Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 25 2019 - Isaiah 57 – No peace for the wicked

This chapter paints a vivid contrast between those who have forsaken the Lord their God to devote themselves to idols and those who have humbled themselves before God.

Have you sometimes heard people use the phrase "Only the good die young"? Isaiah 57 begins with a similar statement. It comes in the context of the judgment that God has poured out on his rebellious people – judgment experienced at the hand of the Babylonians. Many righteous and devout people have perished at this time of distress, but those around them have not taken it to heart; they have not seen that God has deliberately taken away many of those who were devoted to him that he might spare them his judgment and enable them to enter into peace and rest through an early death (vv. 1-2).

The following verses then describe the idolatrous practices which had marked a people whom God had taken into covenant relationship with himself (vv. 3-10). They had turned to Baal worship, including some of its most revolting practices such as performing sexual acts on high places to persuade the fertility god to give abundant harvests. They had even resorted to child sacrifice to try to gain the favour of their idol-gods. The Lord asks them why they had turned away from him; why had they not called to mind all that God had done for them in the past and taken it to heart? (v. 11). The Lord has taken note of their rebellion against him and has brought down his judgment upon them. None of their idols has been able to save them, says the Lord:

But whoever takes refuge in me
    will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain. (v.13)

This verse leads us into the second half of the chapter in which the Lord now promises to rescue his people. He had been angered by their idolatry, greed and injustice and had punished them with exile (v. 17). But his anger will not last for ever (v. 16); despite their continuing waywardness (v. 17), the Lord will heal and restore them (v. 18). In particular, the Lord promises to comfort (note the use again of this lovely word) those who have been humbled by their experience of the Lord's judgment, those who mourn over their past rebellion and its consequences (v.18). The Lord promises to dwell,

with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (v. 15)

He will put a song of praise on their lips and a sense of peace in their hearts. But, says the Lord, "There is no peace for the wicked" (v. 21).

Idol-gods demanded that their devotees sacrifice their own children, but still they had no power to save. The Living God gave his own beloved Son over to death for us. The judgment that our sins deserved fell on him and through his death and triumphant resurrection the Lord has begun the healing not only of us but of the entire creation. He has declared that his warfare against us is over and has given us a precious sense of his peace which nothing can destroy. This is the fruit of the work of the Suffering Servant, a fruit in which he delights. He has turned our mourning into songs of praise. He has lifted us up from the place of our humiliation to reign with Christ in glory.

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
  The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Living God, we thank you for the wonder of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has taken us from the realm of your judgment into the realm of your peace. Help us to be a people characterised by a contrite and lowly spirit; a people who constantly recall the great things you have done for us. Heal all that remains broken in our lives and our relationships. Guide us in the way that you would have us go and put a song of praise on our lips that will testify to others of the joy of your salvation.

Peter Misselbrook