Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Isaiah 26 – City of Strength

“Trust in the Lord forever,

for in the Lord God

you have an everlasting rock.”

~Isaiah 26:4 (NRSV).

Isaiah chapters 13–24 make for difficult reading; visions of judgment against the nations carry the main refrain. In our culture such Scripture makes for awkward reading. But that is God’s Word — not always ‘popular’, but full of compelling truth, anyway, regarding the nature of God and how sin is dealt with.

It’s almost as if by the time we reach chapter 26 we’re more than ready to read words resembling treacle as it glistens wistfully down our throats.

God’s encouragement to the people of Israel, here, is centred on the notional city of strength, corresponding oppositely to chapter 17 where the city (Damascus and Ephraim) lay in ruins.

Hope for a Time Beyond Ruins

Perhaps the best thing about God’s Word — and particularly here — is it doesn’t paint over the ugly bits of life with empty plastic platitudes. There are promises in this text, but they’re not uttered without words evoking encouragement to wait for justice, to look for righteousness, to wisely hide while it’s unsafe (verse 20).

This is an eternal Word of encouragement, plainly because it speaks to us whether we feel victorious or defeated. And even if it’s the spoils of victory we enjoy now we know before long our hope will again be tested.

Features of Isaiah 26

The first four verses highlight the security we have in times of peace. Such assurance we tend to take for granted, yet that’s the feature of both security and peace. Thankfulness is ever due.

The reasons of security and peace are ushered into being in verses 5-6. The proud city has been lowered. But then, a taste of Israel’s pain is rendered to affect here too.

There is a co-commitment required between the Lord and Israel from verse 7 onwards. This involves the cooperative of righteousness — the smoothed path provided and the people prepared to walk in that way.

The patience of faith is the observed thread up to verse 19. Amazing as it is, testimony of fruitlessness and borne pain is met with the faith to believe, not despair — which is the faithless reality. And the faithless are seen never attributing the favour they receive to God (verse 10). They see God neither in the good times, nor look to him in the bad. Notwithstanding, the people of Israel are seen to hold firm in their faith here.

When to Read Isaiah 26

This is an all-seasons favourite. Come rain, hail or shine, this is an encouraging Word for all God’s people. It’s this and more because it deals with life, warts and all.

In similar vein to Psalm 37, this chapter of Isaiah implores the servants of God to wait for the inevitable vindication of the Lord. As always, it is surely coming.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: J. Alec Moyter, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 212-20.

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