Fear of the Lord is shown by deep reverence for His holiness. Too many among the exiles expect blessings with no thought of accountability to Him. They want accolades without obligation.
The truly righteous are indeed a small remnant. They promote righteousness and mercy (57:1), yet receive little notice. But God remembers them, and they rest in the fullness and perfection of His peace (57:2). Isaiah can mean they rest at night with a clear conscience (NAU; NJB), but some versions refer it to the sleep of death (NIV; NLT; GNB). Since the remnant is contrasted with the wicked who are still alive and present in 57:3-13a, the contrast is best served by the remnant’s sleeping with a clear conscience.
Leaders who refuse to follow God’s leadership are in mind here, but the scope of the passage can include any who practice idolatry. They are marked by sorcery and infidelity (57:3). They are not true children of faith but “descendants of deceit” (57:4), including sexual immorality and sacrifice of family (57:5-6a). God abhors such offerings (57:6b). They have made a god of anything physically sexual (57:7-8). In selling their souls to idols of Babylon they have spared no effort to find new idols to worship (57:9). These Israelites never once saw the futility of what they were doing, yet they continued to drive themselves ever deeper into sin by their desire for something new and challenging (57:10). Their thinking was backwards - God simply asks, “Whom were you so afraid of that you lied to me?” (57:11, NCV). Their supposed righteousness with God is a sham (57:12). Their idols will avail nothing for them (57:13a).
The opposite is true for the faithful. In trying times, the faithful find God is their refuge (Rev. 21:7). His promise concerning the land and the seed applies here - the faithful will inherit the land as He intended (57:13b; Matt. 5:5). God will prepare the way for their return (57:14). His presence will become a fortress for their faith. Spiritual renewal will be the order of the day (57:15).
The sin of Israel was real and deadly. God’s retribution through exile will exact a full price for it (57:16-17). His healing, however, will “restore comfort” to all who mourn deeply for their sin (57:18). Praise for Him and peace for anyone who trusts Him are assured (57:19). Not so with the rebellious (57:20-21).
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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