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Though the people were to go into exile for their lack of faith and their inability to trust God to protect them, God promised that the remnant of grace would “inherit the land” (Isaiah 57:13). Nonetheless, even the remnant of grace was part of a larger body of people—most of whom did not share their faith—and so even the righteous were required to go into exile.
We know, for instance, that Daniel was taken to Babylon. Daniel represented the overcomers in captivity and provided the example of faith for us even today who have lived under the oppressive government of Mystery Babylon. If anyone has a question about how to live in captivity in accordance with the will of God, let him study the example of Daniel.
It was not a sin for him to be a government official. No doubt his Babylonian employment made life more tolerable for his people, assuming that they followed the advice of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:12; 29:4-7). Daniel led no rebellions to set his people free. He submitted to the 70-year sentence that God had imposed upon the nation (Jeremiah 25:11).
Daniel did not chafe at the fact that he was in captivity for no fault of his own. Those in such a position are often tempted to complain that they are unjustly judged, but the righteous are not only individuals in their own right but are part of a collective body of people. For thousands of years the righteous have suffered along with the lawless. In fact, Daniel 7:21 and 22 indicate that the saints were to be persecuted and often killed by the “little horn” until the transfer of authority at the end of the age.
Yet God also deals with each as individuals by guiding, protecting, and providing for their needs according to their faith. We must learn to function on both levels: individual and collective. To do this, it is helpful to know that we, as individuals, are temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), but we are also living stones in a collective temple (Ephesians 2:20-22).
Isaiah looked into the future and saw the day when the saints of the Most High would be given the dominion. No power of Babylon or Mystery Babylon would be able to retain power over the earth in that day. When the sentence of God upon Jerusalem had run its course, the city was to be raised from the dead as a new creation, having been given a new body, so to speak.
This New Jerusalem, or heavenly Jerusalem, is not the same as the earthly city, which remains in bondage with her children (Galatians 4:25). The children of the New Jerusalem are the Isaac company, Paul tells us, and they alone are the inheritors of the Kingdom. Their destiny is sure, for it is based on the promise of God, which is the New Covenant oath that God took upon Himself so often throughout the Scriptures.
Preparing the Way
Isaiah 57:14, 15 says,
14 And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.” 15 For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “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.”
This is a messianic prophecy, but it applies more specifically to those called to “prepare the way” before Him by removing the obstacles that might stand in the way of His coming. This prophecy was mentioned again (as we saw earlier) in Isaiah 40:4, which John the Baptist quoted in Luke 3:5. The metaphor is about filling the potholes in the road and removing the rocks so that a chariot may be driven more speedily.
Isaiah 57:14 is another reference to such road-building preparations for the coming of the Messiah. What John the Baptist did in his time was the “Elijah” work (Matthew 11:14), for he prepared the way for Christ’s first coming. Our own work today, in preparing the way for Christ’s second coming, is the “Elisha” work. Our work is greater and thus requires a double portion of Elijah (2 Kings 2:9) in order to fulfill this calling.
Isaiah 57:15 tells us that those who are called to prepare the way are not the kings and nobles of the earth but are the “lowly of spirit,” the humble. John the Baptist was the first example of this, for he came out of the wilderness, not dressed in fine clothes, but in humble garb. Matthew 3:4 says,
4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Later, Jesus commented on John the Baptist in Luke 7:24, 25,
24 When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces!”
John was not much of a gentleman, nor did he present himself in an expensive suit of clothing. Unlike most modern evangelists, he was unconcerned about external appearances, nor did he try to impress people with a success story. This tells us today that those who are truly called to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming are not the great ones as men see them—not even the well-known religious leaders. Modern Elishas are not dressed in fine priestly robes but are the lowly ones with no reputation to maintain or position to defend.
The high and exalted Creator considers humility to be a virtue. That is why Christ could come to earth as a baby who pooped his swaddling clothes regularly and may even have cried when hungry. He was placed in a manger in the House of Bread (“Beth-lehem”) to be food for the world, later telling everyone to eat of His flesh by believing His gospel (John 6:53).
In the beginning, when God spoke “Let there be Light,” Christ was that Light (John 1:9), the embodiment of the Word itself that was sent into the world. From such an exalted position, He was humble enough to identify with the lowest of the lowly, even to the point of being identified with the criminals in his death on the cross.
Isaiah tells us that the purpose of such divine humility was “to revive the spirit of the contrite.” Repentance is the goal, not the condemnation of the world. Though not all are destined to repent in their lifetime, in the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Christ (Isaiah 45:23) and profess Him as Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11). In other words, all, both small and great, will become contrite in the end, for this is the responsibility that God took upon Himself by taking the oath of the New Covenant.
The Temporary Nature of God’s Anger
Isaiah 57:16-19 says,
16 “For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before Me, and the breath of those whom I have made. 17 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. 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, 19 creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.”
The “anger” of God is rooted in the law, because the law reflects His nature and is the standard by which all things are measured. Hence, God was angry with Israel and Judah on account of “the iniquity of his unjust gain.” This refers to the sin of acquiring profit or wealth in an unjust manner, such as usury or theft. Such people do not respect property rights of others but seek to steal their labor for themselves. Even governments give themselves the right to steal. But this is the cause of God’s “anger,” because the law says “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
Even God’s tax (tithe) is simply a return on His labor. He labored to create dirt, air, sunlight, etc., and has contracted with men to bring forth fruit. For their labor, they get 90 percent of the fruit, while God gets 10 percent for His own labor. God’s tax is not theft but a return on His labor. In all things, God respects the labor of all men. It is only when men or governments steal the labor of others that His anger is invoked.
But even then, He says, “I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry.” Endless punishment is not part of God’s nature. All judgment is temporary, for it is designed ultimately to bring repentance and forgiveness. Many have known those who lack the ability to forgive. Even after men have paid for their sins, they are seldom restored to full citizenship rights. But our God is not like that.
Countless people have lost respect for God when religious men claimed that God will not forgive the sin of most of humanity. When we truly understand the nature of God in this area of forgiveness, we can stand in awe of His judgments. We read in Psalm 130:4,
4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared [respected].
The irony is that many Christians would tell God, “There is everlasting punishment with You, that You may be feared.” But the psalmist knew God’s nature, having studied the law. He knew that punishing misdemeanors was limited to 40 lashes (Deuteronomy 25:3) and that punishing felonies was limited by the law of Jubilee.
Endless punishment could never find a place in the heart of the God of Love. The judgments of God proceed from a heart of love. This is the kind of God that the psalmist could respect. Perhaps he too had seen the contrast with his fellow men who did not have the mind of Christ.
No Peace for the Wicked
Isaiah 57:20, 21 concludes,
20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
These “wicked” are those who do not have the mind of Christ but despise the law (nature) of God. It does not mean that they will always be wicked, for God has vowed to turn their hearts before the story of creation ends. Every (wicked) knee will bow in the end, and all will grow into spiritual maturity during the age of judgment (“the lake of fire”).
But this is temporary, for all debts will be cancelled by the law of Jubilee. There is no debt so great that it cannot be cancelled by the law of Jubilee. The law of Jubilee stands supreme over all debt, and all sin is reckoned as a debt.
For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, understand that the term “everlasting” or “eternal” comes from the Hebrew word olam, “hidden, unknown, indefinite” and the Greek word aionian, which is to be defined according to its Hebrew equivalent, olam. It does not suggest unending time, nor an infinite period of time. It can mean anything from three days (Jonah 2:6) to a few centuries (Numbers 25:13) to a few thousand years (as with the animal sacrifices). Hence, the meaning is indefinite.
All will be restored to God in the end, but meanwhile, there is no shalom for the wicked. They figuratively “toss up refuse and mud” when they ought to be spreading the truth and light of the Word. Peace with God is the ultimate goal. Peace is the goal of reconciliation between enemies. When the wicked turn from their lawless ways, they find peace with God through Christ.