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Isaiah 57:1 The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the coming evil- This is probably alluding to what God did to Joash (2 Kings 22:20 cp. 23:29). But this was happening to the righteous amongst the exiles. They were suffering real persecution even unto death from the false prophets. Jewish tradition claims that Isaiah and Ezekiel died violent deaths at the hands of the Jews, and likely there is some truth in that. We notice the parallel here between "righteous men" and "merciful men". "Mercy" alludes to the covenants which they were faithful to, but they all the same were characterized by "mercy" as the lead characteristic of those who accepted them and were transformed by them internally.

Isaiah 57:2 He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walks in his uprightness
- see on Rev. 21:12. RVmg. "each one straight before him". Jer. 31:9 had prophesied of the restoration: “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble”. Likewise Is. 63:13 reminded the returnees that when they had been led through the wilderness to Canaan under Moses, they did not stumble [s.w.]. Although these righteous individuals died without seeing the restored Kingdom of God (:1), they entered into peace and would later be resurrected to participate in it. That is the implication I see in these words.

Despite the promise of a "straight way" to Zion, both Ezra and Nehemiah wanted to have a Babylonian military escort on the journey back; they weren’t sure that they would be given “a straight way” with Yahweh’s protection. Neh. 4:10 records that “Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed [s.w. “stumble”, Jer. 31:9], and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall”. They were easily discouraged by the words of the surrounding world, by the apparent hopelessness of their task; and thus they stumbled. Ezra 8:21 LXX describes how Ezra fasted for them to be given a “straight way”, as Jeremiah had foretold they could have. He saw the need for them to make the effort to fulfill the prophecy. Note how Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim featured “straight” progress; the wheels on earth surely connect with how Israel should have been, moving in a straight way back to the land, in harmony with the Angel-cherubim above them likewise moving in a straight way. But they failed to “keep in step with the Spirit”... They were to walk “each one straight before him” (Is. 57:2 RVmg.), as each of the cherubim went straight ahead (Ez. 1:12). Ps. 107:2,7 RV speak of Israel being gathered out of the nations and being led in a “straight way” to Zion, as they had [potentially] been enabled to do on their departure from Egypt. Yet then they spent 38 years walking a distance coverable in just 11 days- because they did not walk in the “straight way”.

Isaiah 57:3 But draw near here-
This is the language of a summons to judgment. Judgment is in essence ongoing now, and we shouldn't imagine that God is not paying attention and will only open the books at judgment day. And so those amongst the exiles who were advocating paganism are called to judgment, right then.

You sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the prostitute- They were not in God's eyes the true Israel. The same ideas are used by Ezekiel about the exiles (Ez. 16:3,45). The prostitute and sorceress was Babylon; they had so assimilated with Babylon that they were no longer the sons of Zion but of Babylon.

Isaiah 57:4 Against whom do you sport yourselves?-
'To take delight'; and their delight ought to have been in the things of Yahweh rather than their idols and materialism (Is. 55:2; 58:14; 66:11 s.w.).

Against whom do you make a wide mouth, and stick out your tongue?- The language of persecution and mockery (Ps. 35:21).

Aren’t you children of disobedience, a seed of falsehood- See on :3.

Isaiah 57:5 You who inflame yourselves among the oaks-
The same word in Is. 61:3 of how they should have been trees of righteousness. The continual usage of language about Yahweh worship in the context of idol worship suggests that they were justifying their idolatry as a form of idol worship. For at no time did God's people ever formally annul their relationship with Yahweh. As they had drunken feasts in the name of Yahweh worship (Is. 56:12), so they inflamed themselves in sexual lust as part of the same rituals.

Under every green tree; who kill the children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks?- Offering of children to idols was continuing even amongst the exiles, and Ezekiel appears to allude to it (Ez. 6:13,21). They did it under clefts of the rocks, thinking it would be hidden. When instead they should have been as Moses, cowering there in fear and respect of Yahweh's majesty and glory.

Isaiah 57:6 Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion; they, they are your lot; you have even poured a drink offering to them-
There is a word play between the Hebrew for "smooth stones" and "portion". The reference may be to some idolatrous practice involving smooth stones. But the word for "smooth stones" also means deceit or flattery, and is used about the idols the exiles worshipped in Ez. 12:24. Yahweh was the portion of His people, but through idolatry done in His Name, He was no longer their portion (Dt. 4:19; Jer. 10:16).

You have offered an offering- This again confirms the impression that they were offering to the idols as a form of Yahweh worship.

But shall I be appeased for these things?- Judgment was going to have to come for them (Jer. 5:9), rather than the restoration of the Kingdom which had been possible.

Isaiah 57:7 On a high and lofty mountain you have set your bed; there also you went up to offer sacrifice-
This is surely an allusion to mount Zion. It could be that the returned exiles committed adultery with their idols there, and that idea is confirmed in :8; or that they used  other high mountains as an equivalent of mount Zion.

Isaiah 57:8 Behind the doors and the posts you have set up your memorial-
It seems that within the rebuilt temple in Zion there was idolatry going on (see on :7). Or the door posts could refer to their own homes, where God's law ought to have been written for a memorial (Dt. 6:9; 11:20); but instead they effectively had there a memorial to their idols, right at the heart of domestic life.

For you have uncovered to someone besides Me, and have gone up; you have enlarged your bed, and made you a covenant with them: you loved their bed wherever you saw it- This is the whoredom with other gods amongst the exiles spoken of in Ez. 16:25; they were doing the very things for which they had gone into exile for (Jer. 2:20; 3:2; Hos. 4:12). Covenant relationship with Yahweh is intimate, an exposing of our nakedness before Him in a way we cannot do to anyone or anything else. They had rejected the new covenant which was offered for a covenant with idols.

Isaiah 57:9 You went to the king with oil and increased your perfumes, and sent your ambassadors far off, and debased yourself even to Sheol- "
The king" is "Moloch", hence GNB "You put on your perfumes and ointments and go to worship the god Molech. To find gods to worship, you send messengers far and wide, even to the world of the dead". By such sin, they brought themselves down to the grave. Just as they had sent ambassadors to other nations in seeking help against the Babylonians and Assyrians, now they were doing just the same. All this arose because Babylon sent its ambassadors to Judah and they accepted them and later their gods, as noted on Is. 39. But now they were sending their ambassadors to the nations, seeking help and relationships rather than being exclusively for Yahweh.

Isaiah 57:10 You were wearied with the length of your way; yet you didn’t say, ‘It is in vain’. You found a reviving of your strength; therefore you weren’t faint-
Not only is the logic of choosing God's way so powerful, but the way of the flesh is not satisfying. Sin became a weariness to Israel even before they reaped the punishment for it (Is. 57:10); their mind was alienated from the lovers they chose; they left the one they left the God of Israel for (Ez. 23:17). They always wanted new gods; they were never satisfied with their idols (Jer. 44:3). GNB "You think your obscene idols give you strength, and so you never grow weak" reveals the classic situation of the addict. They continued in the addiction because they apparently were getting some strength to continue in it from the addiction.

Isaiah 57:11 Of whom have you been afraid and in fear, that you lie, and have not remembered Me, nor laid it to your heart?-
This connects with their fear of the Babylonian leadership, which meant they didn't take seriously the offer of restoration to Judah and the reestablishment of the Kingdom (Is. 51:12). And this resulted in their 'lying', breaking covenant with Yahweh through not having their covenant with Him laid "in your heart".

One thing that works against truthfulness is the neuroses that come from fear, the fearful tensions that arise between our real self and the false self. Fear and truth are opposed. This isn’t merely psychotherapeutic babble. The life of brave faith, the life that is lived in the overcoming of fears, the fearless breaking out of our comfort zones… this is the true life, the life in which we have no need to lie nor believe in lies. But of course it’s hard, because we think that the truth, the reality, is what we see around us; whereas faith is believing in what is not seen. Yet actually what is not seen is the reality, and what is seen is very often a lie. And the true life is a life of faith in those things which are not yet visibly seen.

Haven’t I held peace even of long time, and you don’t fear Me?- God's patience and lack of immediate judgment against sin ought to lead to yet greater awe and respect of Him; but for many, it becomes a reason to think they can continue in sin.

Isaiah 57:12 I will declare your righteousness; and as for your works, they shall not profit you-
This is embedded within condemnation of Israel for idolatry. So we are to read this as irony, with GNB: "You think that what you do is right, but I will expose your conduct, and your idols will not be able to help you". When exactly this happened historically is hard to say; but it will surely come true at the last day. It was idols which would "not profit" (s.w. 1 Sam. 12:21; Jer. 2:8, and about the Egyptians whose idols they accepted, Is. 30:5,6). Their "works" were their idols; and so we have the abiding lesson that any trust in human works is effectively idolatry. Our performance based society makes intensely relevant to us.

Isaiah 57:13 When you cry, let those who you have gathered deliver you; but the wind shall take them, a breath shall carry them all away: but he who takes refuge in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain-
Instead of allowing themselves to be gathered by God, back to the land to Himself (see on Is. 56:8), they instead gathered idols to themselves. This is the essence of idolatry; a trusting in our own works (:12), rather than the faith to let God work in us. The allusion may be to the image vision of Dan. 2. The Jews who associated themselves with Babylon would share her judgment, and be blown away by the wind; whereas the faithful remnant would grow into the mountain which would begin as the holy mount in Zion, and then spread to cover the earth. We note the offer of possession of the land and mount Zion is now made to "he who takes refuge in Me", and not "they". This is in line with the refocus of Yahweh upon individuals rather than the collective, national group (see on Is. 56:1,2).

Isaiah 57:14 He will say, Cast up, cast up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people-
The context has spoken of Israel's idolatry, and so the stumbling-blocks to be cleared refer to their idolatry. This teaches that a level way must be made amongst the Jewish people, i.e. the stumbling blocks and ‘valleys’ must be removed from their path. “Cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people” is therefore a command to God’s people to undo the generations of false shepherding which Israel have experienced: “They have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up” (Jer. 18:15 s.w. “cast… up” in Is. 57:14). Once we have prepared the way in this sense in the last days, then the highway is in place over which the Lord Jesus will return. This is how vital our work is for the Jewish people. Then the essence of the prophecies of the way to Zion in Is. 40 will come about. But for the exiles, their way was blocked by their addiction to idolatry.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a broken and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite-
The idea may be that when and if Yahweh returned to Zion, He would again dwell in the holiest place (LXX), the shekinah would again be seen in the Most Holy place; but no less would He dwell in the hearts of the  humble, those with broken spirits like David's after his repentance. This is in line with the refocus of Yahweh upon individuals rather than the collective, national group (see on Is. 56:1,2). We note the juxtaposition of ideas- the exalted lofty one, dwelling in the hearts of men. It's the same idea as in Is. 55:7-9; the God whose thoughts are not the thoughts of men can have His thinking experienced and shared by mere men. Yet the temple system of Ez. 40-48 had no "Most Holy place". Perhaps the idea was that seeing they had refused to rebuild the temple as asked, God would instead send His Spirit into the hearts of repentant people to "revive" them. This is exactly what He offered the exiles under the new covenant. See on :16.

Israel had lost their hold on true doctrine, many scarcely knew the Law (Is. 57:4,5; 59:3). They got drunk at the temple feasts (Is. 36:10-12; 58:3,4), like Corinth they had an "eat, drink, for tomorrow we die" mentality (Is. 22:12,13); they committed all manner of sexual perversions, along with almost every other form of doctrinal and moral apostasy (Is. 5:11-13,24; 8:19; 9:15; 22:12,13; 24:5; 27:11; 28:7; 30:10; 31:6; 44:8-20; consider the similarities with Corinth). This list is worth reading through. And consider the terrible implications of their perversion in Is. 66:17. But the early chapters of Isaiah sternly rebuke Israel for their pride- there is not a whisper of all these other things until later (Is. 2:11-22; 3:16-20; 5:15; 9:9). And even throughout the later rebukes, there is the repeated criticism of their pride (Is. 13:11; 16:6; 23:9; 24:4; 25:11; 26:5; 28:1,3,14; 29:4; 30:25; 50:33; 57:15). This is why Isaiah's prophecies of Christ stress His humility (Acts 8:33), and the "lofty", "high", "exaltation" of God. These words, common in Isaiah, are those translated “pride" in Isaiah's condemnations of Israel's arrogance; as if to say that God was the only one who could be 'proud'.

Isaiah 57:16 For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always angry; for the spirit would faint before Me, and the souls who I have made-
This continues the allusion to a court case which began in :3. Yahweh will not endlessly contend in court with sinners- otherwise He would end up destroying all His creation, those in whom He had placed His Spirit. He would cut short His quite legitimate contention and judgment of His people in order to save at least some. Verse 15 has just spoken of God reviving the hearts of the repentant. The LXX suggests that here we have an extension of that thought: "I will not take vengeance on you for ever, neither will I be always angry with you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have created all breath". The gift of the Spirit was to be given when the judgment of God finished. At the end of the 70 years there could have been a restoration  based around the gift of the Spirit to revive the hearts of the repentant (:15). But they weren't interested in repentance nor in true spirituality (see on :17).

The prophets spoke of the amazing grace and eternal love of God for Israel, how His wrath endured but for a moment (Is. 54:8; 57:16); and yet Israel asked: “Will He be angry for ever?” (Jer. 3:5). It was more than frustrating for the prophets; they shared God’s feelings of having poured out so great a love, to see it ignored and disregarded, no time to look at it, too busy sowing my seeds, weeding my garden, having coffee… God is angry with sinners, but He will not be angry for ever because “from me proceeds the spirit, and I have made the breath of life”; His passionate, constant outpouring of energy into His creation means He simply won’t be angry with man for ever. But amongst the Jews there was a revulsion against the idea of God having passion, being angry, and His children sharing those same emotions. It’s the same basic approach as the obsession we have today with ‘nice speak’- don’t be too committed, go so far but no further, don’t appear extreme. Here the spirit of the prophets must be our urgent example- we are to have passion for the positions we adopt. And of course that involves us in being careful, Biblical and prayerful about what positions we adopt. It was the passion with which the Lord Jesus held to His positions that so endeared Him to the Father. Because He so loved righteousness and hated iniquity, the Father so highly exalted Him (Heb. 1:9).

Isaiah 57:17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I angry, and struck him-
We would rather expect God to give their idolatry and marital unfaithfulness to Him as reason for His anger. But rather it was their covetousness which is cited here, the petty materialism which so took a grip upon them that they turned to idols in the hope of some petty material blessing. See on Is. 56:11.

I hid Myself and was angry; and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart- I noted on :16 that the Holy Spirit would have been given to the exiles to change their hearts- if they wanted it and if they were brokenhearted like David for their sins. But they didn't want that transformation- and went on backsliding in the way of their heart / spirit rather than accepting God's heart and Spirit. The implication is that God's hiding of His face during the exile was in fact to elicit their seeking of His face. And yet they refused. And this partially explains the apparent silence of God in our lives; to elicit a more intense search for Him.

Is. 30:20 describes the reestablished Kingdom as a time when Judah's repentant eyes would "see" the God who had taught them through the sufferings of defeat and exile (see note there). Their eyes would no longer be blinded, they would see and perceive the 'hidden' God who had tried to teach them through all their afflictions. Meaning will finally be attached to event, and the problem of evil resolved finally. God had as it were 'hidden' Himself during the exile (Is. 45:15; Mic. 3:4); but now He would be revealed to them. Just as Cain was exiled to the east of Eden (which I have suggested was the eretz promised to Abraham) and been hidden from God's eyes in his exile (Gen. 4:14; Dt. 31:17,18; 32:20 s.w.), so with Judah. The hidden things belong to God and only some are now revealed to us, but in the day of exile's end, all those things, the meaning attached to the events, will at last be revealed (Dt. 29:29 s.w.). Then there will be no need for Jeremiah's Lamentations and struggles about the exile, all developed in the story of the suffering Job, who felt God hidden from him (s.w. Job 3:23; 13:24) just as God was to hide His face from Zion at the time of the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 33:5) and exile (Ez. 39:23,24). Therefore all human attempts to see the hidden God were doomed to failure, as Job was finally taught (Job 34:29 s.w.). But the glorious truth of Is. 30:20 is that finally, the Divine teacher will not be hidden any more and our eyes shall see Him and His ways, as Job did at the end (Job 42:5). And yet Isaiah and his family / school of prophets did look or see the hand of the God who was hiding Himself from Judah (s.w. Is. 8:17). At the restoration, there was to be no need for Judah to feel that their way was "hid from Yahweh" (Is. 40:27 s.w.) any more, as it had been during the exile "for a little moment" when God hid His face (Is. 54:8). Their eyes would see / perceive. But tragically, the exiles didn't; God reflected that "I hid me... and he went on proudly in the way of his heart" (Is. 57:17). Their sins continued to hide His face from them (Is. 59:2; 64:7).

Isaiah 57:18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners-
Having lamented the lack of spiritual transformation in the people, God now looks forward to how ultimately He will give His Spirit to His people (see on :15-17). He will heal and lead by His Spirit, the Comforter which gives comfort. We would perhaps have expected Him to offer this healing and restoration to those who repented. But these is no mention of this; rather does this follow on from God's statement in :17 to the effect that if He endlessly contends with His sinful people He will end up destroying them. So despite having "seen his (sinful) ways", God now proposes to "heal him" and lead him back to Him, even if he is stubborn to follow. He would "create" peace with Him in order to effect this healing (:19).

Isaiah 57:19 I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace, to him who is far off and to him who is near, says Yahweh; and I will heal them-
See on :18. The idea may be "Peace to him that is far off (in Babylon), and to him that is near" (in the land). But as explained on :17,18, God appears to be saying that if He endlessly contends with His sinful people He will end up destroying them. So despite having "seen his (sinful) ways", God now proposes to "heal him" and lead him back to Him, even if he is stubborn to follow. He would "create" peace with Him in order to effect this healing (:19). And so He is willing to give peace with Him both to those far from Him, and those who had come near to Him. It was only the stubbornly and insistently "wicked" who would not be calmed / given peace (:20).

Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea; for it can’t rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt-
As noted on :15-18, the Spirit was offered to the exiles, and we have read of the peace this would bring if it was accepted (:18,19); and I suggested on :18,19 that God was willing to as it were force through His healing with even those who were "far off" from Him. But if it were stubbornly refused, then there could be no peace in the hearts or experience of the unspiritual. The wicked amongst Israel would be like the sea of the Gentiles, always associated with casting up and endlessly recycling dirt.

Isaiah 57:21 There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked
- See on :20. "The wicked" are the Jewish exiles of Is. 48:18 who refused the potential peace with God which was offered if they repented and returned to Judah to reestablish His Kingdom of peace.