In the last blog we put the book of Isaiah as a whole into context, as a way of better understanding Isaiah 57. No we are going to start to unpack it a little bit more, and this blog is going to focus on the first two verses.
1 Good people pass away;
the godly often die before their time.
But no one seems to care or wonder why.
No one seems to understand
that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
2 For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die.
Personally I don’t understand why Christians don’t draw on these two verses more often; the amount of times I have been asked why people die by Non-Christians, and why God seems to desert his people, sometimes in seemingly the most horrific ways, ‘leaving them’ to die – well, this straight away provides an answer – People of God often die as a way of God protecting them from the evil to come.
Just on that subject, it often amazes me that Atheists in particular try to use God letting Christians die as some kind of sign that he must be an unjust God if he exists. I personally don’t see anything wrong with leaving this planet to go to heaven! If Heaven is this perfect place, where we are made right, and all pain ends, then surely leaving this fallen planet to get there is not a particularly unfair deal!
If heaven truly exists, then I don’t know about you, but when I get there, as hard as it may have seemed on earth, that process of death on this planet is going to seem very much worth it! I must make it clear here that I do not in any case condone suicide. We all know that this is wrong, the Bible says that it is wrong, Christianity is pro-life.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, then death is a bad thing in the sense that because of sin, we have to go through it – but it is surely worth it to get to the promised land. We as Christians have all of that to look forward to – it is promised to us!
God abandons us by letting us be reborn in Heaven? God would be abandoning us by leaving us here! According to the Bible, we should all be condemned to Hell. But because Jesus Christ died for our sins, we as Christians are saved.
By the way, this is all sentiment echoed by the Apostle Paul, when he says this:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (in this life)
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us (in Heaven)." (Romans 8:18)
But going back to those first two verses of Isaiah 57, it seems fairly clear to me that this first verse is saying that people of God are taken out of compassion, so that they may not be subjected to, tormented, and tempted by evil any longer. That peace may be ours. I personally think that no matter what happens in this world, Jesus offers us the hope of Heaven, and this is something that we should be forever greatfull for. He doesn’t have to offer it to us, but because of his grace and compassion, he does. If we wish to accept it.
But, by implication, the verse suggests something else as well; ‘For those who follow God, will rest in peace when they die’. implies a contrast – that for those who do not follow God, life will be very different…
More next time. (available from Tuesday 24th May 2011)