Proverbs 14:32 ESV
The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
Isaiah 57:1 echoes (in much more poetic terms) a sentiment that our lives and our world urges on us perpetually: “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands.” Do not we see the righteous suffering even to death in the world around us? The righteous, it seems, are forever victimized by the world. The wicked, meanwhile, prosper; they amass wealth and power; they wield that power gleefully, maliciously. Even when the wicked are overthrown, we look at those who overthrew them, those who appropriated their power and their wealth and their position, and we see, at best, a slightly better option. We’ve gotten out of the frying pan, sprinted through the fire, and ended up on bricks that are about 5 degrees cooler than the pan was. The wicked triumph, even when the wicked fall.
This is the truth we see in the world, and like all truths seen with worldly eyes, it’s so partial as to be utterly false. Isaiah 57:1’s pronouncement, after all, is the first sentence of the chapter, not the last; it is the introduction, not the conclusion. Verse 2 (and the last clause of verse 1) follows on its heels: “For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.” This is a verse with application to this life and the life to come, a comfort for the now and a comfort for what is to come.
“The righteous finds refuge in his death,” proclaims Proverbs 14:32, and it illumines the same truth. The wicked perish, and the righteous, though they die, yet will they praise Him, of virtue and of gratitude, for He preserves us (John 11:25). In this world, the children of God have as their continual refrain, “It is well with my soul,” for all His children have His word and His power as their assurance. In our passage across Jordan, too, we have comfort, for if all the sins we perpetrate cannot rive us from him (Rom. 8:26,35-39), what can the death which He Himself has ordained do to us? We have a refuge in death.
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Ps. 1:4). The wicked are “overthrown through (their) evildoing”. This is wording even stronger than ‘overthrown by their wrongdoing’. Judgment is not simply retribution or automatic recompense for doing evil. Judgement is the enmity of God made manifest, exercised through the means of their own deeds, through which God brings ruin upon them.
Isaiah 57 makes this truth clear. Isaiah, speaking as God, lists out the horrors of the people of Israel. Among them, verse 5 in particular should make us remember our current society, our culture which truly “burns with lust” and “slaughters… children”. Of these wicked men, who as per verse 4 are mockers of God and His people (Ps. 1:1), God asks a simple question: “Shall I relent for these things?” To this question a verdict is given. For their sins, for “uncovering their bed” and “making a covenant for [themselves] with [idols]” (v8), God pronounces judgement: “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!” (v13). This is not a mere Deistic abandonment either; as the rest of the verse and the surrounding chapters make clear, the position of the wicked is that of a man with no parachute, a two-ton weight on his back, and 100000 feet of empty space below him. To release him to his own devices is to destroy him utterly (Rom. 1:24).
This is not the end of Isaiah’s prophecy, though. Isaiah does not end the book here. The next section is a promise of salvation, of healing, of redemption. Verse 18 reads, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him….” The wicked man has therefore two paths before him. Because of his wickedness, he walks the path of destruction. He walks a way which will overthrow him through his own deeds, a way which has no rest (v21). God, however, promises mercy to those who turn to Him. He promises healing (v19). He promises, in short, that by His blood and for His mercy and by the repentance and faith He grants to the elect, that by these means and for this reason He will can take even the most wicked of men from his path of destruction, place him on a path of righteousness, in which he may find refuge.
Written by Colson Potter
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.