Rev. George Bowen (1816-1888) American missionary to Mumbai [Bombay], India, shared the following in his Daily Meditations, “‘I have seen his ways,’ says the Lord, and what terrible sentence may we look for a consequence to this announcement? But, lo, the most gracious of all words issue from His lips: ‘I…will heal him.’ The knowledge which God has of our corruption and deep depravity soon becomes to us a ground of confidence.He knows what we need and, perfectly aware of what we are, He has undertaken to restore us. And He will certainly accomplish what He has taken in hand.”
Before we dig in to our text it might be helpful to learn more about the situation surrounding it. Israel divided into a Northern and a Southern Kingdom. The Assyrians took the Northern Kingdom captive and the Babylonians took the Southern Kingdom captive.We must remember that some of the Israelites, who did not serve a purpose to the captors, remained behind. Others were able to escape. Regrettably, many of those not taken into captivity began to practice a strange mixture of pagan religious rites and rituals as we read in 2 Kings 17:24-41.When Jewish captives returned they were encouraged adopt these pagan practices in addition to the worship Yahweh.
Isaiah records the condition of the Jewish spiritual and civil leaders in Isaiah 56:9-12. He reveals they were more concerned about themselves than the people they served. Consequently, the people of God were not completely devoted to Him. They severely tried His patience and felt His punishment. Many were guilty of backsliding into gross idolatry (Isaiah 57:1-13).
We find the term translated “backsliding” in various passages such as Proverbs 14:14, Jeremiah 3:22 and Hosea 14:4, as well as our text in Isaiah Isaiah 57:14-21, where we read, “And one shall say, / ‘Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, / Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.’ For thus says the High and Lofty One / Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, / With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, / To revive the spirit of the humble, / And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, / Nor will I always be angry; / For the spirit would fail before Me, / And the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness / I was angry and struck him; / I hid and was angry, / And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; / I will also lead him, / And restore comforts to him / And to his mourners.‘I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,’ / Says the LORD, / ‘And I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the troubled sea, / When it cannot rest, / Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.‘There is no peace,’ / Says my God, ‘for the wicked'” (Isaiah 57:14-21).
Our text presents a pentagon of precious truth related to the living and true God.
I. His Majestic Presence
In Isaiah 57:14-15 we read, “And one shall say, / ‘Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, / Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.’ For thus says the High and Lofty One / Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, / With him who has a contrite and humble spirit…”
Note these words, “inhabits, dwell and place.” This speaks of God’s majestic presence. God dwells in the high and holy place and in the contrite and humble spirit.
Stuart Hamblen (1908-1989) asks the question, “How big is God?” Hamblen answers, “He’s big enough to rule His mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.”
In verse 17 the God says, “I hid.” This refers to the manifest presence of God.
II. His Merciful Purpose
From Isaiah 57:15-18we read, “To revive the spirit of the humble, / And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. . .I have seen his ways, and will heal him; / I will also lead him, / And restore comforts to him / And to his mourners.”
God’s merciful purpose to His people is to revive (v. 15b) and to restore (v.18). He calls us back to Himself in a love relationship. We read our Lord’s word to the church in Ephesus, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5). Jesus calls them to remember, repent and repeat the first works. The humble and contrite ones enjoy the blessing of healing when there is backsliding. This is true for Christians individually and churches corporately.
III. His Miraculous Power
God speaks through Isaiah, “For I will not contend forever, / Nor will I always be angry; / For the spirit would fail before Me, / And the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness / I was angry and struck him; / I hid and was angry, / And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; / I will also lead him, / And restore comforts to him / And to his mourners” (Isaiah 57:16-18).
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) shares the following Scripture selection in his classic titled Morning and Evening for August 30, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed” (Jeremiah 17:14). “I have seen His ways, and will heal him” (Isaiah 57:18). Rev. Spurgeon comments, “It is the sole prerogative of God to remove spiritual disease. Natural disease may be instrumentally healed by men, but even then the honour is to be given to God who giveth virtue unto medicine, and bestoweth power unto the human frame to cast off disease. As for spiritual sicknesses, these remain with the great Physician alone; He claims it as His prerogative, ‘I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal’; and one of the Lord’s choice titles is Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee. ‘I will heal thee of thy wounds,’ is a promise which could not come from the lip of man, but only from the mouth of the eternal God. On this account the psalmist cried unto the Lord, ‘O Lord, heal me, for my bones are sore vexed,’ and again, ‘Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.’ For this, also, the godly praise the name of the Lord, saying, ‘He healeth all our diseases.’ He who made man can restore man; He who was at first the creator of our nature can new create it. What a transcendent comfort it is that in the person of Jesus ‘dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily!’ My soul, whatever thy disease may be, this great Physician can heal thee. If He be God, there can be no limit to His power. Come then with the blind eye of darkened understanding, come with the limping foot of wasted energy, come with the maimed hand of weak faith, the fever of an angry temper, or the ague of shivering despondency, come just as thou art, for He who is God can certainly restore thee of thy plague. None shall restrain the healing virtue which proceeds from Jesus our Lord. Legions of devils have been made to own the power of the beloved Physician, and never once has He been baffled. All His patients have been cured in the past and shall be in the future, and thou shalt be one among them, my friend, if thou wilt but rest thyself in Him this night.”
IV. His Monogamous Pleasure
The following statements reportedly came from actual students: “St. Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage. A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.”
From the first two chapters of Genesis we see that God ordained marriage between a man and a woman till death. Paul uses the metaphor of marriage to mirror the relationship of Christ and the church in Ephesians 5:22-33. John employs this metaphor in Revelation 21:9-10. The writer to the Hebrews states, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “Jeremiah 3 develops the theme of “spiritual adultery,” but it also presents the nation as suffering from the sickness of backsliding (v. 22).  Isaiah had touched upon this theme of healing the backslidden (Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 57:18), and Hosea will also use it (Hosea 6:1; Hosea 14:4). The image of “healing” is often used by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 8:15, Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 14:19; Jeremiah 17:14; Jeremiah 30:12-13, Jeremiah 30:17; Jeremiah 33:6; Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 51:8-9) and may hearken back to the promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The false prophets and worldly priests of Jeremiah’s day were only counterfeit physicians who gave a false diagnosis and a useless remedy (Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 4:10), not unlike some ‘health and wealth’ preachers today.”
In Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 we read about the seven churches of Asia Minor. One of the churches is in a place called “Pergamos” meaning “twice married”.
Revelation 2:12-17, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”‘
When someone goes into idolatry, Scripture says they go “a whoring after other gods” (Exodus 34:15-16; Judges 2:17, Judges 8:33). This is guilty pleasure. There is pleasure in idolatry as there is pleasure in adulterous relationships. In both cases the pleasure is outside the will of God. Marriage pictures our relationship with Jesus Christ; therefore, we must uphold the ideal even if we fall short of it. ;If we have missed the ideal of marriage we should confess and forsake our sin to God and receive His forgiveness. Never tell anybody that it is not God’s ideal for it to be one man and one woman until death do us part. We do not need to rewrite the Scripture; we need to repent of our sin. If we would repent, we would see revival of the church and regeneration of the lost world.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
At this point it might be helpful to pause and consider God’s good pleasure. What does it look like? In the words of the Shulamite, “I am my beloved’s, / And my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Hannah Whithall Smith (1832-1911) explains, “Our God is so wonderfully good, and lovely, and blessed in every way that the mere fact of belonging to Him is enough for an untellable fullness of joy!” David writes in Psalms 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; / In Your presence is fullness of joy; / At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
V. His Multiplied Peace
Further God says through the prophet Isaiah, “‘I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,’ / Says the LORD, ‘And I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the troubled sea, / When it cannot rest, / Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace,’ / Says my God, ‘for the wicked'” (Isaiah 57:19-21).
In the hymn titled “He Giveth More Grace,” Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) says, “He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater, / He sendeth more strength as the labors increase, / To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, / To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.”
In Jeremiah Jeremiah 6:13-15, we read, “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, / Everyone is given to covetousness; / And from the prophet even to the priest, / Everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, / Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; / Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; / At the time I punish them, / They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.”
Also in Jeremiah Jeremiah 8:8-13, “How can you say, ‘We are wise, / And the law of the LORD is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, / They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; / So what wisdom do they have? Therefore I will give their wives to others, / And their fields to those who will inherit them; / Because from the least even to the greatest / Everyone is given to covetousness; / From the prophet even to the priest / Everyone deals falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, / Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, / Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; / In the time of their punishment / They shall be cast down,’ says the LORD. ‘I will surely consume them,’ says the LORD.”
Isaiah shares the following inspiring and inspired thought, “You will keep him in perfect peace, / Whose mind is stayed on You, / Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
William Hunter (1811-1877) penned these words in 1859, “The great Physician now is near, / The sympathizing Jesus; / He speaks the drooping heart to cheer; / O hear the voice of Jesus. Sweetest note in seraph song, / Sweetest name on mortal tongue, / Sweetest carol ever sung, / Jesus, blessed Jesus. His name dispels my guilt and fear, / No other name but Jesus; / O how my soul delights to hear / The precious name of Jesus! And when to that bright world above / We rise to be with Jesus, / We’ll sing around the throne of love / His Name—the Name of Jesus.”
The only one who can heal us of backsliding is Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, we should express our deep appreciation to God because there is healing for a backslider.