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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Isaiah 57

 

 

Verses 1-21

A lament for the death of the righteous — many of them put to death by persecution.

Isaiah 57:1-2. 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. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

When there is a storm coming on, you may see the shepherds among the hills, gathering their sheep and taking them home, and when good men die in large numbers, and the Church’s ranks are thinned, it is sometimes a token that bad times are coming on, and so God takes away the righteous from the evil to come. Oh! did men know what the world loses when a good man dies, they would regret it far more than the death of emperors and kings who fear not God. But as for those who are made righteous by the grace of God, they need not fear to die. To them it will be a rest — a sleep with Jesus — till the trump of the resurrection, and all the evil that will come upon the world will not touch them. They shall rest till the Master comes. Now, the rest of the chapter is a very terrible description of the sin of the people of Isaiah’s day. And at last it contains a very brilliant display of the grace of God.

Isaiah 57:3-4. But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. 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.

Because this people so exalted against God and his gospel, God would not allow that they were the true seed of Israel at all. He makes them out to be a false, degenerate breed- and he asks them how they dare to sport against his prophets, and draw out the tongue, and make a wide mouth against those who spoke for the God of Israel.

Isaiah 57:5. Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?

The Lord had said that they should offer sacrifice only on one altar at Jerusalem, and this to him alone, but they had set up altars under all the ancient oaks to worship all sorts of gods. In addition to this, they had gone so far after the cruel way of the Pagans, that they offered their own children in sacrifice in the valleys, under the cliffs and the rocks.

Isaiah 57:6. 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 had set up the smooth stones which they had found in the brook, and made them into altars — nay made gods of them, for when man wants to make a god, anything will do, whether it is the fetish of the cannibal, or the round robin of the ritualist. It little matters which. A piece of bread will do for a god, as well as a piece of stone. Anything will man worship, sooner than worship the great, invisible, eternal God.

Isaiah 57:7-8. Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice. Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance:

Where they ought to have put up texts of Scripture and the remembrance of God’s law, they had set up memorials of their false gods everywhere, for when men become superstitious and worship falsely, they seem to be far more eager about it than those who worship the true God. They go on all fours at it, and give themselves wholly up to their superstitions.

Isaiah 57:8-9. 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. 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.

When they were in trouble, instead of going to God they went to the king of Egypt, that he might come and help them against the king of Assyria; but they would never turn to God. They loved idols, and so they trusted in an arm of flesh. They forgot the invincible arm which had overthrown Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and wrought such wondrous miracles for the deliverance of his people; and they made gods of the kings of the earth and trusted in them, “and didst debase thyself even unto hell.”

Isaiah 57:10. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way;

They did so much, and they were so superstitious, that they even wearied themselves with it.

Isaiah 57:10. Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.

So long as they did but live they did not think that there was any hope of anything better, and so they were not grieved for all their sin and all their trouble.

Isaiah 57:11. 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?

This is the old trouble — that because God does not smite down sinners there and then they take liberties with him. They do not know that his patience — his slackness, as they call it — is long-suffering, because he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and so he puts up his sword. Yet he says, “Have not I held my peace, even of old, and thou fearest me not?”

Isaiah 57:12. I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

They said, “Why, we are very righteous. Have not we got a god in every corner? As for our works, we have plenty of them. Have not we temples built everywhere, and altars set up on every hill and in every valley?” “Yes,” says God, “such is your righteousness. They shall not profit thee.”

Isaiah 57:13. 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;

Oh! what a sarcasm! but how just. You that love not God, when you are in trouble, let your sins deliver you if they can. Let your pleasures comfort you.

Isaiah 57:14-15. And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. 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.

We dwell in time, and by and by we are hurried into eternity but God always dwells in eternity. It is a very beautiful thought that he should have two dwelling-places. A blasphemer once met a humble Christian man, and he said, “Pray, is yours a great God or a little God?” “Well,” said he, “he is so great a God that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him, but he condescends to make himself so little that he can dwell in my poor humble heart.” God has two temples. The one is the high and holy place: the other is the lowly and the humble place. May we have him in our hearts, and then shall we be in his heaven ere long.

Isaiah 57:16. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth:

God does not like being angry, and though sin provokes him, yet he feels not at ease when he is wrathful.

Isaiah 57:16. For the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

It would destroy them. Man could not bear God’s anger ever more.

Isaiah 57:17-19. 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. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips;

God teaches men how to speak words of penitence, and faith, and prayer, and praise.

Isaiah 57:19. Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD and I will heal him.

He puts it twice over, because it is such a prodigy of grace that God should heal sinners that are so polluted with sin. He puts it over again. “I will heal him.”

Isaiah 57:20. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

“Work up” such is the word — “whose waters work up mire and dirt” continually, as it were, in a work, and bringing up its filthiness from the bottom — bringing it to the shore — taking away the brightness from every wave and the crystal blue from every drop. Its waters cast up mire and dirt.

Isaiah 57:21. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.


Verses 10-21

The prophet has been giving a very terrible description of the sin of the nation. We need not read it all, but at last he says this:

Isaiah 57:10. Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way;

“Thou art wearied out with thine own way. Thou hast been so zealous in thy rebellion against God that thou hast actually fatigued thyself in the pursuit of evil.” That is a true description of those who have worn themselves out in the ways of sin.

Isaiah 57:10. Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.

Though they had hunted for pleasure, and had not found it, and had brought themselves into great distress, yet they would not give up the hope of, after all, succeeding in their rebellion. Oh, how obstinately are men set upon seeking satisfaction where it never can be found,— namely, in the pursuit of sin! These people were still alive, and they were content to be so; but they were not grieved although God had sorely chasteness them.

Isaiah 57:11. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me,—

“Me, thy Maker, thy Friend, to whom thou must own thy very soul, unless that soul shall go down into the pit, ‘Thou hast not remembered me,’” —

Isaiah 57:11. Nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?

When God is very long suffering, and lets men alone in their sin; then, often, they quite forget him, and have no fear of him.

Isaiah 57:12. I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

If God once takes the self-righteous man’s righteousness, and explains what it really is, he will soon reveal to its owner that it is a mere delusion and sham, that will not profit him at all.

Isaiah 57:13. When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee;

“When sickness, and depression of spirit, and death itself, shall come to you, and you begin to dread what is to follow, and cry to those who comforted you in your time of health, what will they be able to do for you?”

Isaiah 57:13. 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;

All confidence in men shall be blown away as chaff is driven by the wind; but faith in God wins the day.

Isaiah 57:14-15. And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. 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.

That is a wonderful verse. You notice that the prelude to it explains the greatness and the holiness of God; and then, like an eagle swooping out of the sky even down to the earth, we find God coming from his high and lofty place to dwell with humble and contrite hearts. Not with the proud,—not with you who think yourselves good and excellent,— does God dwell; but with men who feel their sin, and own it; with men who feel their unworthiness, and confess it. I will read this verse again to impress it upon your memory: “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.”

Isaiah 57:16. 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.

See the tender meaning of God’s message in this verse. He has been encouraging the guilty one, and making him feel the enormity of his ounces; and then he says, “I will not do that any more, lest I should crush him. He is too weak to bear any more punishment or reproof; therefore I will not any longer afflict him, but I will turn to him in mercy, ‘for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.’”

Isaiah 57:17. 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.

Here God shows that his chastening does not always produce a good result; for, sometimes, when men are tried on account of sin, they grow worse and worse: “I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.” What does God say of such a great sinner as that?

Isaiah 57:18. I have seen his ways,—

“I have seen that he goes from bad to worse when I afflict him. Now I will try another plan. ‘I have seen his ways,’”

Isaiah 57:18-19. And will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 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.

It is heart-melting to see the tenderness of God. “I will not further smite him, lest his spirit should fail before me. I will not continue to strikt him, because I can see that he only goes farther away from me the more I chastise him. I will deal with him in abounding love: ‘I will heal him.’” I believe that there is many a sinner who runs away from God thinking that the Lord is his enemy; and as God pursues him, he does not dare look back. He thinks that it is the step of the Avenger that he hears, so he flies faster and farther away from God; but when he does venture to look back, and ends that it is a loving Father’s face that is gazing upon him, oh! how he regrets his folly in running from him! Then he throws himself into the arms of the God of love, and wonders however he could have been the enemy of this his greatest Friend. May such a happy turn as that happen to some whom I am now addressing!

Isaiah 57:20-21. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

They may have the semblance of peace, or a false peace, but nothing which is worthy of being called peace.

This exposition consisted of readings from Isaiah 57:10-21; and Isaiah 58:1-11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/isaiah-57.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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