v. 1. The righteous perisheth, namely, while the false teachers are forsaking their duties, and no man layeth it to heart, no one is aware of the fact that the hand of God interferes in graciously taking the believing Israelite out of this world before the great Judgment descends upon it; and merciful men are taken away, by a sudden death, apparently before their time, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
v. 2. He shall enter into peace, namely, the one to whom Jehovah thus shows His mercy; they shall rest in their beds, slumbering safely in the chambers of their graves, each one walking in his uprightness. This fact, rightly considered, is a source of comfort in every form of bereavement among the faithful, since the Lord, by taking His believers away from this vale of tears, spares them many a bitter experience to which they are subject as long as they sojourn in this sinful world.
Jehovah Rejects all Idolaters
v. 3. But draw near hither, so the Lord now calls to the apostates, ye sons of the sorceress, men addicted to sorcery, to superstitious practices which were connected with the worship of false gods, the seed of the adulterer and the whore, in whose case idolatry is inherent, their second nature, the expression being the very strongest reproof to the unbelieving and apostate Jews, who depended upon their external membership in Israel to give them a safe standing in the eyes of Jehovah.
v. 4. Against whom do ye sport yourselves? in malignant joy, in insulting sneers. Against whom make ye a wide mouth and draw out the tongue? in malicious mockery. These gestures of derision on the part of the unbelievers were directed not only against the pious members of the nation in general, but in particular against the righteous, who, as the apostates thought, were cut off so soon on account of some fault in them. Are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, thoroughly steeped in iniquity,
v. 5. enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, burning with lust toward their idolatrous images in the terebinth groves, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? as a sacrifice to Molech, the abomination of the Moabites. This shows that some of the people, even after the Babylonian exile, once more became addicted to idolatry and its abominations.
v. 6. Among the smooth stones of the stream, the stone formations hollowed out and polished in grotesque images by the action of the water, is thy portion, there the idolaters in Israel brought their sacrifices; they, they are thy lot, upon these dead rocks the idolaters relied; even to them hast thou poured a drink-offering, thou hast offered a meat-offering, giving to them the worship which belongs to Jehovah alone. Should I receive comfort in these? The Lord cannot be quiet any longer, He can no longer keep silence; He is obliged to forsake His mercy and to interfere with His wrath.
v. 7. Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed, in spiritual adultery; even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice, in the heathen worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, for this required altars, pillars, and Asherah-idols on all prominent hills.
v. 8. Behind the doors also and the posts, within the house devoted to idolatry, hast thou set up thy remembrance, the memorial tablet reminding the apostates of their idols; for thou hast discovered (uncovered) thyself to another than Me and art gone up, namely, to the couch of sin; thou hast enlarged thy bed and made thee a covenant with them, agreeing upon a price of shame; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it, delighting in the filthiness of the spiritual adultery thus openly practiced, the shamelessness thus brazenly paraded.
v. 9. And thou wentest to the king with ointment and didst increase thy perfumes, playing the coquette with the world-power because she doubts the ability of the Lord to help her, and didst send thy messengers far off, in a special embassy to gain the good will of the powerful emperor, and didst debase thyself even unto hell, in a total loss of pride and character.
v. 10. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way, by the many trips made in the interest of her lust; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope, in a proper realization of the fruitlessness of her quest; thou hast found the life of thine hand, still being able to sustain life by a steady application of energy, therefore thou wast not grieved, she did not relax in her efforts to gain the heathen emperor's good will. The Lord now asks the reasons for her faithless intrigues.
v. 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? In spite of her faithlessness she is utterly callous and indifferent; she is apparently lost to every good influence. Have not I held My peace even of old, being patient in spite of her apostasy, holding back wrath and punishment, and thou fearest Me not? Jehovah had not treated Israel so as to cause any one in the nation to live in terror of Him; the apostates had no excuse for their action. The entire section pictures the tireless seeking of the renegade people after the vanity of idolatry and of heathen customsâ€”surely a sad waste of energy! Therefore Jehovah now, in a burst of holy irony, calls them to task.
v. 12. I will declare thy righteousness, such as it is, and thy works, in breaking the covenant; for they shall not profit thee, all the idolatrous acts being duly exposed.
v. 13. When thou criest, in vexation over disappointed hopes, let thy companies, all the agencies upon which she had relied, deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away, a single breath of the Lord being sufficient to overthrow all her allies, vanity shall take them. But he that putteth his trust in Me shall possess the land and shall inherit My holy mountain, the picture of the occupation of Canaan and Zion being a type of the possession and government which pertains to the believers by the merciful gift of Jehovah.
Jehovah Grants Salvation and Peace to the Repentant.
What the Lord had indicated at the end of the fast paragraph He now elaborates upon.
v. 14. And shall say, that is, a voice is heard to say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, in leveling, the path; prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people, so they have free access to the deliverance of Jehovah.
v. 15. For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, He who occupies the throne of His majesty forever, whose name is Holy, He who dwells in the inaccessible light of perfect sanctity; I dwell in the high and holy place, in absolute exaltation and holiness, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, bowed down and humbled by deep repentance, to revive the spirit of the humble, by an infusion of new spiritual life, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones, so that they are filled with new life and courage, with hope and confidence in Jehovah.
v. 16. For I will not contend forever, in rebuking and punishing, neither will I be always wroth, being filled with anger which may overflow at any moment; for the spirit should fail before Me, He wants to dismiss His anger, and the souls which I have made, showing mercy to those that are of a contrite heart, since He has created them for life. The fact of creation is often made the basis of the mercy shown by God upon His works.
v. 17. For the iniquity of his covetousness, on account of the guilt of Israel, was I wroth and smote him, for the sin of avarice, the love of money, is properly called a root of all evil. I hid Me and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart, hardening himself against every influence for the better.
v. 18. I have seen his ways, the many paths of misfortune which Israel chose to go, and will heal him, taking the proper care of the wounds which are the consequence of sin; I will lead him also, namely, on the paths of righteousness, Psa_23:3, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners, so that, although the misery of this earthly life will remain, the sinners will feel the consolation of God's mercy in His Word.
v. 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, that is, by sending out the Gospel-message into all the world the Lord offers the redemption gained by the Messiah, the healing of the Sun of Righteousness, to all men. Over against the deliverance of the righteous the prophet places the fate of the unbelievers.
v. 20. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, their rejection of the Lord's salvation causing them to become like a storm-tossed ocean, when it cannot rest, whose waters, churning up the very floor of the sea, cast up mire and dirt, in endless sinning.
v. 21. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked, a hidden fear of the wrath of the Lord driving them about from one expedient to another, but only increasing their wickedness and heaping upon them new guilt. The ungodly may seem happy enough on the outside, as Asaph writes in Psalms 73, but their heart is not at rest, and they will be cast down into destruction.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany