the Oval Office, each of his last four years in office.