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Everybody has an innate longing for Peace. The troubled and anxious and fearful long to have their agitated heart calmed; The sick and the dying long to enter into an eternal state of peace. Even those that are the most motivated to stir up war and strife envision at the end a peace of their own making which they will then be able to enjoy. Remember those caricatures of the dumb blonds of beauty pageants who respond to the question about their one desire for this world with the empty wish of “World Peace.” Or the bumper stickers that loudly proclaim the same wishful thinking as if just desiring this end will bring it about. But where does peace come from? Religion represents man’s attempts to obtain peace. “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16) – that was the question of the rich man who came to Jesus with an emptiness in his soul despite all of his material possessions. All pagan idolatry and adulterous alliances are directed towards achieving this elusive goal.




A. Death of the Righteous Means Nothing to a Corrupt Culture

“The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart;

And devout men are taken away, while no one understands.”

Don’t forget the context of corrupt leadership from the previous chapter

Any society should be concerned to see that the righteous flourish and increase in number;

Irony here is that nobody notices

Proverbs speaks about the corresponding cycles:

Prov. 11:10 “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.”

Cf.: Ps. 12:1; Prov. 28:12, 28; 29:2; Micah 7:2 – Borgman

Motyer: The alternation between singular and plural is designed to express both the general truth of the safety and peace of the righteous and to apply it to each individual.

Don’t expect to have any type of significant impact on a corrupt culture; you will not be missed or lamented

Illustration: Memorial service for Mr. Nick

Being “taken away” could refer to persecution and more of a violent death; What was the impact on society when Jesus was put to death?

Beall: The righteous die, unnoticed, in an evil world (57:1-2). In 57:1-2, the plight of the righteous in a world dominated by wicked leaders is indicated. The righteous man dies, but no one notices, no one recognizes that the righteous one is actually better off, because only at his death can he find peace and rest. . . The implication is that the earth is so wicked that it is actually a blessing to die!

Constable: As the leadership of the nation grew worse, the number of righteous people shrank, without people perceiving what was happening. God allowed this disappearance of the devout to spare them the judgment He would bring on the evil nation and its ungodly rulers. Few people in the nation, however, understood this reason for the depletion of the righteous. . . God will do this when He removes the church from the earth before He brings the Tribulation on it. He did it in the past when he removed Lot before He destroyed Sodom.

Parunak: The suffering of the righteous is a major theological dilemma, one that motivates large portions of Scripture. But the corrupt flock is so blind that they don’t give it a moment’s attention.

[Possible intimations of the Rapture of the church here]

B. Death of the Righteous Means Deliverance from a Corrupt Culture

“For the righteous man is taken away from evil,

He enters into peace;

They rest in their beds,

Each one who walked in his upright way.”

Oswalt: two alternatives for understanding the place of evil in the object clause . . . One possibility is “as a result of.” On this reading the sense would be that because of the evil in a society of corrupt leadership, the righteous are being persecuted to death. The other possibility would be “from the presence of .” Here the sense would be that the righteous are being taken out of the society by God because of the increasing evil in the society and the evil end to which it is rushing. The typical usage of this compound preposition seems to favor the latter interpretation (cf. 20:6; 30:11; Gen. 7:7; Hos. 11:2).

Sometimes we look at the death of our beloved only from the standpoint of our loss; but we fail to also consider the blessing to the one who has departed and been delivered from more suffering and abuse and hardship

Other times people make vacuous statements in generality about the destiny of the departed as if everyone goes to a better place and is better off; Not so – There is no peace for the wicked; this is a very targeted and narrow blessing

Motyer: How blessed are the Lord’s people in death! Their death is purposeful and leads to entry into peace and the experience of rest.

Oswalt: The leaders go on their own ways using their positions to secure for themselves increasing comfort and pleasure with decreasing satisfaction, while all around them the flock is being devoured, and one by one the righteous disappear, not to be replaced.

Calvin makes reference to the death of Luther before his time:

Who was snatched from the world a short time before that terrible calamity befell Germany, which he had foretold many years before, when he exclaimed loudly against that contempt of the Gospel and that wickedness and licentiousness which everywhere prevailed. Frequently had he entreated the Lord to call him out of this life before he beheld that dreadful punishment, the anticipation of which filled him with trembling and horror. And he obtained it from the Lord. Soon after his death, lo, a sudden and unforeseen war sprang up, by which Germany was terribly afflicted, when nothing was farther from her thoughts than the dread of such a calamity.


A. (:3) Summons to the Trial

“But come here, you sons of a sorceress,

Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.”

Sorceress (Deut. 18:10-12; Is. 2:6) and prostitute (Is. 1:21) represent the female partner in the relationship – addresses both of these motifs in section on condemnation

Adulterer represents the male partner

Motyer: Sorceress is one who had opened herself to the “control” of a spirit or supernatural entity. . . Adultery . . . expresses the principle (unfaithfulness to the covenant); prostitution the practice (devotion to lovers other than the Lord). The adulterer gives his love elsewhere; the prostitute takes other lovers.”

Remember, we are not talking about foreign pagans here like the Canaanites or Ammonites or Moabites or other “ites;” we are talking about the home grown pagans within the nation of Israel; descendants of Abraham and Sarah – that’s whose bloodline they proudly boast in

Pretty strong language of contempt and indictment – biblical way to say “son of a bitch” –

Can you imagine today referring to the most respected political and religious leaders of our day (much less the hoi poiloi) in such degrading terms? We need to hear how shocking this sounds.

This section is going to have some of the most lurid and sexually explicit material in the scriptures – definitely R rated

How could these people imagine that they had any type of secure or favored standing before a holy God? Such a trial is not going to turn out in their favor.

Oswalt: Throughout the Bible idolatry and adultery are linked, because both focus on the priority of the individual’s needs, the attempt to gain power, and the devaluation of submission and trust.

B. (:4) Summary Charge of Rebellion

1. The Offended Sovereign

“Against whom do you jest?

Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue?”

Parunak: Against whom do ye sport yourselves?–The uniform usage of this construction in earlier passages is positive, referring to delighting oneself in the Lord or in his blessings

Psa 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Psa 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

So we should not understand the question as suggesting a negative answer. We might better translate, “In whom is your delight?”

The Lord Jesus taught,

Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The true sign of our relation to God is not how we behave, or what we believe, but what brings us pleasure. The true believer will delight in the Lord, in his Word, and in time with his people. If we find these things a burden and unpleasant duty, that’s a danger sign that they are not our true treasure, and some idol has crept in. . . gestures of pride and mockery

People lose sight of the fact that the sins they commit are an offense against the person of God; they are making fun of God; they are sticking their tongue out at God; they are shaking their fist or rebellion against God

Would you let your children stick their tongue out at you and show such disdain and disrespect?

Absolutely no fear of God here – that is the type of corrupt culture in which we live today

Eccles 5:2 – warns us to be cautious and use few words in the presence of the Holy One

Young: Enlarging the mouth and prolonging the tongue were signs of derision (cf. Ps. 22:8; 35:21; Lam. 2:16).

2. The Rebellious Offenders

“Are you not children of rebellion,

Offspring of deceit,”

This is just piling on by the indignant prophet; but here the emphasis is more on their own depraved character as matching that of the depravity of their parents

– Characterized by rebellion

– Characterized by deceit

C. (5-10) Specific Offenses of Pagan Idolatry and Adulterous Alliances

[list is not necessarily all mutually exclusive; some overlap]

1. (:5a) Cults of Life — Sexually Perverse Fertility Worship – Location = the high places

“Who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every luxuriant tree,”

Constable: Vs. 5 — They were rebellious and deceitful in that they practiced fertility worship and child sacrifice. They believed connection with nature, rather than a spiritual relationship with the Creator, would yield fertility. They also believed that sacrificing the next generation would guarantee the preservation of the present generation. Of course, the opposite is true. God’s people burned with lust as they carried out these pagan rites in the places thought to be most conducive to their success. “Oaks” (terebinths, Heb. ‘elim) may refer to large trees, not a particular variety of tree. These trees were the places and objects of idol worship. How different a relationship with Yahweh based on trust would have been.

2. (:5b) Cults of Death — Morally Perverse Child Sacrifice – Location = the ravines

“Who slaughter the children in the ravines, under the clefts of the crags?”

For example, in 2 Kings 21:6 where Manasseh offered up his son and dealt in soothsaying, mediums, and wizards

Chuck Smith: It seems unthinkable to us in this age in which we live that parents would take their little babies and throw them into the fire, which was a part of the worship of Baal and of Molech. If you go over to Jerusalem to the Museum of Natural History, in one area they have a case filled with little idols that have been uncovered in the land. I saw one of the idols of Baal, a little iron figure with arms out and hands in an upturned position like this. And in their worship of this idol, they would heat it until it would turn a glowing red-hot color from the heat, and then they would place their live babies in these little outstretched arms. And they would be consumed in the fire as they worship the god. These are the things that God is speaking out against. Practices that His people followed as they thought so little of life that they were willing to sacrifice their own babies unto their gods.

Cf. atrocity of abortion – How many are sacrificed every year to the idol of independence and selfish living?

Motyer: There may be a deliberate contrast here between cults of life (fertility) and cults of death (human sacrifice) as summarizing the total range of hateful affronts to the Lord.

3. (:6) Futile Exercise of Idolatry – Location: the rocky creek beds of the ravines

“Among the smooth stones of the ravine is your portion, they are your lot;

Even to them you have poured out a libation, You have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things?”

Constable: Vs. 6 — Having chosen to worship in the wadis, the apostate Israelites would have to be content to have the rocks of the wadis as their gods (cf. Rom. 1:20-25). A wadi (Heb. nahal) is a streambed that is dry most of the year but in the rainy season becomes a rushing torrent. As mountaintops became places of worship because they were close to heaven and the gods, so wadis in valleys became places of worship because they were close to Sheol and the dead. The unfaithful in Israel even made drink and grain offerings to these rocks. This was not the kind of behavior that would cause God to change His mind about bringing judgment on His people.

Parunak: The “smooth things” may be stones (as our version has it) that served as idols. Then the Lord is saying, “You have chosen them as your gods. Enjoy them.”

But a stronger interpretation is possible, perhaps in the form of a pun. The root translated “smooth” is used in Ugaritic, a West Semitic language dating to the time of Moses, to describe dead people, and graves were often dug in the walls of the wadis (2 Kings 23:6). One function of those who deal in black arts is to call up the dead, as Saul asked the witch of Endor to do for him with respect to Samuel (1 Sam 28:8). In violation of Deut 18:10-11, they have engaged in these forbidden practices. Now God says: “You want to consult the dead? You may go join them.”

Parunak: The verb . . . here has the meaning “calm myself, retract punishment.” God is making a pun with the word “enflaming yourselves” in v. 5, which sounds similar in Hebrew “Should I soothe my wrath while you are enflaming yourselves in lust?” The question is rhetorical. It would be completely irrational for them to expect God to stand by while they rebel against him.

4. (:7) Nature Worship – Location: the high mountains

“Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed.

You also went up there to offer sacrifice.”

Parunak: The OT frequently mentions the “high places” of idolatrous worship. However, up until the time of Solomon, the term does not have a negative association. Even Samuel offered at a high place (1 Sam 9:12-14, 19, 25), and the Tabernacle was at a high place during the reign of David (1 Kings 3:4). The term takes on a negative association only after Solomon set up an idolatrous high place 1 Kings 11:1-8. His motive was to please his foreign wives, whom he took as diplomatic gestures, to build relations with the nations round about. He turned his trust from the Lord to the pagan nations around him. . .

5. (:8) Sexual Perversion of every kind – Location: the bedroom

“And behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign;

Indeed, far removed from Me, you have uncovered yourself;

And have gone up and made your bed wide.

And you have made an agreement for yourself with them,

You have loved their bed,

You have looked on their manhood.”

Oswalt: The reference to door and doorposts is reminiscent of the commands in Deut. 6:9 and 11:20 about placing a portion of the Law on the doorposts of the house.

“sign” — some type of memorial or phallic symbol??

Casual sex = “wide bed” vs. marriage bed which has been ordained by God to be very narrow – the one flesh relationship of one man and one woman for life

You cannot hide your disgraceful actions from God

“manhood” – “hand” – it does seem likely that the suggestion first put forward by J. C. Doderlein that hand is a euphemism for “penis” is correct.

6. (:9) Unfaithful Political Alliances – Location: foreign nations

“And you have journeyed to the king with oil

and increased your perfumes;

You have sent your envoys a great distance,

and made them go down to Sheol.”

Constable: Vs. 9 — Some Israelites had also traveled far from home to worship other gods. This may be a reference to making political alliances with other nations and then worshipping their gods with them (cf. Ezek. 23). The king in view may be the most prominent foreign ruler at the time Isaiah wrote this prophecy. These political trips involved great distances. The negotiators would take the oils and perfumes used in the worship of foreign gods with them. Over time these instances of idolatry had increased. But instead of going to foreign nations, Isaiah said these envoys were really going to Sheol because God would slay His people for their unfaithfulness to Him.

Oswalt: Now the prophet adds foreign gods to the idol collection. The people have gone to the trees, the wadis, and the mountains looking for lovers with which to prostitute themselves, but that was not enough. They must seek out lovers from far away.

7. (:10) Perseverance in Pagan Idolatry and Adulterous Alliances

“You were tired out by the length of your road,

yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’

You found renewed strength,

therefore you did not faint.”

Parunak: It’s amazing how persistently people will seek help from powerless worldly resources, while giving up on God if he does not immediately do what they please. . . All the emphasis is on their self-sufficiency.

Young: refers to all the efforts that Israel was making to accomplish its ends. It is the nation’s full and complete devotion to idolatry. Whatever Israel could do in the service of the false gods and idols it was ready to do. Apparently no task or service was too great. Nothing seemed to weary Israel in its desire for idolatry.

D. (:11) Sarcastic Indictment of Their Failure to Fear God

1. Failure to Remember God

“Of whom were you worried and fearful,

When you lied, and did not remember Me, nor give Me a thought?”

2. Failure to Respond to God’s Forbearance

“Was I not silent even for a long time

So you do not fear Me?”

E. (:12-13a) Sentence of Condemnation is Inescapable

1. (:12) No Deliverance Via Imagined Good Works

“I will declare your righteousness and your deeds,

But they will not profit you.”

Massive understatement – not only not profit but they will condemn you

2. (:13a) No Deliverance Via Vacuous Devoted Idols

“When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you.

But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away.”

REMINDER: (:13b) Consolation to the Righteous

“But he who takes refuge in Me

shall inherit the land, and shall possess My holy mountain.”

Circling back to the theme from the beginning of the chapter

Constable: In that day of judgment, the idols that the Israelites had trusted in, even in captivity, would be of no help. They would be as useless and lightweight as what the winds blow away. In contrast, those who made Yahweh their refuge from the storms of life would inherit the land and possess the Zion of the future Millennium (cf. 11:9; 24:23; 25:6-8; 65:25; 66:20; Matt. 5:5).

Martin: “inherit the land” – Ps. 25:12-13; 37:9, 11, 22, 29; 69:35-36


Delitzsch [quoted by Young] aptly observes that the previous verses constituting the first section of the prophecy are filled with threatening and conclude with a brief statement of promise. This [vs. 14] and the following verses constitute the opposite, being filled with blessing and promise and closing with a brief statement of threatening.

A. (:14-19) Conversion for the Contrite – Time of Restoration has come

1. (:14) Preparation for Conversion

“And it shall be said,

‘Build up, build up,

Prepare the way,

Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.’”

Sounds like a mission for John the Baptist – “Prepare the way of the Lord” – except here the preparation is not for the Lord to come to His people but for God’s people to return to the Lord

Parunak: This is the start of a new section, rather than the end of v. 13. That in turn means that the waw should be understood as the ordinary waw, not waw relative, and the verb translated as past rather than as future (continuing the imperfects of 13b). There are three reasons for this:

The first reason is technical. The two verbs in the previous verse are both imperfects, and there is no reason for the writer to switch to sequential forms here.

Second, the antecedent of the pronoun in “my people” in Isaiah is most commonly the Lord, not the righteous. Even the exceptions are Isaiah delivering the word of the Lord. The title is never placed on the lips of a third party. Thus we should understand that the speaker changes.

Third, each of the three sections of ch. 40-66 contains such a command to prepare the way:

Isa 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Isa 62:10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.

In both other places, it is paragraph initial. So it probably is here.

Oswalt: making it possible for the people to return to God. Whatever prevents them from coming to him and taking refuge in him is to be taken out of the way. The language is that of highway building, which appears throughout the book. The roadbed is to be raised up above the surrounding countryside so that it can have an adequate foundation under it. All the bumps and potholes are to be removed from it so that nothing can stand in the people’s way.

Young: Must not be limited to a reference to a return from Babylon . . . In the great eschatological return, when God will gather together all His people that are dispersed (because of their sin), there will be no obstacles to the fulfillment of His purposes.

2. (:15-16) Commitment to Conversion

a. (:15a) Commitment to Conversion Cannot Compromise God’s Exalted Holiness

How can God accomplish this dramatic regathering and revival described in vs. 14??

Oswalt: Vs. 15 — one of the finest one-sentence summations of biblical theology in the Bible.

1) Exalted / Preeminent / Majestic

“For thus says the high and exalted One”

Is. 6:1 – same exact phrase

Ezekiel 28 – Condemnation of King of Tyre – “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods’”

Message of Colossians – Christ has the preeminence – 3:1 “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

James 4 “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God.”

2) Eternal

“Who lives forever,” [inhabits eternity]

Source of all life

Jesus defines Himself as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”

Understand the limitations of our finiteness; distinction between the Creator and His creatures;

What a privilege it is to be granted eternal life – John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

A. W. Tozer – The Eternity of God – cf. Ps. 90:1-2; “O Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

“everlasting” – some people think it means only lasting to the end of the age as when the bible speaks of everlasting mountains; want to escape doctrine of everlasting hell; but when applied to the person of God always means endlessness;

3) Holy

“whose name is Holy,”

Phil Johnson: Vs. 15 Holiness is at the heart of all true worship; the sum of all of God’s perfections; not just the performance of religious activities; Holy is one of the names that God goes by; Ps. 111:9 “Holy and awesome is His name”; the essence of who God is; vision of Is. 6; Rev. 4:8 –that threefold expression “Holy, Holy, Holy” is unique to this aspect of God – not found with any of the other characteristics of God; the moral excellence of God; distinct, separate, different – refers to God’s otherness from all of His creation and His separation from all evil; pure light in whom there is no darkness at all; Hab. 1:3; Lev. 10:3; Ex. 15:11 glorious in holiness; 1 Sam. 2:2 “There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You.” if people could begin to grasp that it would put an end to most of man’s sinful problems

Our response: we are called to be holy just as God is holy – 1 Pet. 1:15

b. (:15b) Commitment to Conversion Requires Contrition

“I dwell on a high and holy place,

and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit

In order to revive the spirit of the lowly

and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Chiastic structure here: contrite / lowly / lowly / contrite

Piper: God will heal them by humbling them. He will cure the patient by crushing his pride. If only the crushed and humble enjoy God’s fellowship (v. 15), and if Israel’s sickness is a proud and willful rebellion (v. 17), and if God promises to heal them (v. 18), then his healing must be humbling and his cure must be a crushed spirit.

1. It is surprising that the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.

2. It is not compromising when the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.

3. It is healing when the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.

Motyer: When, therefore, the poem goes on to speak of others being taken as the family of God to share his dwelling, it is clear that this is not done by any reduction of the standards or the dignity of God, nor through any adjustment or compromise of his nature.

Sovereignty of God to work in the heart of sinful man to convert it and regenerate it and give to him a new heart of flesh instead of stone

Man cannot schedule divine revival – it makes me cringe when I see the revival meetings scheduled for such and such a date as if we could dictate to God His timetable for revival; the work of reviving is solely the gracious work of God

c. (:16) Commitment to Conversion is the Background for God’s Discipline

“For I will not contend forever,

neither will I always be angry;

For the spirit would grow faint before Me,

and the breath of those whom I have made.”

Young: Inasmuch as God is the Creator of human souls, He will have mercy upon them.

God is not out to obliterate mankind and stamp them out forever; His purposes are rooted in His mercy and His plan of redemption

3. (:17) Obstacles to Conversion = Iniquity and Rebellion

“Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain

I was angry and struck him;

I hid My face and was angry,

And he went on turning away, in the way of his heart.”

“unjust gain” — Speaks to the “unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest” Motyer – described in chap. 56

2 Responses from God:

– Anger leading to strong discipline – “struck him”

– Anger leading to withdrawal of fellowship and favor – “hid my face”

Stubborn Response on the part of sinful man:

– no change of heart but continued rebellion

4. (:18-19) Results of Conversion = Healing and Peace

a. (:18-19a) Healing and Comfort Leading to Praise

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,

Creating the praise of the lips.”

Divine initiative in the healing process; not due to man reforming his ways

Sovereign grace at work behind the scenes here = only way for sinful man to obtain peace with God

Is. 12:1-2 reversal from God’s anger to gracious salvation

b. (:19b) Peace and Healing for Both Gentile and Jew

“’Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’

Says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him.’”

Ephes. 2:17

B. (:20-21) No Consolation for the Wicked

1. (:20) Tumultuous Upheaval – No Quiet

“But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet,

And its waters toss up refuse and mud.”

Young: from the heart of the ungodly proceed thoughts, words, and works, unclean and ungodly, the mire and mud of a restless conscience.

2. (:21) Perpetual Agitation – No Peace

“‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”

Constable: The wicked contrast with the humble who take advantage of God’s provision of grace. Far from being at peace, their existence is as tumultuous as the tossing sea, which is incapable of being at rest. Their constant agitation creates many other problems, like the raging sea casts up debris and mud. No shalom is the portion of the wicked (cf. 48:22).

Beall: The same tragic words were uttered in 48:22, the end of the first section of the second half of the book. Now, we come to the end of the second nine-chapter section, and the same conclusion is reached.


Reflect on the words of the famous hymn

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?

The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.