Isaiah 57:15-21 “God’s self-introduction”

From Isaiah 57:15 on God’s self-introduction appears. In the Bible who God is is expressed in many ways, but there aren’t many places where God himself says what kind of a being he is.  However, here God himself clearly says what he is like.

  1. The One whose name is holy (Vs. 15,16)

The first point is that God is “high and exalted…lives forever” (15) and his “name is holy.” (15)  Please look at verse 15.

Verse 15

The first half of chapter 57 talked about what happened, the result, of Israel being separated and running to idols.  Here it shows how compared to idols what the real God is like. In other words the real God is  “high and exalted…lives forever” (15) and his “name is holy.” (15) That means that God is in a very high place and is completely far away from us. God is so far that even if we want to go near him we can’t. There is a saying “a being above the clouds” and truly God is a being above the clouds.  Here it says “whose name is holy. “ (15) This “holy” (15) means set apart. Of course God is completely without sin or filth, but more than this means that God is completely distinct from man. He surpasses and stands above man’s world. We are human so we say such things like “That person is really outstanding or remarkable”, but anyone as a long as they are the same human being has the possibility of making effort and obtaining the same level. However, in the case of comparing God and us humans, it’s a completely different dimension.  God is a completely different being from the creatures that he created. No matter what man does he can’t come near God.  That is the meaning here of the word “holy”. (15) Therefore, here “I live in a high and holy place” (15) means that we humans on this earth can’t be compared at all with God.

This word appears in Exodus 3:5. When Moses was taking care of sheep in Midian he came to God’s mountain, Mount Olive. There he saw a strange scene.  A bush was burning, but it wasn’t being burnt up. When he came close to see the great scene, God said this to Moses.

“Do not come any closer…Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. “ (Exodus 3:5)     Moses was a shepherd so for the shepherd to take off his shoes from his feet meant in other words death. The shepherd’s shoes were like a sandal, but if he took them off he could not walk in the wilderness. There are rocks and wild thorns so even with shoes, to take care of the sheep in such a place was really a difficult thing. And without shoes he couldn’t go with the sheep so he wouldn’t be able to take care of the sheep.  If he couldn’t take care of the sheep, then the sheep couldn’t live. Therefore, for him to take off his shoes also meant death.  God said for him to take off those shoes.  That was because Moses came to a completely different sphere from where he had been until now. He had come before the Holy God.  That was for Moses death. The place where he was standing was holy ground.  Therefore, he had to take off his shoes. This was for Moses death. For a shepherd, life maybe equivalent to taking off his shoes. However, without such a sacrifice man can’t come near the Holy God. Here this shows that Moses was not a person that could go with footgear on, to continue the way he was, to the Holy God. He had to take off his shoes. That’s how holy God is.

Also in the age of King David there was this event.  When the symbol of God’s presence, the ark of the Covenant, was brought to the City of God, although they had to  according the ordained laws of holiness carry the ark on people’s shoulders like a mikoshi, (like a Shinto god is carried in a Japanese festival) some people loaded it on an oxcart and the ox pulled it to carry it to the city. However, the oxen stumbled. The oxcart tilted and the ark of covenant almost fell. Then Uzzah thought that it must not fall so he put out his hand to support the ark. Then God struck him and he died. Even though he did it out of perfect intentions, no matter what the intentions are, sinful man by his hand supported God’s ark so God’s wrath broke out. God’s holiness is this type of thing.  We can’t go near God, and can’t touch God. Without death we can’t go near God. This is the meaning of “holy”. (15)

However, this “high and exalted One…who lives…in a high and holy place” (15) is at the same time “with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (15) This is really surprising! Here it says, “with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit.” (15) The word here for “contrite” is the word for “dust” in Hebrew, and is expresses the condition of being made into dust.  That is the appearance of complete repentance. Also “lowly” (15) isn’t just being a servant, but expresses accepting the present misfortunes and agony and becoming “lowly”. In other words, it means to be slapped over and over again. God lives “in a high and holy place.” (15) No matter what man does he cannot come near God. However, God will live with the person whose heart is cut into shreds, whose assertion has been                                broken into the smallest fragment, and who is aware that he himself is the most wretched, and God will “revive the spirit” (15) of such a person, and “revive the heart” (15) of such a person.

Isaiah said this out of his own experience. When Isaiah was called to be a prophet is written about in chapter 6 .There he saw the vision of the Holy God on his throne. Then he heard the angels call to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (6:3) Before God’s holiness he cried, ”Woe to me!…I am ruined!” (6:5) Before the Holy God he realized how filthy he was and what a shameful being he was. He understood that he was nothing more than dust. There is the phrase “as different as night and day”.  Isaiah realized that the difference between him and God was like night and day. He realized that he was a filthy person not living up to the will of God and if God noticed him, he would be nothing more than a perishing being. Just as it says, he was slapped and broken into dust.  It was the experience of his own being itself dying. That is the meaning of “contrite and…lowly” (15)

However, in the midst of this he looked to God.  He thought that he would be struck by God and that he was ruined, but at that time, the angels that had been singing up until then stopped singing, and from the burning fire of the altar for sacrifices brought a burning coal and touched Isaiah’s lips saying, “See this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (6:7) Isaiah thought that he was ruined, but not him, but God on his side touched him, and made him clean. Before God to really recognize your irresponsibility is a blessed thing, but like this when he was completely contrite, God forgave his sin, and lived with him, and revived his spirit.

What man does is immediately brag to other people, “I can do that. I can do this.” “I have that. I have this.” In such a person’s heart, God does not live. Those who say that they have come to church for so many years; that they know everything about the church; that they’ve studied the Bible so they don’t have to study anymore; that they have this gift and that gift, such people will not be used by the Lord. God uses people with a contrite and repentant heart. God will definitely not have contempt for people with a contrite and repentant heart. God will live “with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (15)

Ever since the creation of the heavens and the earth, the most lowly, and there has never been anyone more lowly than him, was Jesus Christ. He was so lowly that the word humble can’t describe him enough. Christ Jesus “who, being in very nature God,” (Phil. 2:6) became man. He was unlimited, but he became limited. He had no sin, but he died on the cross. Therefore, there is no other way that we can become contrite except by believing in Jesus and becoming one with Jesus. No matter how much we try to be lowly, we can’t make real humbleness our own. However, if we become one with Jesus who gave up himself and was contrite to the point of being crucified on the cross, we can become like him. To be baptized is this. When we are baptized we go under the water it expresses that we are dying with Christ on the cross. Also when we come up out of the water it expresses that like Jesus rose from the dead we too are rising up to live a life with Christ. Now we are living in this world not for ourselves, but by the faith of

believing in God’s son who loves us and gave up himself for us. That is was this expresses. This is what a person who is contrite and lowly is like. The Lord is with such a person and revives his heart.

2.God who heals our sin  (Vs. 16-18)

The second point is that God heals our sin. Please look at verses 16 to 18. “I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me-the breath of man that I have created.  I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him.”

God does “not accuse…forever.” (16) God is not “always…angry” (16) forever. God temporarily “was enraged by his sinful greed…punished him, and hid” (17) his “face in anger”. (17)  Therefore, you’d think man would repent, but that was not so. “He kept on in his willful ways.” (17) Even so the Lord says the he will heal him, “guide him and restore comfort to him.”(18).

This is first specifically reveals the judgment of God by Babylon. Israel kept on in their selfish willful ways so God used the country of Babylon to destroy them. For 70 years they lived as captives. Even so God is not “always…angry” (16) forever.  God does not get angry and hide his face forever. God saw their ways, but he will heal them of their sins “and restore comfort to him.”(18).

What encouragement! It would not be strange for God to say, “Go your own selfish way!” and abandon them, but God not only didn’t do that, but intervened in                their wretched hopeless situation. Then God healed their hearts wounded by sin. He healed their hearts by taking upon himself, their sin. Let’s go back to chapter 53. Chapter 53:4-6 “Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

By our sins and iniquities being laid on the Lord’s servant, Jesus Christ, he heals of our infirmities that we have. Normally the punishment that we would have to receive for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to receive it Jesus took it upon himself in our stead.  We can see how amazing the grace is to become a child of God! We are really deep in sin, stupid and unable to live without sinning. The moment that we repent of sin and believe in the Savior Jesus Christ, we become a child of God and no matter what sin we commit after that, for all our life, that relationship will not change. All the sins that we commit from now on are forgiven. Jesus’ salvation is that huge. Therefore, this is a privilege.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

This is a privilege! This is a tremendous privilege! From the moment that you repent and believe in Jesus Christ, all your sins of the past, present, and future are forgiven. As a child of God, no matter what God will never leave you or abandon you. Until the end of the world, he is always with you.

In verse 16 it says, “I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry.” This word, “accuse” (16) means “convict”. God won’t condemn our sins forever. Instead so that our spirit does not “grow faint” (16), he will encourage us.  Therefore, even if we go our willful ways, even if temporarily God is angry, he will not “always be angry”. (16) Even if Israel is captured by Assyria and Babylon, and punished by suffering, they will not be in that condition forever.  That is just like whipping a child. If a child does something bad, the parent will punish the child, but in the course of time will forgive and with both hands open wide hug the child, and so that the child will walk in the straight way will generously support him in every conceivable way.

In the same way God will not be angry with you forever. He “will not accuse” (16) you forever. If you repent and return to God, God will forgive you.

3.God who gives peace (Vs. 19-21)

The third point is that God gives us peace.  Please look at 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.’”

“Praise on the lips” (19) are songs of thanksgiving and hymns. It is a prophecy that the people who as the result of their sins, because of God’s anger, are mourning, but  such people will be healed and will be singing songs of thankfulness and hymns. That’s not all. God will give peace “to those far and near.” (19) “Those near” (19) are the Jews in Jerusalem. “Those far”(19) are the dispersed Jews. Also it could be said that it is referring to us Christians who are God’s people by belief in Christ. God’s peace will be given “to those far” (19) and also to those near.  “Peace” (19) is “Shalom”. It is said to be the state where every aspect has no imperfections and the state is completely satisfying. God will bring peace, shalom “to those far and near.” (19)

Jesus said this. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Jesus gives peace. It is different than what the world gives. The living Bible translates the peace that the world gives as short-lived peace. Jesus doesn’t give a temporary peace that blooms today and tomorrow is withered, but a certain peace a certain peace that isn’t shaken at all in any situation.

An historian said, ”Up until now in all of history there has never been an age like now where people are so greatly attacked by fear and uncertainty.” In this insecure age what is desired the most is this kind of peace, isn’t it? God gives this type of peace to “him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (15) in other words, to those who believe in Jesus.

However, the wicked are not so. Please look at verses 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.’”

“The wicked” (20,21) means the people that don’t believe in Jesus more than it means people who are doing bad things. It is people who don’t believe in Jesus, believe in themselves, and go their own willful ways.  These people “are like the tossing sea.” (20) They are very anxious. They are never fulfilled. They are extremely anxious with inexpressible emptiness and guilt. Just as the “waves cast up mire and mud” (20) from their mouths come mud.  They swear and always with a high pressured manner yell in anger at people. That is the characteristic of the wicked.  They have no peace in their hearts so they always have to attack others. There is never any peace for the wicked. Even though they are successful in work, and no matter how much money they have, and even though they have everything they need for living, they don’t have peace. That’s because they don’t believe in the Savior Jesus. It is because they still have sin in their hearts.  As long as sin is not forgiven, there is no peace. That is “like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” (20)

How about you? Do you have peace? If not, pray to the Lord who creates praise on the lips to give you a peaceful heart that can sing songs of thanksgiving and hymns.  Go to Jesus and walk contritely and lowly. If so, you can obtain peace.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matt. 11:28,29)

How you live depends upon your decision.  If you believe in Jesus, and are contrite and lowly then God will live with you and revive you. However, if you take lightly his voice and go your own willful way then you will be nothing but a tossing sea. May you receive God’s peace and encouragement. God is a God who will heal your sin, revive your heart, and give you peace.