Escape of the Righteous
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We will be looking at Isaiah, chapter 57, keeping in mind that in our last study, we looked at the chapters that concluded the second section of the last half of the book of Isaiah. We brought that to your attention when we asked you to notice verses 20-21 of Isaiah, chapter 57:

Isaiah 57

20But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

You will recall that the second half of the book of Isaiah, which begins with chapter 40 and ends with chapter 66, is divided into three sections of nine chapters each with each section closing with those very words or words akin to them.

As we look at chapter 57, you will keep in mind that in chapters 56 and 57, God has been comparing and contrasting what is going to happen at the end of the age. This is future as far as we are concerned but, as we pointed out to you in the first two verses of chapter 56, we should be living in the light of it. Recall those two verses to mind:

Isaiah 56

1Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
2Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

He says that there is a day coming when righteousness shall cover the earth as waters cover the sea, and we should live in the light of that coming day.

We would like to read chapter 57 and then notice what it has for us:

Isaiah 57

1The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
2He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
3But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.
4Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood.
5Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?
6Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?
7Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.
8Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.
9And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.
10Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.
11And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?
12I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.
13When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
14And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.
15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
16For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.
17For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
18I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
19I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.

We have said that in this section, God is comparing and contrasting, and chapter 57 is no different. He speaks to us of the righteous and His care for them. He speaks to us of the idolaters and how utterly incapable their gods are to take care of them. Then, in His mercy and grace, He opens the door wide and says, “I will take care of anybody that comes to Me.”

Death is never a pleasant thing, and the death of good men always arouses a question in the minds of most of us, “Well, of all people who had to die, why did he? He was such a good man. He was doing so much. Why did God take him and leave this old drunkard down here who is creating more problems than he is helping? Why did God take that good woman, who was a real prayer warrior and who was accomplishing much for God, and leave this prostitute down yonder who is ruining her own life and the lives of everybody with whom she comes in contact?” Haven't you thought that, even though you might not have asked it?

God gives the answer here in the first two verses. He says that He is drawing it to the attention of men that as the age draws to a close, this will be increased more and more and most people won't even be interested enough to ask why. He says:

Isaiah 57

1The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

Nobody asks why. Good men, righteous men, and merciful men are taken out of the way, and people couldn't care less. “Better off without them,” they say, and of course, many people who are out of the will of God feel that way about righteous people.

You don't have to be approved. You don't have to be a holy Joe . You don't have to go wagging a Bible under the nose of every one you meet, but I want to suggest to you that if sinners are always comfortable in your presence, it might be wise to ask yourself why. I don't mean that you should go about deliberately making them uncomfortable, because you would never win them if you did, but if they are not convicted of their sins when they are associated with you, if they do not find within their hearts a hunger for the things of God when they come in contact with you, it might be wise for you to ask yourself how much of your testimony is shining through.

Righteous to Escape Hour of Trial

These individuals couldn't have cared less when the righteous men were removed, and God said, “Really, it ought to be a reminder to you. You ought to be asking yourself why, and then you ought to begin to realize that:

Isaiah 57

1…the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
2He [that is, the righteous man when he is taken away] shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

Let me suggest to you that the primary interpretation of these two verses is what I have already suggested. God has promised that those who are faithful to His name will not go through the hour of trial that is coming to try the world. That hour of trial must come before the so-called end of the world.

God is going to permit His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to return in the air, and when He does, a vast multitude of believers is going to be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air for the express purpose of escaping the hour of trial that is going to come; but that is only one way that the escape is going to come because death is an escape for a believer.

However, being more to the point, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is a drama in two acts. The Rapture is the first act; it comes before the Tribulation. The Revelation—the Second Coming of Christ—is the second act; it comes at the end of the Tribulation. People are going to come to know the Lord during the Tribulation, and the Tribulation is going to increase in intensity for the Antichrist is going to pull back the veil, and He is going to be seen exactly as he is, and it will be as much as a man's life is worth to swear allegiance to Christ. Life will be unbearable for men who take their stand for Christ.

The Mark of the Beast

Those of you who are familiar with the prophetic Word know that there will come a day when every man will receive a mark in his hand or on his forehead before he can buy or sell, for without it, he can't live. Of course, the reception of that mark will mean that you show allegiance to the Antichrist instead of Jesus. I say you . I am saying that generally. I trust that you all know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and if you do, you won't be here; but for the folk who will be here, it will be to choose between Christ or Antichrist. If they choose Christ, which many of them will, the Tribulation will be so great that death will be a blessing.

We often use these texts scattered throughout the Word of God for application in our day and time, but we must not do that if it is going to rob them of their reality. That is the reason I like to emphasize where they belong. For example, there is a very precious passage from the book of Revelation that I have often used at funerals: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…” It is a good verse, true any time and in any dispensation, but it belongs to the Tribulation. It belongs to that period of time when life won't be worth very much, and that is what Isaiah is talking about here:

Isaiah 57

1…the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

I am glad that I am a righteous man, not because my works are righteous but because Jesus Christ has been made unto me wisdom, righteousness and redemption. I have trusted Him as my Savior, and I am glad that I am included in this. Are you included in it?

An Increase In Idolatry

If you are not, you are included in this next paragraph in a measure or perhaps entirely, for in this next paragraph, there is presented to us idolatry. Usually we associate idolatry with what we call mission fields , and we refer to Africa or India or some country where there are idols. We sort of straighten our shoulders and exempt our country from any kind of idolatry.

There was a time when we had to talk about idolatry in this country, not in relation to images, but in relation to anything that you put in your heart and your life before the Lord Jesus Christ. But Beloved, we are approaching the end of the age, and one of the characteristics of the end of the age is an increase in idolatry.

You say, “Well, I don't see anybody bowing down to idols particularly.”, or you may say, “I have some Catholic friends who have some images of the same thing. I don't see anybody bowing down to idols. I don't think that there is any idolatry.” Well, glance at verse 3:

Isaiah 57

3But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.

Look at those last two words and recognize that they are not speaking of physical adultery primarily. God refers to any Christian who departs from Him as an adulteress or an adulterer, spiritually speaking. He referred to the nation of Israel in this sense. James said, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity against God?” He was speaking about spiritual adultery.

If you will look at the first part of verse 3, it will be emphasized for you what I'm talking about when I say that idolatry is in our country. Do you see that word sorceress ? You will find that word often in both the Old and the New Testament in some form or other: sorcerer—that is the man; sorceress—that is the woman; sorcery—that is the act.

In both Greek and Hebrew, it refers to potions, as they were called in another day. Witches were accused of whipping up a love potion. We smile about this, but there was a day when if you wanted someone to fall in love with you, you would go to a so-called witch and get a love potion and somehow get it to the object of your affection, and it would make him think kindly toward you. There is more seriousness about that than magic, for many of those potions were related to drugs which induced certain feelings and hallucinations, and I never read this word sorcerer in connection with the end of the age without thinking about some of our present-day drugs which are not being used for medicinal purposes, but are being used to induce hallucinations which are being used to induce certain acts, trips and journeys.

There was a movement to license ministers of a cult which was using LSD as their Bible. A religious experience can be induced by this drug. When I say a religious experience , I am talking about the feeling and the emotion that so many people connect with such. This word sorcery has all of that built into it.

Are we approaching the end of the age? Do we need to talk about idolatry in America only as the almighty dollar? I don't think so. I think that we are being afflicted in this country as will the whole world before the end actually comes. Oh, how blatant and brazen idolaters can be. It is so vividly described in verse 4. Look at it:

Isaiah 57

4Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood.

Look at the phrase, Against whom do ye sport yourselves? Notice the word sport . It speaks of an effeminate individual interested in his own sex to the point of exclusiveness; it speaks of an individual with a limp wrist and a pointed toe in the ordinary course of events.

Notice the phrase, a wide mouth puts out the tongue . That is a descriptive thing in our day. You have heard of individuals who stick out their tongue at somebody. When children are very young, they will pick up a real habit of sticking out their tongue, and you have to say, “Don't do that; that just isn't done.” They express their disgust and their utter disrespect with that sort of thing.

Idolatry Grows Worse

I say reverently and yet forcefully that we are living in an age when people are sticking out their tongues at God. They are looking up to Heaven and sticking out their tongues and saying, “What are you going to do about it?” Strange thing, God doesn't do anything. They put down their roots in falsehoods and lies and imagine that God can't do anything about it, and their idolatry grows even worse. Look at verse 5:

Isaiah 57

5Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree…

Look at that phrase enflaming yourselves . It describes immoral practices with the idols that they worship. Look at the next statement. They go even further:

Isaiah 57

5…slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?

You say, “I don't think we will get that bad.” Well, don't be too sure. We are living in the end of the age and we are taking one step after another. Look at verse 6:

Isaiah 57

6Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?

What God is talking about is that He laid down very definite rules about where the meal offering was to be offered. He said that they should worship Him in His way and if they did not worship in His way, He did not want it. The people said, “We don't care how You want it; this is the way that we are going to do it. If You like it, all right; if You don't like it, that is all right.” Notice verse 7:

Isaiah 57

7Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.

They were making annual pilgrimages to the tops of mountains for sacrifices, not to God, but to heathen idols. Notice verse 8:

Isaiah 57

8Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.

He said, “You have even taken idolatry into your homes, because you have set up your idols behind the doorposts that you might have them in remembrance, and you have discovered yourself to another than to Me, and you have spent all of your time in the practice of idolatry.”

God had said that the Israelites should put the Word of God on the doorposts of their homes so that anybody who came into their home could look by the door and see that an Israelite lived there (or a Christian, as we would say). It is good for Christians to have some indication on the walls of their home that they belong to God. The Israelites did it, and it would be a good thing for us to do it. God said, “You don't do that. Instead you put your little idol in the nitch and let it represent what the Word of God ought to represent.”

Idol Worship is Demon Worship

I am reading from the King James version of the Bible. God gets specific here in verse 9: “Thou wentest to the king with ointment…” The word king could be translated “Melek.” He was the god of fire, and he was the worst of all the heathen deities. God spoke more often of him than he did of any other heathen deity, yet there they were going up with their ointment and their perfumes to worship the god, Melek. Then they went to the deepest depth, because He said, “You did debase yourself even to Hell.” That is the end of idolatry, for idol worship is demon worship. That is the reason that you had better think with a great deal of seriousness concerning these movements on various college and university campuses where the young people are experimenting with drugs.

Colleges and universities accept it as an ordinary experimentation in this age in which we live, but you had better be careful. You had better be careful that your own children and young people aren't exposed to that sort of thing because this passage of Scripture emphasizes that the Devil is back of it—not only the Devil, but all of his demons. When you surrender your will, when you surrender the control of your mind or your emotions to anything, you are leaving the way open for demon influence to take control.

Characteristic of the End of the Age

The end will not be yet. I read recently of a young man who spent a number of weeks experimenting with drugs. He came home and said to his mother, “I don't know if I will ever get hold of myself or not.” He packed his camping equipment and went down on the shores of the ocean and died at his own hand trying to get hold of himself. This is characteristic of the end of the age, and I think that one of the saddest things is emphasized in verse 10. Look at it with me. God speaks to these people, saying:

Isaiah 57

10Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way…

These folk are not happy. They are wearied with the burden of the way. That is what God said about them, but He said, “You haven't come to the place where you have said that there is no hope. You haven't come to the place where you have said that it is hopeless. You are still seeking; you are still striving.” Then He said in the next statement:

Isaiah 57

10…thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.

That is, “You have found a little thrill. You have found a little excitement, and it is just enough to keep you so that you were not grieved, so that you did not reach the place where you were ready to cry out for help.”

I wish that all of us who love the Lord would ask God to make us alert, to make us spiritually perceptive so that when that first little tremor flashes across the face of an individual which indicates that he is tired of the way that he is going, we would recognize it. It comes to everybody sooner or later, and it comes often to a number of folks. They are not happy; they are weary and tired of it all. Oh, so many of us are not alert enough to notice that little reflection and put out the hand that will mean comfort and deliverance.

I never think about this without thinking about an illustration that touched my heart so very, very much a number of years ago. You are familiar with the name Clare Booth Luce . I have nothing to say at the moment about her political ideologies. There is a lesson there. Clara Booth Luce had lost her child, and her heart was heavy, and she was seeking. She was trying to find some solace, some comfort. She took out a telephone directory of so-called spiritual leaders, as she put it, to see if some of them could help her. She tried several Protestant names, and they just weren't available. Time went on, and it was three o'clock in the morning, and she called one Protestant minister who said, “I will be glad to make an appointment for you week after next. I'm booked up until then.” She called another number, and it was another prominent name, a man greatly gifted whether you agree with him or not. It was Bishop Fulton Sheen. She said, “Can you help me?” He said, “I can. I will be there at your hotel in less time than it takes to tell it.”

Clare Booth Luce became a Roman Catholic, by her own testimony, for no other reason than when this bit of weariness—a heaviness of load—came to her, he was the only one she could find for any kind of comfort at all.

To me that is sad, and I have often prayed that God will make me perceptive to people's needs so that when there is a need, I won't brush them off. When they pause for just a moment on their way and say, “Oh, if there was some way that I could get out of this way,” I will be there to say, “I'll help get you out of it.”

I wonder if folk might not still be on this way of heaviness if you and I had been as alert as we might have been. God goes on to say in the next few verses that there will come a day when you will need help, and you will cry to your idols, and your idols will not help you. They will not be able to. They will be like the wind.

Come to God and He Will Come to You

I love our God for what He said in the last part of verse 13:

Isaiah 57

13…but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;

Oh, how they had been to God. They had stuck out their tongues at Him. They would have nothing to do with Him, and He said, “I know the way that you are going has an end, and I know that when you get to the end, there will be no hope and there will be no help; but if you will just turn to Me, I will take care of you.”

I wish we could be like that. I wish we could, but we have a way of harboring bitterness in our hearts. Somebody sticks out their tongue at us, figuratively speaking, and we have a way of remembering it forever. When they come to us with a need, we don't see the need; we just see that tongue that was stuck out a long time ago. God is different from that. He says, “When you have a need like that, you come.”

Not only does He say to come, notice what he says in verse 14:

Isaiah 57

14And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.

In the King James version the word one is left out of the text. It should read, “And one shall say…” You will notice Who that one is. It is God Himself. Let's keep in mind that this is primarily a reference to the fact that God is going to make it easy for the nation of Israel to come back home. We learned in previous chapters in the book of Isaiah that God is going to make the way smooth and plain. He said, “A highway will be there and a way of holiness. A man, though he is as simple as a fool, will not need to worry about getting out of the way.”

That is how easy it will be for the Israelites to return, but God says the same thing to any man. If there is a soul anywhere who is tired of the weariness of his way, God said, “Get a road ready for that man to come back. Prepare the way. Take up the stumbling block. Don't let anything stand in the way.”

James said this same thing when he said, “Draw nigh unto God, and God will draw nigh to you.” All that you have to do is take one step toward God, and He will take two toward you.

You may be saying, “Well, I am a Christian. Does it apply to me?” Yes, because you are never going to reach the place when you don't need to draw nigh to Him for many different reasons. Many, many folk get out of fellowship and there is no weight so heavy as the weight that is borne by a Christian who is out of fellowship with God, but God said, “Come on. I will wait for you; take out the stumbling blocks; prepare the way.”

The words stumbling block refer to people sometimes. God has to take the stumbling blocks out of the way sometimes. You might need to remember that if you are a stumbling block in the way of somebody coming to God, God has a way of removing the stumbling block.

Completely Surrender Your Mind and Heart

This next verse, to my mind, is one of the most tremendous in all the Word of God. Notice verse 15:

Isaiah 57

15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place…

If we stop right there, if that was all there was to this verse, it wouldn't mean a whole lot. It might even discourage us. It might even fill our hearts with awe, and we might tend to tremble in the presence of this “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.” He said, “Yes, I am the One Who does dwell in the high and the lofty place.” However, we might grammatically add this phrase: “I will also dwell with him that is of a contrite and a humble spirit. Oh yes, I do dwell in eternity, but I would much rather dwell in the heart of a man who is contrite and who is humble.”

Contrite is a very interesting word. It comes from a Hebrew word which means “total emotional, mental collapse.” That is what it means in its strictest sense of the word. You may be saying, “What are you saying? Are you saying that we all ought to wait until we have a mental, emotional breakdown before we come to the Lord? Are you saying that everybody who comes to the Lord is nuts? Is that what you are saying?” No, we are not saying that. That is the strictest meaning of the word, and the reason that I suggested it to you is that you will never know God in His fullness, you will never know Christ as He really is unless there is a complete surrender of your mind and your heart to God.

That is the reason the word contrite is used. God wanted to remind us that as long as our world is supreme, His will cannot be. As long as our minds are in control, His mind cannot be. That is the reason the Savior said, through the lips of the Apostle Paul, “I want you to have the mind of Christ. Be all of one mind, and I mean the mind of Christ.”

God Will Restore and Rebuild

When God takes up His residence with a humble and a contrite spirit, what does He do? Notice the last part of verse 15. He said, “I'm taking up residence with such an individual…:

Isaiah 57

15…to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

This word revive is a very interesting word. We could bring several messages on that one word because it is used in a number of different ways in the Old Testament. For example, it has the idea in it of restoration. If a man humbles himself before the Lord and yields himself of heart and mind, God has a way of restoring him. I firmly believe that many folk who are emotionally distressed could find deliverance if they yielded heart and mind to Christ, for God has a way of restoring.

Also involved in this word is the idea of rebuilding. So much has been torn down by the way we live, but God has a way of building it back again. He has a way of restoring the years that the locusts have eaten.

Of course, it has the idea of renewal. When you come to the end of the road and you have no strength and you are not able to go on and you cannot take another step, God said, “You come to Me. Yield your heart and your mind to Me.” I say this reverently: God said, “I will give you a shot in the arm that will send you down the road running.” He will do that if you come to Him broken and contrite.

Look at verse 16. He said, “The reason that I am going to do this is I will not contend forever; neither will I always be angry. If I were always angry and if I were always contending with men, the spirit of men would fail. They couldn't stand it.” You can't stand the wrath of God too long, you know.

The last statement is an interesting one. It is more interesting when you have a literal translation, because my King James version says:

Isaiah 57

16…and the souls which I have made.

That doesn't mean a whole lot. If you read it from the literal text, it reads this way: “I will not always be angry. The spirit of men would fail if I were. The souls of men would be thwarted if I were always angry.”

You see, God didn't create you to go to Hell. God didn't create you to be the object of His wrath. God created you to be the channel of His glory, and if He always dealt with you in wrath, that could never be. Thank God for His mercy.

He Will Meet Your Needs

I hope you have taken advantage of it. I hope every one that reads this study has had an experience of grace. I hope that you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, but if perchance you have not, let me encourage you to do it right now. If you are weary with the way, or perhaps you are out of fellowship with the Lord, and the weight of that broken fellowship is awfully heavy, you draw nigh to God right now, and remember that He will dwell with a broken and a contrite spirit. A broken spirit and a contrite heart He will not despise. Remember, if you yield to Him, mentally and emotionally, completely and fully, He will meet your needs.


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