Peace, Peace

14 He said,
    “Build it up, build it up, prepare the way,
    remove [every] obstacle from My people’s way.” <sup class="xref" value="(A)”>(A)
    15 For the High and Exalted One
    who lives forever, whose name is Holy <sup class="xref" value="(B)”>(B) says this:
    “I live in a high and holy place,
    and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, <sup class="xref" value="(C)”>(C)
    to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and revive the heart of the oppressed. <sup class="xref" value="(D)”>(D)
    16 For I will not accuse [you] forever,
    and I will not always be angry; <sup class="xref" value="(E)”>(E)
    for then the spirit would grow weak before Me,
    even the breath [of man], which I have made.
    17 Because of his sinful greed I was angry, <sup class="xref" value="(F)”>(F)
    so I struck him; I was angry and hid; <sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>[a]
    but he went on turning back to the desires of his heart.
    18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
    I will lead him and comfort him and his mourners, <sup class="xref" value="(G)”>(G)
    19 creating words of praise.” <sup class="xref" value="(H)”>(H) <sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b]
    The LORD says,
    “Peace, peace to the one who is far or near, <sup class="xref" value="(I)”>(I)
    and I will heal him.
    20 But the wicked are like the storm-tossed sea, <sup class="xref" value="(J)”>(J)
    for it cannot be still,
    and its waters churn up mire and muck.
    21 There is no peace for the wicked,”
    says my God. <sup class="xref" value="(K)”>(K)
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”> ~Isaiah 57:14-21
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>It’s officially the “Christmas season.” Everywhere I look, people are scurrying around to get gifts and presents and trees and decorations… And then on Sunday, the pastor gets up and talks about peace. Ironic, don’t you think? Once the service lets out, the congregation goes back to what it was doing before–planning, cooking, wrapping, gifting, on and on. Right. Peace. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>Somehow the “silent night, holy night” just doesn’t make it past “Just As I Am.” 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>The Prince of Peace gets pushed aside as contatas and Christmas pageants and live nativities and parades take up the majority of our days. (Oh, and don’t forget the cookies you have to make for the Sunday school Christmas party…and the gifts for the ministers and their families…) But yeah. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Cool. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>The reason for the season. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>(I am seriously laughing at the irony. Please give me a minute to compose myself.) 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>And then I read these verses this afternoon. These verses that no one mentions during this hectic, peace-opposed season. (At least I’ve never heard them…I think they get lost after the whole, “and to all, peace, goodwill to men. That’s the Christmas story, Charlie Brown.”  
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>Let me savor these verses with you. Just for a moment. (Before choir practice, even.) 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”> “I live in a high and holy place,  and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, <sup class="xref" value="(C)”>(C) to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed. <sup class="xref" value="(D)”>(D) 16 For I will not accuse [you] forever and I will not always be angry; <sup class="xref" value="(E)”>(E) for then the spirit would grow weak before Me even the breath [of man], which I have made. 17 Because of his sinful greed I was angry, <sup class="xref" value="(F)”>(F)  so I struck him; I was angry and hid; <sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>[a] but he went on turning back to the desires of his heart. 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him.  I will lead him and comfort him and his mourners, <sup class="xref" value="(G)”>(G) 19 creating words of praise.” <sup class="xref" value="(H)”>(H) <sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b] The LORD says,  “Peace, peace to the one who is far or near, <sup class="xref" value="(I)”>(I)  and I will heal him.  20 But the wicked are like the storm-tossed sea, <sup class="xref" value="(J)”>(J)  for it cannot be still, and its waters churn up mire and muck.  21 There is no peace for the wicked,”  says my God. <sup class="xref" value="(K)”>(K)
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>I love how God starts by saying that He lives in a high and holy place and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit. Remember that this is before Jesus, so the idea of God living with someone was amazing, spectacular, and cause for celebration. He actually promised to live with someone. The fact that He gave stipulations on who that person would be gives pause to reflect on ourselves. Who are we? Are we lowly of spirit? Are we humble? 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>Then He goes on to say that He will not go on being angry forever. He will stop, even though He had reason to be angry. He promises that even though the “backslider” has decided to turn to the desires of his heart, He will heal him. I love that God promises to heal him, lead him, and comfort him. But it isn’t just the one who has followed after evil that is healed. God also promises to heal his mourners. Those who have cried out and prayed for this healing. Those who are on the sidelines, begging God for peace in his life. It’s a beautiful reminder of how God works in His Kingdom, His Church. And it’s a reminder to continue to intercede for others. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>He also includes the phrase, “creating words of praise.” In the New King James Version, it says, “I create the fruit of the lips.” If the fruit of the lips is praise, then God is saying that He creates the reason for praise. Maybe I’m the only weird one here who thinks like this, but I just love when God admits that He does things for His glory. (Another great example of this is when God questions Job at the end of the book of Job. Love it!) He doesn’t just say that they will praise Him. No. He takes full credit for creating their praise. Creating the reasons and the words. Yeah. God is just that awesome. And He isn’t afraid to admit it. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>Next, He says, “Peace, peace to the one who is far or near, and I will heal him.” The doubling of the word “peace” here means “genuine peace.” It’s like when Jesus says, “Verily, verily,” and means, “I’m seriously telling the truth here.” God not only grants peace, but He grants the peace that only comes from Him. As Paul would say, it’s the “peace that passes all understanding.” Not only is this awesome, soul-flooding peace given, but God also says that he will be healed. Again, this is to the person who has followed after his own desires and has angered God to the point of hiding from him. He will be given peace. He will be healed. And that healing is also available to everyone who is a true follower of Christ. That peace is just as available. But if the passage ended here, if the hope and the beauty of our God’s great love was all there was, would He really be God? 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>The next two verses talk about God’s wrath on the wicked. His punishment for those who do not follow Him. But because it’s after several verses of promise, it’s almost melancholy, not victorious. Sadly, the wicked are not comforted. They are like the storm-tossed sea, with wave after wave of mud and mire and filth. Their lives are wave after wave of hurt and loss and pain and confusion…on and on. They have no peace because they can’t understand peace. They can’t see peace, and they never find it. My heart breaks for those I know who are living this life. Some are actively fighting against God, but others have buried themselves in lies and have no concept of the truth. Some have had lies piled on top of them by others, and they can’t escape what they think they know. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>But they will never know peace until they decide to follow the Most Holy God. Who forgives, heals, and grants peace, peace. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>May our hearts break for those who are running from God, for those who know the truth and refuse to live it, and for those who are living wicked lives. May we mourn for them, desperately yearn for them to find the hope and truth, and never stop crying out on their behalf. Because the God who became the Prince of Peace really does want to give us peace, peace. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”>The verses listed are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. 
<sup class="xref" value="(K)”> 
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