The first half of this chapter continues God's rebuke of Israel's leaders in Isaiah's day. The second half describes the end time return of Israel to the land. God promises renewed prosperity to Israel, and commands that the temple be rebuilt.
The previous chapter ended with a rebuke of Israel's leaders, with Isaiah prophesying that Israel would be attacked and devoured, like a flock of sheep attacked by wild animals. This was fulfilled by the Babylonian conquest and exile, and later by the Roman destruction of Israel. This rebuke continues seamlessly into chapter 57, as far as verse 13a. Isaiah's depictions of Israel's idolatrous and pagan religious practices in these verses seem to identify this section with his own generation, leading up to the time of the Babylonian exile. Later, when Jesus rebuked Israel's leaders as in Matthew 23, he accused them of spiritual blindness and corruption, but not idolatry. In Luke 19:44, when he prophesied the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, his accusation was not because of idolatry, but "because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God".

Verses 13b to 21 return to the theme of Israel's restoration, and to God as the one who gathers the dispersed of Israel (as in verse 8 of the previous chapter). Verse 13b declares that the one who looks to God for help will inherit the land (i.e. return to the land) and have access to God's holy mountain. Given this reference to his holy mountain in verse 13, the command "Build it, build it" in verse 14 is a command to rebuild the temple, and God says, "Remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people!” To what time in history is this command relevant? Israel re-inherited the land in 1948 when the State of Israel was reborn, and regained Jerusalem (access to his holy mountain) in 1967. After the horrors of the Holocaust in World War II, Israel looked to God for help (as in verse 13), and he restored them to the land. These verses are talking about today! Verse 15 tells us that God dwells with those who are discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer them up and encourage them. Certainly, this was an apt description of Israel after the Holocaust. In verse 16, God assures Israel that he will not be angry with them forever, or their spirit would grow faint before him. In verse 17, God says he was angry with them and rejected them because of their sinful greed. Even though they remain stubborn and disobedient, God now promises to restore and comfort and heal them (v18). In his grace, he doesn't wait for them to become fully obedient - he restores them when they look to him for help (v13b) even though they are still stubborn and disobedient at this point (they still haven't acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah). God promises to give Israel reasons to celebrate, and assures them of renewed prosperity. This is an apt description of Israel today which has experienced a remarkable transformation in recent decades and become a world leader in many areas of technology.

How will the obstacles be removed that allow Israel to rebuild the temple, as in verse 14? If we understand the Temple Mount to be the correct location of the first two temples, then the Dome of the Rock in its centre is an obvious obstacle. Some people speculate that God will miraculously destroy it, perhaps by sending an earthquake. Alternatively, it is possible that the Temple Mount, as known, is actually the remains of the Roman Fort of Antonia, and that the real temple location was about 600 feet further south, near the Gihon Spring in the City of David. (See "Temple" by Bob Cornuke). In that case, perhaps the research and archaeological discoveries, leading to that conclusion, will in themselves remove the obstacles. Perhaps Israel is now free to go ahead and fulfil verse 14, "Build it! Build it!"

If Israel rebuilds the temple, even in the City of David which is under Israeli control, her enemies will certainly kick up a lot of fuss and noise. Verse 20 likens the wicked to a surging sea, unable to be quiet, and tossing up mud and sand. In verse 21, in contrast to the prosperity God promises to Israel (v19), God declares about her enemies, "There will be no prosperity for the wicked."
Places: Israel, Jerusalem, Temple Mount, City of David, Holy Mountain
Symbols: Wicked like a surging sea
Tags: Return of exiles to Israel, God restores stubborn Israel to the land, Temple Mount, City of David, Israel commanded to rebuild the temple, Holocaust, Prosperity for Israel, Obstacles to rebuilding the temple, Healing for Israel
57 The godly perish, but no one cares. Honest people disappear, when no one minds that the godly disappear because of evil.
2 Those who live uprightly enter a place of peace; they rest on their beds.
3 But approach, you sons of omen readers, you offspring of adulteresses and prostitutes!
4 At whom are you laughing? At whom are you opening your mouth and sticking out your tongue? You are the children of rebels, the offspring of liars,
5 you who inflame your lusts among the oaks and under every green tree, who slaughter children near the streams under the rocky overhangs.
6 Among the smooth stones of the stream are the idols you love; they, they are the object of your devotion. You pour out liquid offerings to them, you make an offering. Because of these things how can I relent from judgment?
7 On every high, elevated hill you prepare your bed; you go up there to offer sacrifices.
8 Behind the door and doorpost you put your symbols. Indeed, you depart from me and go up and invite them into bed with you. You purchase favors from them, you love their bed, and gaze longingly on their naked bodies.
9 You take olive oil as tribute to your king, along with many perfumes. You send your messengers to a distant place; you go all the way to Sheol.
10 Because of the long distance you must travel, you get tired, but you do not say, ‘I give up.’ You get renewed energy, so you don’t collapse.
11 Whom are you worried about? Whom do you fear, that you would act so deceitfully and not remember me or think about me? Because I have been silent for so long, you are not afraid of me.
12 I will denounce your so-called righteousness and your deeds, but they will not help you.
13 When you cry out for help, let your idols help you! The wind blows them all away, a breeze carries them away.

But the one who looks to me for help will inherit the land and will have access to my holy mountain.”
14 He says, “Build it! Build it! Clear a way! Remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people!”
15 For this is what the high and exalted one says, the one who rules forever, whose name is holy: “I dwell in an exalted and holy place, but also with the discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged.
16 For I will not be hostile forever or perpetually angry, for then man’s spirit would grow faint before me, the life-giving breath I created.
17 I was angry because of their sinful greed; I attacked them and angrily rejected them, yet they remained disobedient and stubborn.
18 I have seen their behavior, but I will heal them. I will lead them, and I will provide comfort to them and those who mourn with them.
19 I am the one who gives them reason to celebrate. Complete prosperity is available both to those who are far away and those who are nearby,” says the Lord, “and I will heal them.
20 But the wicked are like a surging sea that is unable to be quiet; its waves toss up mud and sand.
21 There will be no prosperity,” says my God, “for the wicked.”