Isaiah 57:20

But the wicked are like the sea that is tossed up, for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and mud (Cheyne). Comp. Jude 1:13 for the figure. It is curious to note the marked contrast between our ideas and sentiments concerning the sea, and those of ancient times and Eastern lands. To us it is the beautiful shining sea, and many of us feel that we must see it at least once a year. To us it is the most soothing and calming of Nature's influences, and we. sympathize with Bonar as he sings -

"Summer ocean, how I'll miss thee,
Miss the thunder of thy roar,
Miss the music of thy ripple,
Miss thy sorrow-soothing shore.
Summer ocean, how I'll miss thee,
When 'the sea shall be no more'!" But to Eastern people generally in ancient times, and to Israelites in particular, the sea was a great dread. It was the separator, the engulpher of life, the restless storm-darkened, storm-tossed, wailing sea; suggestive only of foulness, unrest, and peril. So it was a type of the wicked man in ways, and with applications, which we find it most difficult to realize. But the unresting character of the sea does impress us. There is no peace to the heaving, swirling, wind-driven, tide-drawn sea.

I. THERE IS NO PEACE TO THE WICKED BECAUSE, IN HIS WAY, HE CAN NEVER GET IT. His way is breaking up the Divine order: rest can never come that way. His way is striving with everything that makes fair promises, apart from God: rest can never come that way. His way is to seek for rest in things that he can possess, not in the character which he can be: rest can never come that way. God's world was made for good men, and it will yield its best treasures to, and satisfy, nobody but the good.

II. THERE IS NO PEACE TO THE WICKED BECAUSE, ON HIS CONDITIONS, GOD WILL NEVER GIVE IT. And peace for man is the gift of God. So, speaking for God, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." The wicked want to buy it. God does not sell it. The wicked would consume it on their lusts if they obtained it. God will never allow his gifts to be abused. The wicked are not prepared to ear that peace which God calls peace; so he will wait until they come to a right mind. Show, in contrast, that we have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - a heart-peace that works itself out into all sacred testings of life and relationship. - R.T.

But the wicked are like the troubled sea.
Who are the wicked? Not only all who think and feel and do the wrong, but all who have not the right spirit within them — supreme sympathy with the supremely good. There are degrees in wickedness as well as in goodness. There are certain things that render it impossible for wicked men to have true repose. What are they?

I. DISAPPOINTMENTS. The sinner is doomed to perpetual disappointments. He expects happiness in certain pursuits and objects that cannot according to the constitution of his soul yield him true satisfaction. He reposes trust in objects as frail as the reed and as uncertain as the clouds, and he is doomed to have his plans broken up and his confidence destroyed. Hence he is the subject of perpetual vexations and annoyances, for disappointment is evermore a soul-agitating power; it comes down sometimes upon the heart like a strong south-wester, stirring it to its very depths.

II. COMPUNCTIONS. Where there is sin there must come sooner or later remorse. An accusing conscience is not a mere wind that passes over the soul, rippling its surface; it is a volcanic force in its centre, shaking every part. It gave Cain no rest, it made Belshazzar totter and Felix tremble; it drove Judas to the rope.

III. SELFISH PASSIONS. Selfishness, which is the essence of wickedness, is the great disturbing force in the moral universe. Avarice, ambition, jealousy, revenge, envy, anger, are some of its fiendish progeny.


In order that the wicked may understand how far from peace they really are, the prophet points seaward, and bids the people listen to the moaning of the ocean. He bids them hearken to its thunders, as it pounds upon the rock-bound coast, and says eloquently and graphically, "The wicked are like yon troubled sea, for it cannot rest; its waters cast up mire and dirt."


1. The sea is never still. We have, indeed, beheld it "like a millpond," as we say; its surface so glassy and mirror-like that some would conclude that it was perfectly still. The sails, and masts, and hull of the ship were reflected in its glassy bosom. Yet even then the deep was not perfectly still. There was a solemn heave about it, as the flapping of the sails and the rolling of the yards plainly revealed. Moreover, even if the swell could have altogether subsided, the sea was not still for all that. There were currents, imperceptible save when the log was heaved and the reckoning taken, that bore the ship silently along. Furthermore, even if it were possible to get into a place where there were neither swell nor currents, the tides are everywhere uplifting and depressing the vessel at regular intervals to high or low watermark. The sea, therefore, is perhaps one of the best emblems of restlessness, for it has several motions and movements, even in its serenest moods. But it is not to the sea in a state of calm, but when it is lashed to foam, that the prophet compares the wicked. There is to them no permanent enjoyment: their pleasures are fleeting: they have no real rest of heart. Uncomfortable thoughts and painful prickings of conscience come when they are least welcome. Conscience is ill at ease, fear of death and of judgment can by no means be altogether set aside. Those who have been converted to God after a life of dissipation and a career of sin have honestly confessed that though there was a certain sort of pleasure in the ways of wickedness, there was meanwhile a strange unrest. Like Marcellus, the Roman general, of whom it is said that whether conqueror or conquered he was still dissatisfied, they were never content. The reference here is principally to the fierce passions that are in every human breast. In the breast of the saint they are restrained by the power of the reigning Christ, but in the life of the wicked they remain uncurbed, unbridled, let loose upon the world.

2. How readily the sea is stirred! At one moment it is comparatively calm, the surface smooth and glistening, but presently the accustomed eye notices in the distance the cat's paw of the wind — a little ruffling of the surface in quite a circumscribed area. But the puffs become frequent and grow in force; the ripples become wavelets, and the wavelets waves; the waves soon rise to billows, and by and by the sea runs mountains high. It is identically the same with the wicked, now-soever gently the Prince of the power of the air blows upon them at first, all too soon the angry passions rear and-rage and roar. Pride and envy, lust and covetousness, ambition, malice, revenge, all these, little in their beginnings, grow in size and increase in number until they become adulteries, murders, blasphemies, and the like.

3. To what an awful pitch the agitation of the sea can attain. Oh, the dreadful length to which wickedness is carried!

4. How long, also, the agitation of the sea remains. Some seas, indeed, are always rough. They never know repose. Off some headlands the waves run mountains high at all seasons of the year, but in other places the storm that rises so readily takes long to subside. I have encountered the after-swell of a storm that must have raged some days before; long after the hurricane had blown itself out our vessel came into the region where its tracks remained. We crossed the pathway of the storm, though we were fortunate enough to miss the tempest itself. Oh, how long the agitation of sin remains. With some, indeed, there is a temporary lull, an attempt at reformation, more or less successful. Sometimes a man will curb his passions with philosophy, or become suddenly impressed that for his own reputation's sake he must hold himself in cheek, but he has scarcely done so ere Satan raises another vehement wind and begins to arouse his passions in a different direction. I have known sinners get into just such a ease that they have overcome this temptation; they have managed, by sheer force of character and strength of purpose, to restrain certain unholy passions, and then the devil, fearing that he may miss his hold of them, raises another wind, in a contrary direction; and the remains of the previous storm come clashing with the beginnings of a new one, and the poor sinner is likely to be swamped betwixt the twain.

5. What a mighty noise the sea makes when it is troubled. There is a pleasant murmur with it in the time of calm, but when the winds of heaven begin to play upon it it thunders as it rolls and breaks on the beach, and hisses as it surges on the shore. Behold here another emblem of sin and of sinners. The wicked seem to delight in making loud proclamation of their sin.

6. When the sea is troubled it works havoc on every hand. Thus do the wicked work destruction in our midst. Alas! for those who are the prey of their passions. The great, the learned, the aged are not spared. Huge liners founder in the gale. Alas! that wicked men are constantly compassing the destruction of the smaller ships; and the children of our families and our schools are wrecked while yet their years are few. Moreover, wickedness is so insidious that some who have thought to rescue men from sin have been themselves engulfed by it. They had it in their hearts to be as lifeboats to them, but they themselves have gone down too. Law and order, like great cliffs and granite walls, have been torn down by the grasping hands of iniquity, while proprieties and decencies which one would have thought that even sinners would observe, have been levelled or overridden by men who ran to an excess of riot.

II. THE SEA IS AN EMBLEM OF WICKED MEN BECAUSE OF THE DEBRIS THAT IT CASTS UP. The egecta of the sea is, in God's esteem, a fit image of the outcome of wicked men's hearts. When the storm has subsided you will find a good deal of objectionable matter littering the beach — the vomit of the sea. How apt an emblem of that which the Christless heart produces! What evil deeds the unregenerate heart is capable of! And what shall we say about the words of wicked men? What shall the end be? Is the storm evermore to last? I see no cure for all this unless the Lord speaks peace. "Oh where is He that trod the sea?" He is on the mountain top; He is on His high and holy hill. It is dark, and Jesus has not yet come to us, but He has not forgotten us. Thrice happy day when the Christ of Galilee says, "Peace, be still," to a sin-stirred world!

(T. Spurgeon.)

a contrast: — What a contrast with the calm of God's "holy mountain" (ver. 13) high above all sublunary storms.

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

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