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. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. Isaiah 57:1-2
It has been a disturbing few days as I have been made aware of the plight of two honorable men who have fought the good fight of faith for a lifetime, and have been unjustly thrown into prison—yes, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. One of them took a bold stand years ago as a first term Congressman in a battle for which I gave a decade of my life. Though our paths crossed in a significant way, I had lost touch since our ministry has drawn to its twilight years. I have read with horror the details– this man never stopped fighting for justice to the great irritation of the Obama justice department. He languishes in a prison cell under the vaguest of charges, laughed at by one side, and abandoned by the other. It is gut wrenching.
I don’t know the other man personally, but I have heard him tell his story. The two men are friends. He spent his life in ministry, and was harassed, endured multiple lawsuits, refused to plead guilty to avoid prison time, and now, separated from his wife and children and grandchildren, he takes his stand. He will be released in a couple of years, only to face additional civil lawsuits.
These stories have gripped my heart this week. Why them? One Christian writer reminded me that the apostle Paul’s greatest years were spent in prison. It seemed rather trite for him to say from his multi-million dollar empire where he enjoys the adoration and approval of Christians who have no time for such things in the frenzy of December.
This week I have prayed for these prisoners and their families, and as I have so many times before, I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me how such injustice could prevail. Peace finally came after days of travail.
I was reminded that life on earth has a definite beginning and a definite end. Isaiah declares that merciful men are taken away from the evil to come. We are called to endure only the years that God has set for us. Some will be called to martyrdom. Some will be called to lose all of their resources and their reputations as my friends have willingly done.
I am grateful to hug my children and grandchildren a little closer in light of the evil that has robbed some of that privilege. Isaiah declares at the end of this chapter that the wicked who have imposed their will on the righteous are much worse off.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. (vv. 20-21)
Today I will remember those who are in prison. May they enter into peace, and rest in their beds, as they walk in uprightness. Steve and Philip, I admire you greatly. Well done, good and faithful servants.