Isaiah, 3

 

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 Isaiah 25, 26

 

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with this old song:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,
Nobody knows my sorrow.
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

Trouble, tragedy, and sorrow; these are things life is made of.  Nobody is exempt from trouble, tragedy, and sorrow.  Sometimes these “bad times” are the result of natural disasters—hurricanes and storms and the like.  Other times “bad times” are the result of “man’s inhumanity to man.”  And other times, we get ourselves into trouble through our own negligent behavior.  Our minds wander over to Job and what he went through, apparently through no fault of his own.  And even though we don’t like to think about, sometimes the “bad times” are a direct result of the Lord’s heavy hand of discipline upon us.

And have you quite forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his child? He said, “My son, don’t be angry when the Lord punishes you. Don’t be discouraged when he has to show you where you are wrong.  For when he punishes you, it proves that he loves you. When he whips you, it proves you are really his child.”  (Hebrews 12:5, 6  TLB)

As Christians, we know that we are living here on a temporary basis; our real, permanent home is in Heaven.  No matter what’s going on around us or to us, good or bad, we ought to be living in daily expectation that Jesus Christ could return at any moment.  The Second Coming should never be an “abstract idea” to us.  It should be what it is:  a reality; something that will happen at some time.  That expectation should be a comfort to us; it should give us hope.

As we glance at chapters 25 and 26 of Isaiah’s big book of prophecy, we are really reading “songs of the redeemed.”  These chapters are not always very easy to understand because we are reading two kinds of literature:  psalms (or songs) of thanksgiving and eschatological prophecy.   But there are unifying ideas within these two very different kinds of literature that make the effort in studying well worthwhile.

Rehearse God’s awesome deeds, Isaiah 25:1—5

This first song deals with God’s deliverance.  It’s a song of sheer delight and wonder.

God is faithful, verse 1

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God; you do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them, just as you said!

This verse speaks of a kind of “divine fidelity.”  Our God is a covenant-making God; He makes promises to those He created, and He never breaks those promises.  His promises are always based in His will.  Part of those “wonderful things” Isaiah was praising God about were marvelous acts of deliverance.  But the thing that impressed Isaiah was that God always came through for His people no matter what was going on.

Isaiah remembers the past; he recalls what God has done.  It’s almost as though as he sings his praise to God, he is reminding God of what He did.  Of course, God doesn’t need to be reminded of anything, but it’s very important for us to never forget what God has done, not only for us, but for all of His people.  And it’s important to repeat those things over and over again as we pray and as we worship Him.  This is something you’ll notice if you read the Psalms, too.  The idea of bringing up past answers to prayer, past miracles, past deliverances, and so on is very important.

God is ever faithful; His faithfulness is historical fact.  If God was faithful in the past, then we can depend on Him to be faithful now and on into the future.

Glorifying God for defeating the enemy, verse 2

You turn mighty cities into heaps of ruins. The strongest forts are turned to rubble. Beautiful palaces in distant lands disappear and will never be rebuilt.  (TLB)

With this verse, we are getting a little more specific. Isaiah is recounting a specific deliverance.  Yet, it’s also a general statement; under God’s power, earth’s strongholds cannot stand for long.  Heights become heaps, ramparts become ruins, and palaces become permanent ash heaps.  Isaiah is referring to a real historic city that once existed—a city that stood in opposition to Israel and God.  God took care of that city by leveling it.  Yes, it happened historically, but it’s also a precedent.  No matter what (or even who) stands in opposition to God and God’s people, it cannot prevail.  Missionary Hudson Taylor observed:

Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail.  All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them.

Honor God, verses 3—5

This group of verses is really powerful and reveals just how glorious our God is.  Even “strong nations” and “ruthless nations” will eventually turn and honor Him in obedience to Him.  Now, this isn’t something that’s happened yet; it’s future event; it will happen.  What Isaiah is writing here is prophetic—a worldwide conversion will take place.  Man will turn to God during the Millennial reign of Christ.  The greatest religious revival in the history of the world will take place when the dark night of sin and the Tribulation comes to an end.  There will be boundless joy during the kingdom age.

While this whole paragraph is largely prophetic, there are present-day applications.  Here and now, God is the refuge for the poor.

But to the poor, O Lord, you are a refuge from the storm…  (verse 4a  TLB)

God cares for those who can’t care for themselves.  He does this through His Church, and sometimes He does this in miraculous ways.  The point is, God doesn’t favor the wealthy or the powerful.

Praise God of His Salvation, Isaiah 25:6—12

An eternal banquet, verses 6—8

Here is something we can either all relate to or are desperate for:  an abundance of food.  This is another thing that will happen on the “redeemed earth.”

Here on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Lord Almighty will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world—a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef.  (Isaiah 25:6  TLB)

During the Millennium, the earth will produce an abundance of good food; there will be more than enough for everybody and then some.  The source of this wonderful blessing will be Mount Zion—the throne room of Christ.  In this group of verses, we see God’s future for the faithful:

(1)  No hunger or thirst, verse 6;

(2)  No ignorance, verse 7  (see 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:15);

(3)  No death or sorrow, verse 8a  (see 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55);

(4)  Freedom from sin, verse 8b

That final sentence of verse 8 clinches it:

The Lord has spoken—he will surely do it!  (TLB)

This all sounds glorious and it will come to pass.  But first, God’s people would experience a horrible judgment at the hand of God.  How bad will it be for Jerusalem?  The prophecy in Ezekiel gives us an idea:

The Lord God says, “This illustrates what will happen to Jerusalem, for she has turned away from my laws and has been even more wicked than the nations surrounding her.” Therefore the Lord God says: “I, even I, am against you and will punish you publicly while all the nations watch. Because of the terrible sins you have committed, I will punish you more terribly than I have ever done before or ever will again. Fathers will eat their own sons, and sons will eat their fathers; and those who survive will be scattered into all the world.  (Ezekiel 5:5-10  TLB)

Here’s why it was so important for the people of Israel to continually recall God’s past deeds.  That includes modern Christians, by the way.  We may not be under God’s awful judgment, but real life can certainly feel like an awful judgment sometimes.  When problems cloud our view of God, remembering what He’s done can keep us spiritually sane.

Eternal salvation, verses 9—12

The hand of the Lord brings judgment as well as mercy.  God’s judgment won’t last forever; one day the Lord will restore Israel and grant them salvation.

For the Lord’s good hand will rest upon Jerusalem, and Moab will be crushed as straw beneath his feet and left to rot.  (Isaiah 25:10  TLB)

When Christ returns, He will be Israel’s true King and the nation will be restored and its people will finally see their Messiah.  It’s a day in future; a day long awaited and longed for by both Jews and Christians.

Christ has brought salvation to the world, now.  Nobody has to wait for the Second Coming.

For God says, “Your cry came to me at a favorable time, when the doors of welcome were wide open. I helped you on a day when salvation was being offered.” Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today he is ready to save you.  (2 Corinthians 6:2  TLB)

A.W. Tozer had this to say regarding our salvation:

Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God.  Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions, rather than actions.  The right of determination must always remain with God.

Trust in God’s Strength, Isaiah 26:1—4

Listen to them singing! In that day the whole land of Judah will sing this song:  “Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of his salvation!”  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Here, Isaiah sees God’s people singing a song that they can’t sing yet.  It’s a song of strength, not in material blessings, but in salvation.  Geoffrey Grogan, the late Principal Emeritus of Glasgow Bible College, had this to say about this group of verses:

The way chapter 24—27 are punctuated with songs of praise affects this whole section of the prophecy, for even the threats of judgment are seen in the perspective of thanksgiving that God is bringing his own purposes to fruition and that human arrogance and tyranny will not prevail in the end.

Talk about the right perspective!  And that’s the kind of perspective all believers should have in their relationship with God.  Seeing God in all and over all isn’t always easy.  It’s easier to take our eyes off the long game and see only a warped image of God in the midst of our troubles.   In spite of God’s present judgment, God’s purpose for His people cannot be stopped by any enemy, supernatural or otherwise.  What was true in Isaiah’s day, is no different today.

Open the gates to everyone, for all may enter in who love the Lord.  (Isaiah 26:2  TLB)

That’s an interesting verse, made more so by these comments from John Calvin.

Since no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is open to all.  There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief.

The strength of the believer lies, not weapons, or knowledge, or associations, but in God Himself, and this something a lot of Christians don’t understand.  And that’s a shame, because we are losing out on something very special when we don’t lean on God’s strength:

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!  (Isaiah 26:3  TLB)

It’s sad that so many of us who truly love the Lord don’t trust as much as we should.  The Apocryphal book of 1 Macabees has something to say about this issue:

…[W]hen they saw the host coming to meet them, said unto Judas, How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong, seeing we are ready to faint with fasting all this day?

Unto whom Judas answered, It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company:  For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host; but strength cometh from heaven.  (1 Macabees 3:17—19)

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