Isaiah 57:3-21 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. The people who were called to be the Lord’s people, how are they described in Isaiah 57:3 (printed below?)

But you, come here—you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! (Isaiah 57:3)

The people who had been called to be the Lord’s people are described as “sons of a sorceress.” Here is a reference to the fact that they had forsaken their confidence in the Lord and had turned to pagan astrologers and soothsayers for guidance (note Isaiah 2:6)—the Word of God forbids any unhealthy interest and interaction with the unholy spiritual powers of darkness. The Lord further protests concerning them, “you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!” The Lord is describing these people as spiritually illegitimate children; they are not true spiritual descendants of Abraham, possessing his faith and commitment to the Lord; they are not true children of God, trusting, loving and serving their heavenly Father.

2. What sin does the Lord condemn in verses 5-8 (printed below) and how does He describe it?

…you who burn with lust among the oaks and under every green tree, you who sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags? (6) The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion; they are your lot. Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings, to them you have presented grain offerings. Should I accept these things? (7) You have made your bed atop a high and lofty hill; and there you went up to offer your sacrifices. (8) And you have hung my memorial plaques behind the doors and the doorposts; for you have uncovered yourself to lovers other than me. You have climbed into your bed and made it available; you have made a covenant with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked at their nakedness. (Isaiah 57:5-8)

In verses 5-8 the Lord condemns the practice of idolatry that was rampant throughout the nation. The people pursue their idolatries with great passion (“you who burn with lust among the oaks,”) even succumbing to the practice of sacrificing their own children (verse 5). The practice of idolatry (false religion) is viewed by the Lord God as an act of spiritual adultery (verses 7-8). Furthermore, as these verses indicate in not so subtle terms, the practice of pagan religion involved a great deal of sexual promiscuity. As the people gave themselves over to idolatry, involving both spiritual and physical immorality, they removed the remembrance of God and His law from before their eyes: the memorial plaques were now fastened behind the doors and the posts (cp. Deuteronomy 6:4,8-9).

3. How are these people described in Isaiah 57:11 (printed below) and why has this become true of them?

Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, that you have not remembered me nor even given me a thought? Have I not been silent for a long time, so therefore you do not fear me? (Isaiah 57:11)

In verse 11 the people are described as a nation that has lost all fear of God. The Lord sarcastically inquires, “Of whom have you been afraid? What fear has caused you to commit such immoral and abominable acts (as those described in the previous verses)?” The point being made is that they are devoid of that holy fear of God that serves to restrain evil; having no fear of God before their eyes, they now plunge into every form of evil. The patience and longsuffering of God has been misinterpreted as acceptance of their sins, or indifference to their immoral conduct, or impotence on the part of God—”Have I been silent for a long time, so therefore you do not fear me?” Having lost their fear of God, they have become emboldened in their sin (note Isaiah 3:9).

4. What will the Lord do? See Isaiah 57:12 (printed below)

I will expose your “righteousness;” and your deeds shall be of no benefit to you. (Isaiah 57:12)

But the Lord now warns them (and us) that the day is coming when He will act (verse 12). On that day, declares the Lord, “I will expose your ‘righteousness.’” That is to say, the Lord will examine and evaluate the nation’s claim to righteousness in the light of His own divine righteousness, and expose their “righteousness” as being in fact unrighteousness. The Lord goes on to testify, “your deeds shall be of no benefit to you.” Their works, which shall be exposed as works of sin, not works of righteousness, shall not speak in their defense; on the contrary, those works will testify against them.

5. Describe the two different responses of the people and their respective results when the Lord takes action against the sinful nation. See Isaiah 57:13 (printed below)

When you cry for help, let your collection of idols save you! But the wind will sweep them away; a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and inherit my holy mountain. (Isaiah 57:13)

On the day when the Lord reveals Himself in His righteous justice and takes action against this sinful nation (verse 13), those who cling to their idolatry shall cry out (presumably to the Lord), but the Lord will simply direct them to their idols in whom they have trusted—idols which themselves shall be swept away by the wind of holy judgment. But those who acknowledge their sin, return to the Lord, and take refuge in Him, shall possess the land (they shall be saved to gain a share in the Lord’s everlasting inheritance).