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July 27 Today’s Reading: Isaiah 54-58
“The righteous perisheth.”
The chapters we have read today are so full of both comfort and instruction that it is difficult for me to either summarize the messages of these chapters or select a single passage for our souls’ meditation. In chapter 54 the Lord God graciously comforts his church, assuring us of the riches of his grace that are ours in Christ, our Lord, our Maker, our Husband. In chapter 55 Isaiah pursues the same joyful subject, assuring us that he will save his chosen, making his Word preached by the gospel effectual according to his purpose. Then in chapter 56 the prophet warns us of those false prophets who creep into our assemblies, men who are described by God the Holy Ghost as greedy, self-serving dogs. The 57th chapter issues stern reproofs against all idolatry (all will worship), by which men debase themselves “even unto hell,” but closes with still greater displays of our great Savior’s greatness and grace. Chapter 58 denounces all creature righteousness, calls for us to look to Christ alone for righteousness, and assures every believing sinner of sure and everlasting salvation in Christ Jesus.
With such great assurances of grace and glory in and by Christ Jesus, let us joyfully meditate for a brief few moments on the deaths of God’s saints. As the death of his saints is precious to our God, we who are Christ’s ought to anticipate the appointed hour of our departure from this world with joy. — “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.”
All who have even the slightest understanding of spiritual things recognize that unregenerate, unbelieving men understand nothing concerning the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). And the unbeliever can never understand the believer. God’s saints are as much a mystery to the world as God himself is (1 John 3:1). Never is this fact more evident than at that time when God’s elect are taken out of this world.
When the unbeliever dies, he dies under the wrath of God, because of the wrath of God, to suffer the wrath of God forever. Trying to find comfort and peace in the good he has done, his conscience is tormenting. Trying to convince himself that he is good enough to meet God, his soul is, understandably, terrified. His family and friends are distraught, because they have no more hope for him than he has for himself.
When the believer leaves this world, his body dies; but he enters into life. He leaves this world of woe in peace. Denouncing all personal merit, acknowledging that his most righteous works are filthy rags before God, no more worthy of God’s approval than his most vile imaginations, confessing that he is (in himself) no more worthy of God’s approval than the very devil himself, the believer leaves the earth in peace and hope, leaning upon Christ, trusting Christ alone as his Savior, trusting Christ alone for acceptance with God. His family and friends, rather than behaving as hysterical pagans, weep with peace and hope, because they understand the heavenly words, — “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” Do you ask, “How can that be?” Those who die in the Lord are eternally and indescribably blessed and happy, because…
1. They have not died! — God’s elect never die (John 11:25-26). Yes, these bodies, these tabernacles of clay, must be dissolved. But these bodies are just the pup tents in which we dwell for a short time. While these bodies sleep in their bed, awaiting the resurrection, we will walk with Christ in glory in the perfection of uprightness.
2. They rest from their labor! — That does not mean that the saints in heaven are floating around on clouds, strumming harps. We will continue to serve God our Savior forever. Our labor is not with work, but with sin. Soon, we shall enter that phase of spiritual life which Christ has purchased for us, in which there shall be no more curse, no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more crying, because there shall be no more sin!
3. They are taken away from the evil to come! — So long as we live in this world, we experience evil because of sin. Once we leave here, we leave all evil behind forever! Yes, it is true, — “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord!”