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The future rejoicing of God’s people ch. 26
This section focuses on the remnant of Israel during the Millennium. It parallels the oracles against Ephraim (chs. 17-18) and Jerusalem (ch. 22) in the structure of this major part of Isaiah (chs. 13-27). Isaiah voiced the praise and prayer that will come to God from Israel in the future because the Lord destroyed the "city" of man. He closed with a warning for the Israelites (Isaiah 26:20-21). The meaning of God’s victory over the world for Israel is the theme.
The prophet revealed another song that will be sung "in that day" (the Millennium, cf. ch. 25) by those in Zion.
The New Jerusalem that God will set up will be a place of strength and security for the redeemed (cf. Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5). I believe this will be a literal city with walls and gates, but many interpreters take the description as metaphorical. In that case what Isaiah meant was only that God would provide strength and security for His people.
A song 26:1-6
Isaiah, writing as a psalmist, called on the porters to open the celestial city gates so the nation that was right with God could enter (cf. Psalms 15:1-5; Psalms 24:3-10; Psalms 118:19-22). The nation refers to Israel specifically in the context. Faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord will mark Israel then.
"God takes the very symbol of our rejection of him [i.e., a city] and transforms it into Heaven." [Note: Ortlund, p. 142.]
The Lord keeps in true peace the mind-set that consistently trusts in Him (cf. Matthew 6:24; Philippians 4:7; James 1:6-8). Here believers are viewed corporately, but the same truth applies individually (cf. Psalms 112:7-8).
"Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest,
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest." [Note: Like a River Glorious, by Frances R. Havergal.]
Isaiah urged everyone to trust in the Lord as a way of life, not just in a saving act of faith, because Yahweh, even Yahweh, is the very essence of what an everlasting rock should be (cf. Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 30:29; Isaiah 44:8; Exodus 33:21; Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:2; 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 19:14; Psalms 61:2; 1 Corinthians 10:4). His presence is an unmoving place of refuge and protection from the elements and from all enemies. Augustus M. Toplady drew the inspiration for his hymn Rock of Ages from this verse.
"The issue of trust is the key to the entire segment beginning at Isaiah 7:1 and concluding at Isaiah 39:8. Will Judah commit her security to the nations or to God?" [Note: Oswalt, p. 472.]
The New Jerusalem is secure because God brought down the city of the world and the proud who inhabited it (cf. Isaiah 25:12). This is the reason God’s people can and should trust in Him.
The feet of God’s afflicted and helpless people will trample the fallen world (cf. Matthew 5:1-12), but it is the Lord alone who will subdue it.
Presently the path of the righteous is smooth in that the trip from justification to glorification is secure, though in experience we encounter many obstacles. Isaiah prayed that the "Upright One" would make the road that the righteous tread level in experience (cf. Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 6:13). He used this unusual name for God because He wanted the One who is altogether right to make the path of His people altogether right.
A prayer 26:7-19
Isaiah moved from a hymn of praise to a prayer that has two parts: present waiting for God (Isaiah 26:7-10) and future expectation from God (Isaiah 26:11-19).
The faithful people of God, Isaiah added, have waited for the Lord to act while following His commandments. They have sought a greater appreciation of Him rather than a change in their circumstances (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).
"Waiting is very difficult for most people, for it is an admission that there is nothing we can do at the moment to achieve our ends. Yet that admission is the first requirement for spiritual blessing. Until we have admitted that we cannot save ourselves, God cannot save us." [Note: Ibid., pp. 477-78.]
Waiting was the experience of Isaiah individually as it was the experience of the faithful Israelites collectively. He sought the Lord rather than seeking a change in his circumstances. He recognized that God intends His commandments and His providential acts to teach people righteousness.
Yet the unrighteous do not learn the righteousness of God from His Word or His ways to the extent that they should. They do not understand but continue in sin and remain spiritually blind (cf. Romans 3:9-18).
Isaiah’s concern changed from present to future conditions.
Even though the unrighteous do not recognize God’s messages to them now, they will one day understand, when He brings these enemies of His into judgment.
Yahweh would establish peace for His people (Isaiah 26:3) because everything that they had done He had really done for them (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). We cannot establish peace for ourselves, but He will. Only He can break through the darkness of human depravity (Jonah 2:9).
Even though the Israelites had other earthly masters through their history (Pharaoh, the Philistines, et al.), it was Yahweh their God who kept them following Him.
". . . fidelity is not an attribute native to the people of God but a gift which he enables them to exercise." [Note: Motyer, p. 217.]
Those who oppressed God’s people have died and are gone because God punished them. Many of their names have even been forgotten and are irretrievable by historians. The prophet was not denying the resurrection of the dead (cf. Isaiah 26:19). He was simply affirming that these enemies neither continued to live, nor would they rise to bother God’s people again.
Rather than Israel dying out as a nation, the Lord had increased her, as He promised Abraham (Genesis 15:5). This was not Israel’s doing; the Lord had increased her borders and so gained great glory for Himself. During the reigns of David and Solomon the Israelites experienced numerical growth and geographical expansion. God would do the same for them in the future.
"It is worth remembering that the land promised to Israel in Exodus 23:31 was never fully occupied, even in the days of David and Solomon, but that the bounds of the messianic kingdom are to be wider still (cf. Psalms 72:8)." [Note: Grogan, p. 166.]
Many amillennialists believe that the promises concerning the future increase of the Israelites found fulfillment in the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. [Note: E.g., Young, 2:221.]
The period of the judges is a good example of what the prophet wrote here. The Israelites suffered chastening from the Lord for departing from Him, but when they sought Him in their distress, even with just a whispered prayer, He saved them (cf. 1 Samuel 1:12-15).
During Isaiah’s own times, Israel went through many pains, as a woman in labor. But rather than giving birth to something significant, the salvation of the world or many individuals, these experiences only proved painful for the Israelites. They had not learned from God’s dealings with them any more than the nations had (Isaiah 26:10).
Was Isaiah referring to national survival or to individual resurrection here? Probably both. [Note: See Chisholm, A Theology . . ., p. 322.] He had been talking about the near-death experiences of Israel in the preceding verses (Isaiah 26:16-18), and he had already revealed that a remnant would enter the Millennium (Isaiah 25:6-10; cf. Ezekiel 37). However, in the same passage the prophet also looked forward to the abolition of death itself (Isaiah 25:7-8). So probably we have both a figurative and a literal resurrection in view, a figurative resurrection of Israel in the future and a literal resurrection of Israelites in the future (cf. Daniel 12:2; Job 19:26). As dew descends, so God would come to the Israelites bringing refreshment and vitality (cf. Psalms 72:6; Hosea 14:5).
Interestingly, Young, who interpreted many of Isaiah’s predictions figuratively, insisted, "The language [of Isaiah 26:19] is not to be taken figuratively" (2:226). [Note: Young, 2:226. See also Archer, p. 627.] He believed, correctly I think, that believers who actually died physically are in view here and that physical resurrection is in view.
Before the restoration of Israel, however, God’s people would experience hard times (in the Tribulation, cf. Revelation 12). Before God opened the gates of the new city to the redeemed (Isaiah 26:2), they would need to shut their doors against their foes (cf. Genesis 7:1; Genesis 7:16; Exodus 12:22-23). Shutting the doors suggests both safety from danger and separation from others, in this case, pagans.
A warning 26:20-21
The prophet now addressed his people rather than God.
Yahweh would come out of His heavenly place of quiet to punish earth-dwellers during the Tribulation for their secret sins. The earth itself, with the forces of nature, would assist the Lord, metaphorically, by exposing sins that lay hidden (cf. Isaiah 26:12).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany