ABC:Isaiah 57

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Verse 1

Meritt of Infidels.org claims a contradiction exists, asking simply "Righteous live?"[1]

Psalms 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Isaiah 57:1 The 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.
2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

The obvious question to be asked is when the flourishing is to occur, this life or the next? If the next, there is no contradiction, the righteous perish in this life, but flourish in the next, and only the good die young. As Paul puts it, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Corinthians 15:19) Jesus warned "in the world ye shall have tribulation." (John 16:33) Paul repeats this is in 2 Timothy 3:12 stating "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

Thus there is no contradiction. As Solomon points out, "there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness." (Ecclesiastes 7:15) However, as Solomon concludes in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes,

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Eternal Perspective

Meritt very dishonestly quotes only the first part of the passage in Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart," omitting the telling remainder of the passage. He also omits the remainder of the Psalms 92:12-13 passage; I have provided both in full here. When looked at as a whole, it becomes apparent that God is actually removing some good people from the Earth as a merciful act to them. The Bible here even specifically states what fallacy many people (including Jim Meritt) commit, that "none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness." In Psalms 92:12, when looking at the verse's context, it is clear it is referring to the next life where the righteous will prosper, since "cedar of lebanon" is a clear reference to the angels of Heaven (Isaiah 14:8-13) and "house of the Lord" a clear reference to Heaven.

Unfortunately many people look only at this life, and don't consider that God by taking good people from this life is actually taking them away from horrible evils where they would suffer. This world is where suffering and evil triumph and reign, not the next. Paul recognized that those who die in Christ go to peace and it is better to die than live as such, but recognized God wanted him to continue for the sake of others. Job also recognized this, and pleaded with God to let Him leave the suffering of this world for the peace of sheol with the righteous. Solomon considered this world so hopelessly evil he thought it better to not be born at all.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

Job 3:11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:
16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
20 ¶ Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;
21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?

Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

As my old pastor George Perry used to point out, why doesn't God just take us up to Heaven as soon as He saves us rather than let the new creation He's just made get messed up by the world? It's because He wants to use us to help save others and do God's work, as Paul points out, we are "bought with a price" and that not to be the "servants of men" but the servants of God. (1 Corinthians 7:23, 6:20) Once leaving this life, whether in the good or bad area of sheol, we will have no more impact on this world for good or bad; no more opportunity to serve God and advance His kingdom for eternal reward and the praise of our Creator.

Ecclesiastes 9:4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Philippians 2:16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Those who have not died see death as the greatest evil, an unknown. Biblically however, it is a place of peace for the unborn and righteous, and a better destination than this life; a place to be desired. Ultimately, Jesus came to free us from the fear of death which had enslaved us (Hebrews 2:14-15) that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Sources

  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html.