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Copyright September 4, 2022 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
In any war, the warring parties must agree to the “terms of surrender.”
One of the parties must reach that point of humble admission that they are defeated.
It is never easy to surrender.
There are some leaders, like Adolf Hitler who chose to take His own life rather than admit surrender.
The longer a defeated army waits to surrender, the more misery their people will have to endure.
As we round the final turn in Isaiah, we come to Isaiah 57 and learn about the terms for peace.
We will see what inhibits peace and what enables peace.
The Ultimate Peace (57:1-2)
1 Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.
But no one seems to care or wonder why.
No one seems to understand
that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
2 For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die.
The first two verses are great to quote at funerals of Christian people who die before their time.
What we call “tragedy,” Isaiah says is actually a gift from God.
It is a blessing.
From the side of the survivors (or maybe even the person who is near death), it seems wrong.
It feels like you are being cheated.
However, looking at this from the other side of the door . . .
what a blessing!
These people are spared some of the pain of life and get to experience the richness of Heaven sooner.
It's all a matter of perspective.
We are looking at things through our eyes, not the eyes of the one who lives beyond the grave.
If you have a loved one who is a follower of Christ who has died, we do not need to mourn for them.
We mourn for our loss, not theirs.
They have lost nothing but have gained everything.
If they died “before their time” they were spared the pain of decay, the limited mobility, the endless Doctor visits, the anxiety of finances and world events, the feeling of being marginalized or “sent out to pasture,” and so much more.
But these words aren’t really meant to be a discourse on untimely deaths.
There is an indictment in these words.
Godly people are dying young and NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE OR WONDER WHY.
The reason?
Because the people of Israel had lost their heart for God!
The parallel today would be: it seems there are fewer people who are following Christ in a life-transforming way.
“Religion” may be strong and popular, but true discipleship, evidenced by lives of godliness, seems to be on the decline.
We can see a couple of reasons for this.
First, there is the pervasive secular culture around us.
We are surrounded at every turn with the attitudes of worldliness (pursuit of ease, obsession with (and feeling a right to have) material prosperity, a victim mentality (in other words, “It is always someone else’s fault), and the constant need to be visually stimulated to the point where we are losing our ability to think and reason.
This has begun to erode even our spiritual lives and spiritual disciplines.
Things like fasting, meditating on the Word of God, and times of silence, are spiritual disciplines few put into practice today.
Second, many churches have changed their focus from a God-focused worship (with quiet and dignified reverence, reasoned exposition of God’s Word, heartfelt times of prayer (remember prayer meetings?)), to a consumer-focused worship that has loud music, a concert mentality, “exciting programs,” and sermons filled with personal anecdotes and shallow unoffensive theology.
In the great cathedrals of the past, you walked into the sanctuary and instinctively knew you should adopt a posture of silence and reverence.
You could feel the sense of awe.
Today, churches are built as big boxes looking more like an entertainment venue.
I don’t think the emphasis on relationships in the church is bad.
I don’t even think a little less formality is bad.
But the sense of people coming to church to be entertained or “wooed” has turned the focus from giving our best TO God to finding the church that will best meet MY needs.
[Jonny Diaz Quote]
We are told those who die in the Lord rest in peace.
They have found rest.
But is death the only way to find peace?
Can we find peace even in the midst of this world in which we live?
Jesus told us in John 14:27
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.
The Roadblock to Peace (57:3-10)
Back in Isaiah 57, God, I believe, shows us the thing that blocks our access to His peace.
3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children,
you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
4 Whom do you mock,
making faces and sticking out your tongues?
You children of sinners and liars!
5 You worship your idols with great passion
beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
You sacrifice your children down in the valleys,
among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
They, not I, are your inheritance.
Do you think all this makes me happy?
7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
There you have worshiped idols
and have been unfaithful to me.
8 You have put pagan symbols
on your doorposts and behind your doors.
You have left me
and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
You have committed yourselves to them.
You love to look at their naked bodies.
9 You have gone to Molech
with olive oil and many perfumes,
sending your agents far and wide,
even to the world of the dead,
10 You grew weary in your search,
but you never gave up.
Desire gave you renewed strength,
and you did not grow weary.
In this section of Isaiah 57 the Lord draws attention to the idolatry of the children of Israel.
He has returned to this topic continually in Isaiah.
It is the barrier to the peace He wants us to know.
He mentions several of the things the people were doing.
They bowed down before statues, they established new religious sites, and practiced sexual rituals and other perversity.
They sacrificed children, displayed pagan symbols, and did all the things God told them NOT to do.
In verses 11-13 God ridicules them by asking if these gods can save them since even a light breeze will blow them over.
Gods that are no gods can deliver nothing but misery.
These people who were once called God’s people had drifted.
It was not a sudden departure from the truth.
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