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Lowell Brueckner

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A Last-day Song


25. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 26

We have been contemplating from time to time the poetic language of the Lord. The Holy Spirit, Author of Scripture, presents to us eternal, unchanging truth and He does so in a form that will penetrate deeply into our being and remain there. The inspired prophet speaks to us of a song, so what we have before us now is timeless truth, done in poetic form, set to melody and rhythm. It is a side benefit, when studying the Word of God, that we can enjoy the finest of literature.

Remember that the original document of Isaiah, true of all Scripture, had no chapter or verse divisions. They have been added to facilitate reading, but often there are thoughts in a particular chapter that are joined to the ones before and after. At the beginning of chapter 25, we were reading of cities as the highest work of men’s pride and ambition. We took the classic example of Nebuchadnezzar, boasting from the rooftop of his palace, overlooking Babylon. The last verse of the chapter spoke of the walls of Moab, symbol of its pride and skill.

The Millennial City

There is a future song to be sung in the land of Judah, concerning its capital city, which is, in fact, the capital of the millennial world. “That day”, often refers to the millennial Day of the Lord. What follows are the lyrics of the song and it is about a very special city. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could not settle down in their earthly inheritance of Canaan, because, as Isaiah, God had given Abraham a vision of a finer city. He taught his offspring the superiority of the coming world, to the degree that they lived in their promised land in tents, as strangers and pilgrims (Heb.11:13). They set the example for us of the proper mindset of God’s people.     

In contrast to the doomed cities of men, God’s city is the city of salvation, fortified by walls and bulwarks (v.1). Isaiah’s reason for existence is depicted in his name, “Jehovah is salvation”, and through Isaiah, the Lord’s salvation is revealed to us.

“All Israel will be saved…” the Apostle Paul taught, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Ro.12:26-27, citing Is.59:20,21). Surrounding Jerusalem will be the righteous nation of Judah. Ungodliness has been banished and their sins have been taken away.

Jerusalem is safe and its gates are open, because the salvation of God has come to His people (v.2). The greatest way to preserve society or a civilization is through the new birth. Missionaries need to catch this vision anew. The best way to give humanitarian aid to people is by the preaching of the gospel, bringing in a new creation. I don’t read in the Gospels of rehabilitation centers for prostitutes, but I do read of them believing and coming into the Kingdom. I don’t read of seminars about honest financial practices for publicans, but I do read about calling them to repentance. The gospel is effective; to repent and believe is all that is required! “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Ro.1:16).

Trust in the Lord

The one way to righteousness in Isaiah’s day, as truly as in Paul’s, was by faith. Habakkuk, contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zephaniah, understood it, as well, and provided the basis for New Testament doctrine, when he wrote, “The just shall live by faith” (Hab.2:4). Righteousness through the keeping of the law always ended in failure. The individual, who becomes righteous through saving faith, is faithful. 

Faith is synonymous with trust, but the word trust is more commonly used in the Old Testament. Verse three is a wonderful verse, often quoted: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”, but you have to invert it to see how it functions: 1) The sequence begins with a heart that has found in God someone, who is totally trustworthy. 2) The heart links with the mind and directs the thoughts in the direction of the One that he trusts. 3) The result is that, when the personality is so taken up with God, His peace forms an impenetrable shield around the trusting soul, which no circumstance or danger can disturb. 

Trust or faith is the one requirement, which satisfies the Lord, and here is His commandment, “Trust in the Lord forever.”  We are to place our hand in the Lord’s and allow Him to take full charge over our life, beginning with our soul’s eternal salvation. Then, it becomes God’s concern to provide that salvation for us and carry us through life and on to eternity. God is everything that a rock symbolizes. He is steadfast, unmovable, faithful, trustworthy, and, as the verse states, this Rock, specifically, is everlasting (v.4). He will be there for you forever!

A level plain for the righteous

The song continues, verse after verse, covering God’s provision. He is a protector, bringing down the most formidable foes. As we have already read in the last chapter, He attacks their center of concentrated power, disintegrating it to the dust (v.5). The enemy is humbled, because God uses the weakest feet to trample over them… “the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy” (v.6). We will just pause for a moment to remember that this is always His way… He humbles the mighty through that which is weak… and this principle is repeated throughout the Bible, but it is especially taught by Paul’s great declarations in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5.

In a land of mountains and valleys, a level plain can be greatly appreciated. A flatlander might not understand it, but I can sing this stanza with the Jew, because I learned how pleasant it was to stroll without exertion over level land, after walking up and down the mountains of Mexico. However, this song is about another way, which is much rougher still: “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov.13:15). He is against God and God is against him. In contrast, “The path of the righteous is level, you make level the way of the righteous” (v.7).

We must go back continually to the chorus of this song in verse three. We trust the Lord; our thoughts are taken up with Him and we wait for Him. We are not interested in the plans and schemes of men; we turn away from them. They are not in our thoughts, nor in the desire of our hearts: “Your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (v.8). These are people who desire everything to be manifested that His name signifies, so that He would be brought to people’s attention once again.

Desire deepens to yearning: “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you” (v.9). These kind of seekers are a necessity in every age, including our own. There is no hope for godliness, unless the God-loving saints, intercede with divine jealousy burning in their souls. Separation is intolerable and during the nights, when vision is darkened by the spirit of the age and He seems to be at a distance, the heart points in one direction, as the Shulammite in the Song of Solomon 5:6-8. Very obviously these seeking people are especially close to the heart of God, who long to please Him and see His will done in the situation, in which they are involved.

Learning righteousness by experiencing judgment

It is interesting to see the object that motivates their search. Let us carefully consider the rest of this verse, as well as verse 10: For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.” These people are seeking God so that He would manifest Himself in judgment. They know that when He does this, an erring, perverted world begins to pay attention and learn righteousness. On the other hand, if God is favorable to the wicked, they will comfortably go on their way, committing their evil, corrupted acts without restraint. They not only need to recognize the Lord, they need something which will show them His might and power… His majesty. They need to awaken to the reality of a holy God. Is there a people who pray this way in our times?

The prayer continues: “O Lord, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it.”  They will not see judgment coming until it is too late. The unbelievers are totally insensitive to the invisible God. They need some point of contact with heaven. How will it happen? It comes when they see the hand of the Lord and the burning zeal in His heart upon His people. In the New Testament “your people” translates into “the church”. A move of God must come to His people. Through them the outsider must see the level path of the righteous and the majesty of the Lord. When God’s people become the head to lead the way, instead of the tail that follows the trends of society, then the world’s inhabitants will be ashamed of their way.

“Let the fire for your adversaries consume them” (v.11). This petition is a total reversal of the mentality among God’s people today and it is so needed. His adversaries must see the fire of His wrath and fear the judgment that is surely coming. The Ninevites repented, when Jonah cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Other lords and the Lord

We must continue to look very carefully at the text. The only acceptable work performed by His people are the works that He does: “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (v.12). They are recognizing the fact that God’s work can never be accomplished by flesh and blood, but by the Holy Spirit working for them and through them. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech.4:6). It is His peace, His joy, and His love that represent the gold, silver and precious stones that will resist the fire of judgment upon the Christian’s service. All else will go up in smoke.  

To draw out the highest form of praise from the singers, this song briefly speaks of a past when, “other lords besides you have ruled over us.” Paul twice speaks of turning individuals over to Satan, because they were being careless with Christianity. Knowing the treatment of “other lords” helps us to surrender to His kind lordship and to commit our lives entirely and solely to Him (v.13). The Jews recall the great potentates, who throughout their history ruled over them and to whom the God of Israel brought to death and destruction. Before this song will be sung, the antichrist will be included in that number. It is a bit of a paradox to remember that all who ruled among men are forgotten. We must cease from giving men importance, stop fearing them and stop looking for honor from them (v.14).

Israel sings from an overflowing heart at this time. The losses are being swallowed up by great growth and prosperity and the nation’s borders are extending. The glory of God is more evident than ever upon His land. We are not to look at the present situation, good or bad, but our eyes must continually be on the end of things. That is what counts. The wicked are destroyed, the righteous are increased and God’s glory fills the earth (v.15).

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps.34:19), and many are the secret prayers of the afflicted. I recall the story of a Jewish woman, who was a secret believer during the Nazi holocaust. Even her family didn’t know that her prayers went up to Jesus of Nazareth in her distress. Blessed is the one, who can see the discipline of the Father in the trials of life (v.16). Her husband, however, went through the same pain without any positive results and after the war, divorced his wife, when he learned that she was a Christian. Too many times in Israel’s history, they forgot the Lord and their suffering was in vain. Their efforts were fruitless and their generation had no significance, nor did they accomplish God’s purposes. There was much pain, but no profit! That is a sad commentary of the lives of too many of those who profess to be His people (v.17-18).

The finale… national resurrection

Now we come to the finale of this majestic hymn, pointing to the total restoration of Israel, illustrated by the physical resurrection of the dead. The doctrine of the physical resurrection must be understood, in order to be able to grasp the significance for national Israel in this prophetic song. Isaiah refers clearly to the belief in the reality of a bodily, physical resurrection. “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead” (v.19). However, in its context, we have just read two verses that point to a fruitless existence for Israel. It had promise of life, but it was aborted. The national resurrection that Ezekiel 37 prophesied is still in the future, when the dew of heaven falls upon the land and life comes forth.

I see verse 20 and 21 pointing to the second half of Daniel’s 70th Week, which we see in more detail in Revelation, chapter 12. A woman (Israel) is persecuted by the devil, but “she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days (3 ½ years)(Rev.12:6). During this period, the fury of God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth and it terminates with the Battle of Armageddon.

Though this song is primarily for Israel and receives its greatest significance in its past and future, yet the nations are included in the Millennium, as they have been in the gospel… to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  


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