Who May Dwell with the Infinitely High and Holy God? (Isaiah Sermon 68 of 80)
November 06, 2016 | Andy Davis
The Doctrine of God, Humility
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Isaiah 57:1-21. The main subject of the sermon is how we find rest in Christ in a spiritually rebellious world.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT-
So as we come this morning to Isaiah 57, I'm going to bring us immediately right to the middle of the chapter. Verse 15 this is one of the great verses in the Bible. And without any delay, I want to go right to the marrow of the bone or the colonel of the nut. I want you to look with me at the words of the text that you just heard read, Isaiah 57:15, "For this is what the high and lofty one says. He who lives forever and who's name is holy. I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." So in this amazing verse, the God of the universe, infinitely high, infinitely holy, describes himself for us. He tells us what he's like.
And not only that, he describes his dwelling place, he describes where he lives. And beyond that, and this is incredibly gracious, he describes people he's willing to live with in that high and holy place. People who are contrite, broken hearted because of their sins. Now this verse is going to occupy a good deal of our attention right at the beginning of the sermon, but really just going to look on it for just a few minutes. We're only going to have a few minutes to swim in the sea of this truth, to drink in the beauty of it and the glory of it. But it's vast and soaring truths are going to occupy our minds for all eternity. We're going to spend actually eternity thinking about these things. We will see in eternity how pure and holy and exalted and lifted up God is. We'll see it with our own eyes. And not only that, but we will have a sense even in heaven, I believe without any regret, without any pain, a sense of how sinful we were and how much we needed a redeemer, Jesus.
And that understanding of the holiness of God and our own sinfulness will work together to make us eternally peaceful and filled with praise and glory to God. That'll go on for all eternity, I believe. We are going to fall down in humble adoration at the amazing grace that saved us and brought us to such a holy place. We're going to be amazed, and we're going to fall down as an Isaac Watts' hymn that we're going to sing at the end of this worship time. How sweet and awful is the place? How sweet and awful is the place with Christ within the doors. While everlasting love displays the choices of her stores, while all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cry with thankful tongues, "Lord, why was I a guest?" As we unfold, Isaiah 57 we're going to see how sweet and awful heaven is.
Awful, I think Isaac Watts meant they're breathtakingly are inspiring, something like that. A kind of holy awe should come over us. I think it came over Isaiah as he wrote these words, when he saw the holy exalted lord on his throne. We sinners can say with Isaiah, "Woe is me for I am ruined. Why am I not destroyed by such exalted holiness? We sinners, how would we ever be permitted to enter such a holy place? Lord, why was I, why was I a guest? How could it be that I would be a guest?" Now this chapter continues the rhythm that we began seeing last time I preached to you, Isaiah 56. The two chapters really go together is there's this rhythm from the wheat to the weeds and back to the wheat again into the weeds. The righteous and the wicked, the righteous and the wicked because this goes back and forth between the two.
Remember how I talked about that a few weeks ago from the parable of the weed and the weeds? Matthew 13, Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a field that a man sowed with good seed, but at night the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. And then when the wheat sprouted and formed heads in the weeds were also made evident, and this gives us that sense of the mixed up nature of the world we live in. Much of the distress we feel as Christians, even in the political process is because of the mixed up nature of the world. The wheat and the weeds in close proximity.
And we know that in the end, as the text says in Matthew 13, the son of man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all of those who do evil. And they will throw them into the fiery furnace where there'll be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father. That's where we're heading. That's where it's going. Now when we are there in that high and holy place and when we are shining radially with the glory that's not ours. It's the glory of Christ in us.
And we will be mindful of the fact that our sins were as great as those that were condemned, no difference ultimately. And we will be filled with awe at God and this high and holy person in this dwelling place. Now the more we can do that now the better. So that's just the whole thesis of my sermon here. The more we can just have a sense right now of the exalted nature of God and of his holy place and of our sinfulness and the grace he's shown us in Christ, the better.
II. A Stunning Invitation from the Infinitely High and Holy King (vs. 15)
So let's start and look in detail at verse 15. We have a stunning invitation here from the infinitely high and holy king. I actually think verse 15, if you look at it rightly, is a Gospel invitation. Look again at the words of verse 15, "For this is what the high and lofty one says, he who lives forever and whose name is holy. I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite." So as I've said, God describes himself, his dwelling place, and the people he delights to dwell with.
Now you may ask a pastor, "Those are three points. Why don't you just preach that as your sermon?" It would have been a great sermon, but there's more in that chapter than that. And I want to see all that there is in the chapter. So we're not going to be able to spend as much time on each of those three sub-points as I'd like to. But first, look at how God describes himself. He says he is the high and lofty one. God is infinitely greater than we are. He's so much vastly above all of his creation that the gap between God the creator and every creature is infinite.
The gap exists between God and even his holy angels that have never sinned, and there's no defilement in them at all. That's why the seraphim I think in Isaiah six, cover their faces and their feet in His presence. They'd never sinned, they'd never violated any of God's laws. And yet they recognize the holiness of God means that He is infinitely above them. A. W. Tozer, put it in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, he said, "Forever God stands apart in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel is above a caterpillar. For the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar, is but finite. While the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite." That's the holiness of God. It's the very thing, the exalted nature, of God that Isaiah saw in his calling to be a prophet. "In the year the King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. And above Him there were Seraphs each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two, they were flying and they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.' And at the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook, and the temple was filled with smoke." Holiness of God.
And it's portrayed often in scripture, as exaltation, lofty-ness, height. I remember years ago, I was in Pakistan 1987, I was in the North-West Frontier province. I saw the second highest mountain range in the world, the Karakoram mountains. And I took the Karakoram highway and went through those mountains from Pakistan and China. In order to make that journey cross that border I went through the Khunjerav pass. The Khunjerav pass is the highest border passing between two nations on earth. It's 15,397 feet above sea level, almost 16,000 feet above sea level. It's the highest I've ever stood on the ground. And yet for all of that, as that highway snaked its way up to that pass, and then down into China, for much of that journey, the Karakoram mountains were right up against the highway, and towered vastly above the highway hundreds even several thousand feet right up off the highway. That has the power to make you feel real small, insignificant. Now listen, if finite mountains can do that, how much more of this infinite God who made them. The greatness of God.
So the loftiness of God, the exaltation of God is meant to make us feel small, it's meant to humble us. This is what the high and lofty one says. That's how He identifies Himself. He is high and lofty. He also says that He inhabits eternity. I like that translation a little bit better than lives forever. He inhabits eternity. It's kind of like eternity is His personal playground. He's very at home in eternity, it's His living room, that's what eternity is like for God. He dwells in eternity. The eternality of God, He lives unchanged forever and ever. There are no limits to God. He is an infinite being. This is beyond anything we can comprehend. One thing we simply can say, is He cannot die, He is immortal, He inhabits eternity, meaning He will live forever and ever. Hebrews 6:18 says it's impossible for God to lie. I think this text says it's impossible for God to die. He is immortal. He inhabits eternity. He lives forever. His kingdom will have no end. As the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar wrote, "I praised the Most High, I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion as kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him, 'What have you done?'"
That's the kingship of God. That was the most powerful man on earth. Daniel chapter four. Nebuchadnezzar writing those words, he was in awe of the eternal king, and that is God. His kingdom, will never end because He lives forever. Also he says His name is holy. That means His reputation is holy. His name is set apart, it's a unique name, a special name. So His reputation, because of His person and His accomplishments because of who He is and what He's done, His name is Holy. It's set apart. So in the 10 commandments we are not permitted to take His name in vain. We should honor and revere the name of Almighty God. And so in the Lord's Prayer, we say "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be thy name," may your name be held in honor, on earth as it is in heaven. That's the sense of the greatness of the holiness of the name of God. And His name is holy, it means that He is a holy being, separate from all creation, but especially separate from evil, from all wickedness. His eyes are too pure to look on evil, He cannot tolerate wrong. Habakkuk 1:13.
"God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5. And it says in Hebrews 12, "Let us worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." The picture of God is a consuming fire, has a sense of His Holiness. This is the God of the Bible, this is how He describes Himself.
God Describes His Dwelling Place
But He also describes in this verse his dwelling place. He says, "I live in a high and holy place." Let me tell you about my home, let me tell you about my throne room. I want you to picture it in your mind, I want you to understand where I live. God's dwelling place is as lofty is exalted as He is, it is unreachable, absolutely unreachable by any creature-ly efforts. Satan tried didn't he, tried to scale the heights. He tried to scale the heights of divine grandeur and topple God from His throne, he didn't make it. He was cast down to the earth, and condemned. Arrogant humans tried to build a tower to reach God and they didn't come close. God had to go way down and see this little tower that they were making, this tower of Babel. I mean, God dwells in a high and holy place, we can't reach Him through human efforts we can't even scale there in our minds through philosophy. It's just impossible for God to be reached by human wisdom.
God dwells in a high and holy place. He's completely set apart from all creation. He's pure, he's set apart from sin, free from any kind of evil, and his capital city in the coming world, the new Jerusalem, will be as holy as He is. Absolutely free, radiantly glorious, free from all evil. Revelation 21:27 says, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." Those are the only ones that will enter that Holy City. So this is the dwelling place, the throne-room of God. Now, I want you to picture this in your minds eye. I often talk about this in evangelism. I picture the throne-room of God in a kind of a physical way, because that's about all my mind can do.
So I picture it this way: A majestic throne-room, like maybe one of those great oriental polatench, something like that. And he's up on this beautiful exalted throne, a glorious throne. There's this Heavenly courtroom with holy angels all around. I always in this image picture a perfectly white, beautiful, silk carpet just filling the throne-room. I picture it that way. And there's a guardian at the door with a fiery sword flashing back and forth to guard the entrance. The place is perfectly clean, it's free from all the filthiness. But here I come, I am a pig farmer. I've been feeding pigs. I'm covered with pig filth, I'm covered with dung, I'm covered with mud, and I approach the throne-room and I'm immediately stopped by the guardian with his flaming sword. You can't get in here, not like that.
I'm aware vaguely at that moment of my filth. So I reach into my pocket and I pull out a mostly clean handkerchief, and start to wipe my brow and my face and my hands. "Stop", the guardian says, "There's nothing you can do to clean yourself up. Nothing." This is the plight of the human race. God's described what kind of place he lives in, and we are the prodigal sons and daughters who have traded our Father's inheritance for riotous living with whores and banquets and alcohol, and all manner of wickedness. We squandered the wealth until it was gone, and we found ourselves starving and feeding pigs and covered with filth. And can we clean ourselves up? Now we cannot. The wonder therefore of the Gospel is not that everyone doesn't get saved, it's how does anyone get saved? How does anyone of us, we race of pig farmer, how does any of us get in through the door? How do we end up in that high and holy place?
Well, this is the grace of God in Christ. If you will humble yourself, if you will, with broken-hearted repentance look to the atonement of Jesus Christ, His blood shed on the cross is sufficient to clean us of all of our filth. If you will just simply by faith confess that you are a defiled sinner, and you have no hope of making it into that throne-room, but that God can cleanse you and fit you for heaven, and if you'll just accept it as a gift, he will give it to you freely. That's the Gospel, that Jesus shed his blood to clean up filthy rebellious sinners like us, and He will escort you into that high and holy place, and He will dwell with you forever. I live in a high and holy place, but also with Him who is humble and contrite in spirit. To revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite, that's the God that we worship.
He will dwell with the humble broken-hearted sinner. You remember the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector that went to pray, remember that? Luke 18, "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself." I always felt that must have been a favorite topic. "Prayed about himself: 'God I think you that I'm not like other men: Robbers, evildoers, adulterers, even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all that I get. But the tax collector stood off at a distance, beat his breast and would not even look up to Heaven, but said, 'Be merciful to me oh God, the sinner.' I tell you, this man went home justified and not the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Do you not see it's the same teaching. It's the exact same teaching. God dwells with people who will humble themselves, and by repentance and faith accept His grace. God actually will live with sinners. The question is, what about you my friend? What about you? Has that happened to you? Have you seen in the law of God, in the mirror of God's law that you're a defiled broken sinner, no different, no better than anyone else. Have you seen that? And do you realize you have no way, no hope of getting yourself cleaned up enough for Heaven? You can't, it's just too pure and perfect, and you're defiled. Have you seen that God sent his Son to be a savior, the savior, the only savior for sinners like you and me. And have you put your trust in Jesus for the cleansing of your soul and the forgiveness of your sins, and the gift of righteousness? I'm going to talk more about that one more time at the end.
III. Righteous People Rescued by Death (vs. 1-2)
Now that's verse 15. We've already gone to the kernel of the nut and eaten it, we've already drawn the marrow from the bone and received sustenance from it. Now let's look at the whole chapter briefly. He begins at verse one and two by speaking to righteous people. Now friends, pay attention to these verses. These are some of the most helpful verses for those that grieve at the loss of Christian loved ones. Let me say that again, these are some of the most helpful verses you will find in the Bible for those that grieve at the loss of Christian loved ones. Look what he says, "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart. Devout men are take away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace, they find rest as they lie in death." Oh, those are comforting verses aren't they? Is talking about the death of the righteous, it begins right away that chapter begins the righteous perish by this we don't mean like John 3:16, perishing eternally, just means they die, they die, maybe of cancer, maybe of a tragic car accident, maybe of some other way, maybe just simply of old age, they die, the righteous perish and some people do not fully understand why, they are troubled by it, they don't think about it, they don't ponder it properly. No one ponders it properly, they don't take it and ponder it in their heart, they misunderstand what God is doing. They know that death should have been and was in some sense defeated by Christ, they don't ponder that death is the final enemy to be destroyed and we're going to have to co-exist in some mysterious way with death until the very end of the world and so death is going to hurt us again and again and again death is the final enemy, it's an enemy but it's the final enemy.
Now Jesus destroyed that enemy at the cross, praise God, Hallelujah! He destroyed it. Hebrews 2:14, 15 says, "Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." So this thing of death has been removed by Christ 1 Corinthians 15, says, "Where O death is your victory, Where O death is your sting?" death has been swallowed up in victory. Thanks be to God He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The ultimate triumph over death is given as a gift to those who have faith in Jesus. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
Now, the text says that the righteous perish, they actually die. Godly people die, upright people who walked in righteousness die, we know that. And this verse God shows His gracious kindness to them, they die to be delivered from evil, do you see that? God is being good to them. Effectively the text says, you've suffered enough dear son, dear daughter, it's time for you to come home. No more suffering, no more death or mourning or crying or pain you're done with that forever, you'll never have a divided heart again, you'll never struggle with sin again. The world, the flesh and the devil can touch you no longer, you're free, you're spared from evil, that's why God does it and it's good for us to celebrate that. For me said Paul, to live is Christ and to die is what, gain hallelujah. So what does that mean for us? Don't grieve like those who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4, "We don't want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, that is die or grieve like the rest of humanity that has no hope. We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him." So yes, we must grieve, we will grieve we must weep, It's appropriate to cry but don't cry like those who have no hope, it's kind of a mystery its sorrowful yet always rejoicing. Hope filled tears, maybe you're just weeping for yourself, I think you probably are, you're weeping for yourself because you weren't delivered yet. And now you have to deal with the world of flesh and the devil minus one of the greatest helps God's ever given you that Godly person and it is going to be harder for you and so you grieve and it's appropriate but just know this, God is with you, He'll never leave you, He'll never forsake you, He will continue to protect you and someday He's going to do for you what He did for that person, He's going to deliver you from evil. Verse 1 and 2 hold on to it, go back to it later study it, it's going to be useful to you sometime in the future.
IV. Idolatrous People Exposed and Blown Away (57:3-13a)
Now, in Verses 3-13, he goes back to the weeds, he talks about the wicked. We go from the wheat to the weeds to the wheat to the weeds back and forth in these two chapters. Look what he says here in Verse 3 and 4, "But you come here you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes, whom are you mocking and whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars?" Now I don't deny that Isaiah is a challenging book to read but I think here he's turned away from the topic of the righteous perishing and how they're delivered to talk about the wicked who were probably at least in part, instrumental in making life miserable for the righteous. And he calls them false worshipers, he calls them sons of sorceress, Now the Jews of Isaiah's day and beyond were constantly tempted to mingle Canaanite pagan religions with the true religion, that's called syncretism, to mix together the religion of the surrounding culture with the biblical religion. And they mixed it together and they generally leaned more and more toward pagan Canaanite-ish type practices in their religions and it was very tragic.
God is a jealous God, He's jealous over the affections of his bride and He becomes very passionate and angry when His bride Israel gets drawn away into wickedness and paganism. And so these Jews who are following these Canaanite pagan worship practice, are called out here. They mock the true worshippers, they stick out their tongues in mockery, they sneer, they attack, they slander, they lie and they live lives of rebellion against God's commands and they are summoned in verse 3 and 4 to judgment by Almighty God. "Come here, you sons of a sorceress" He calls them for judgment and He exposes their idolatrous worship in Verses 5-13, these Verses describe the wickedness of the pagan worship practices of those days, they included sexual immorality, they included child sacrifice, they included occult practices and pagan rituals, dark things.
Look in verse 5-10, He says, "You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree. You sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion. Yes, they are your lot. Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings and offered grain offerings. In the light of these things, should I relent? You have made your bed on a high and lofty hill. There you went up to offer your sacrifices. Behind your doors and your door posts you have put your pagan symbols." You see this hidden paganism in this wickedness and sexual immorality and child sacrifice. That's what He's calling them out for. "I see everything you do. I see it all." And God speaks as a spiritual husband who is deeply offended by the adultery, spiritual adultery, of His people. Look what He says. "Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened wide. You made a pact with those whose beds you love and you looked on their nakedness. You went to Molech with olive oil and increase your perfumes. You sent your ambassadors far away, you descended to the grave itself. You are wearied by all your ways, but you would not say it is hopeless. You found renewal of your strength and so you did not faint." Isn't it amazing? All this wickedness, these bad religious practices, this immorality. And they grew weary of it, but they didn't repent. They said, "All right, we got to try harder. And these things are not satisfying us, so we'll do them even more. Maybe they will satisfy."
The wickedness and the foolishness. They refused to give them up. They renewed their strength in sin and they kept on doing it. Now verse 11 in the NIV I think is very, very helpful. I know it's different than the ESV, but just follow the NIV translation for a minute. It is very powerful. This is God speaking to unbelievers. "Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?" It's powerful, isn't it? Let me say it again. "Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?" It's because God seems to do nothing. It's like He seems to not even exist because he doesn't respond, especially to evil. He just seems to just do nothing. And they misunderstand the apparent silence of God. Atheists think that because God doesn't speak and strike down the wicked right away that He doesn't exist. Some time ago I came across the story of an atheist public speaker named Robert Ingersoll, and he used to do these challenging debates and discussions in which he would challenge God and he would utter horrible blasphemies and he culminated in this display. He said, "Now I read in the Bible how God struck blasphemers dead for their blasphemy. I'm going to give God five minutes to strike me dead for all of the blasphemies I've spoken today."
And it's very dramatic, you know, he counts off the minutes. One minute, two minutes. Five minutes is a long time for public speaking. If I did it right now, you'd be like, "Please don't do that, pastor." That's a long time to wait in silence. But it was very dramatic at that point. I mean, people fainting, people screaming, all of that. Well, at any rate, the five minutes passed and Robert Ingersoll was not struck dead. The story was later told to Joseph Parker, a British pastor, who said this. "And did the American gentleman think that he could exhaust the patience of the infinite God in just five minutes?" Now you can't, even by great wickedness, exhaust God's patience in five minutes, but at some point it will end. Ingersoll's dead, he's been dead for a century and a half. "Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?"
Elie Wiesel, a Jewish writer after the Holocaust, wrote his book called Night. I saw this in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. This is what he wrote. "Blessed be God's name," question mark. "Blessed be God's name? Why, why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including the Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz and Birkenau and Buna and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations, yes, chose us to be tortured, day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, ended up in the furnaces? But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I now felt very strong. I was the accuser and God was the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God and without man." Well, I think Isaiah 57:11 addresses that. It's because God was silent and seemed to do nothing that he did not fear Him. The hiddenness of God, especially when so much suffering happens in the world, is distressing to many. It's distressing to Psalmist. How many Psalmists basically complain about why God seems to do nothing? It's in there a lot, like Psalm 44, "Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep? Rouse yourself, do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?"
But here God says, "That's why you don't fear me, because I seem to have done nothing. But someday, though now I only speak through the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms and I speak through Scripture, someday I will speak plainly and you'll see what I think of wickedness. There'll be no doubt at that point what I think, and it will be clear. In the meantime, what you have is you have the Scripture." And God will speak to you through that Scripture and you'll hear Him speak in Scripture, or you will not hear Him at all and you'll think that He's silent.
Idolatrous Worshipers Blown Away with their Idols
Now, these idolaters worshippers are going to be blown away with their idols. Look at verse 12 and 13, "I will expose your righteousness and your works and they will not benefit you, and when you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you. The wind will carry all of them off a mere breath will blow them away." So, idolaters who follow idols are light weight and the wind of God's judgment will blow them away, and there'll be nothing left. Nothing left of all of their efforts and their works, all of them gone. Now, right in the middle of verse 13 do you notice he switches back to the weed again or back to the righteous, "But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain."
V. God Dwells with Humbled and Healed Sinners (57:13b-19)
And so, there we have in the middle of that section, this beautiful verse 15, that we begin with. The humble and contrite are welcome to dwell with God. God addresses the man who humbles himself, and makes God his refuge his true refuge. He will not be blown away in the judgment. The wind of judgment will not blow him away. He will survive that. He will inherit the land and possess God's holy mountain. More than that, he will effectively build up roads or highways along which the righteous will travel. Look at verse 14 and it will be said "Build up, build up, prepare the road, remove the obstacles out of the way of my people."
Now you may think he's talking about the restoration of the Jews back to the promised land, and it may be, but let me tell you these words soar far above that. Why? because the very next verse. Look at the combination of verse 14 and 15. And it will be said "Buildup, buildup prepare the road remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. For this is what the high and holy one says, He who lives forever and whose name is Holy: 'I live in a high and holy place. But also with the contrite and lowly.'" The connection between the two verses is the highway that's built up in verse 14 is the journey by which we get to that high and holy place.
And friends. I'll tell you his name, His name is Jesus. He says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And I get to be, and so to all of you who are believers in Christ, the righteous road constructors who lay the road of Jesus in front of lost people and say, this is the road travel in it. This is Jesus. This is the way you're going to get to the high and holy place. There's no other road that leads to heaven. We get to be spiritual civil engineers and build these roads for lost people." That's what's going to happen.
Now, these contrite sinners, they have a lot to be contrite about. I remember Winston Churchill was talking about a fellow member of Parliament. He said he's a humble man with much to be humble about. I thought, "Man, he's a mean guy. I would not want him as a friend, a humble man, with much to be humble about." Well, we are contrite people with much to be contrite about. That's the point of verse 16 through 19. Do you see it? I will, this is God speaking about the righteous. "I will not accuse forever nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me, the breath of man that I created." Look at Verse 17, "I was enraged by his sinful greed. I punished him and hit my face and anger yet he kept on in his willful ways." Verse 18, "I have seen his ways but I will heal him. I will guide him and restore comfort to him." Verse 19: "Creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel, 'Peace, peace to those far and near' says the Lord 'And I will heal them.'" So this is talking about the righteous who are the humble and contrite that God will spend eternity with. He was really angry with them. He had a record of their sins. They were wicked in his sight. They pushed his patience. So they were idolaters. They had a record of sins that was standing against them and it says in Colossians 2, that God took that record of sins that stood against us and was opposed to us and nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ and were free. And God's anger is gone forever. He is propitiated. His wrath is gone. He is not angry at us. He will not always accuse and instead He will heal us of our wayward ways. I have seen God is saying "Your wayward crooked ways and I will heal you."
You already said how in Isaiah 53. Jesus "was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him." What's the next part? "By His wounds we are healed." I've seen his ways. Isaiah 57, "And I will heal him through Jesus, through his wounds I will heal you." That's the promise he's making here. It's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. Jesus came to heal us of sin and He will.
And so in our text. Look at Verse 18, and 19 "I have seen his ways but I will heal him, I will guide him. I will restore comfort to him creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. 'Peace, peace, to those far near,' says the Lord. ‘And I will heal them." So, the result of all this? We get to spend eternity at peace with God and praising him for our salvation. He's going to create praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. We're going to spend eternity mindful of our sins, but not hurt by them, instead worshipping God for our salvation. He's going to create praise on our lips and we're going to be at peace with him forever. For it says in Romans 51, "Having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
And not only that. But he's going to do it for those near and far. Do you see those words there? Oh, don't miss significance of that. "Creating praise in the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace to those far and near. For me as a gentile adopted son of Abraham, I'm really excited about that." You know from Ephesians 2, it speaks to Gentile believers in Christ, Ephesians 2-12-13, it says, "Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." That's who you were, you were far away. "But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ," creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Those both near and far, that's us Gentiles and Jewish believers in Christ praise for God for the salvation He has worked. And He will heal us. You know what? He's going to give peace to the healed. The healing goes together with the peace.
Go on in your willful wicked idolatrous sinful ways, He will not give you peace. There's no peace in that way. But as He is healing you through sanctification, He's strengthening your righteous living, he pours out a sense of peace in your conscience and a sense of the peace of God, the peacefulness that comes from your status of peace with God. He heals you and you know you have peace and some day you're going to be totally healed. Like I've already said, when you die and you depart from evil, you'll be free forever.
VI. God Condemns the Wicked to Endless Restlessness (57:20-21)
Now, the chapter ends going back to the weeds one more time. Look at verse 20 and 21: "But the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 'There is no peace' says my God for the wicked." Friends, these words describe the world. Do you not see it? This is a churning tumultuous wicked difficult world in which we live, and these two verses at the end of Isaiah 57 describe why. These people, these lost people that we live with have no rest, no peace inside their hearts. They're churning and restless and never satisfied. They don't find what life is all about. And so they are restless like Satan roaming over the surface of the earth or like the demons that go through the... Go out of the man in Matthew 12 and they go through arid places seeking rest and they don't find it.
And they're restless and they're looking for something. Think about all the political unrest in the world. Think about the riots and the demonstrations and the violence. Think about the restlessness of the Muslim world leading many young Muslim men in particular, to seek an outlet for their restlessness and their rage in Jihad and terrorism. Think about the constant turmoil of nation rising against nation, a series of wars after wars after wars and it never seems to end. And why? Because people are restless in their hearts. Think about the simple restlessness of the world as seen in the nightly news reports, local news and CNN, whatever. Local and worldwide, restlessness, no peace. They are like the churning sea casting up mire and muck. They're looking, constantly looking for something. Think about the restless hearts of people who are addicted to prescription, pain medications. And they can never get enough. They seek their peace in the narcotic. Stunning levels of people who are addicted now to these opioids. Also, more and more people addicted to heroin and morphine, they're seeking peace in the drug. It's not any different than those that seek it in alcohol.
They're looking for an escape, peace and they're not finding it. Think about restless people who look for peace through psychiatry and psychology and counseling. It's estimated over 600 million people suffer from anxiety or depression, clinical depression, 600 million. Many of them are literally restless, they can't sleep at night. They have chronic insomnia. They're filled with anxiety, they go to psychiatrists and counselors and psychologists and get drugs, and there's no peace. Think about the relentless drive and ambition of even successful, wealthy people who attain all their goals and they don't satisfy them.
Some time ago, I saw an interview and many of you perhaps have seen it, with Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback after he won his third Super Bowl. There's a 60 minutes interview with journalist Steve Croft and he said these stunning words. When I was going over the sermon this morning, it's hard for me to read this even without crying. Brady said this. This is Tom Brady: "So a lot of times, I think I get very frustrated and introverted and there's times where I'm not the person that I want to be. Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people say, 'Hey man, this is what it is, this is it.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think. God, there's got to be more than this. I mean, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be, can it? I mean, I've done it. I'm 27. And what else is there for me?" I mean, he's saying this on tape. Croft said, "What's the answer?" And he said, "I wish I knew." I wish I knew.
Friends, I'm telling you there are people like that around you every day. They're like, "I don't... Even when things go well, for me, I know there's nothing in it. It's emptiness." I mean, this man's as successful as you could ever want to be in a worldly sort of way but he says, "I wish I knew." Well, I'll tell you what it is. It's living in a high and holy place with God by faith in Christ. That's what is satisfying, nothing else. What else matters? Few verses capture the reason for the world's misery better than this one: "The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace says my God for the wicked." Now that last verse of the chapter seems to read to me like a decree. There can be no peace says my God for the wicked. Not as such.
VII. An Invitation from the High and Holy
So God gives us an invitation. Go back one more time, as we close to verse 15. This is what the high and lofty one says. He who lives forever, whose name is holy. I live in a high and holy place but also with him who is humble and contrite in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.
God has promised in this text, He's seen all your ways, he's promised to heal you. He knows how you live, he knows what you do, he knows everything. He said I'm going to heal you, verse 18, I will guide you, and I will restore comfort to you. And I will not always accuse, I will not always be angry. Effectively, the New Testament invitation that lines up with this, is this one, Matthew 11. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened said Jesus and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am humble in heart and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. So that's my appeal to you as non Christians. For you Christians, I would urge you to meditate deeply on verse 1 and 2. Get it ready for when you lose a loved one in Christ. Just get ready for it, or when you face your own death. Just realize God is good to take righteous people out of this sinful world. He's just... He's just good. Secondly, see if there's any restlessness in you like that of the wicked, and repent from it. God's not going to bless that kind of wickedness, even in his own children. He will discipline you out of it, so the sooner you repent from it, you will find peace in your repentance. Thirdly, meditate much on the staggering words of verse 15. I just give them to you as a gift, they're not mine to give, but I just like, here they are, read them. Just read verse 15 and swim in the ocean of greatness.
And then finally, at the very end, the last two verses, understand the turmoil of the world is essentially spiritual. It's because people are out of fellowship with God that they don't know what life is about and they are so churning. We need to give them peace in Christ. Whatever happens on Tuesday, whatever happens with the election, just understand this, true peace is found only in the kingdom of God. Close with me in prayer.