There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that the neglect of the Old Testament by Christian people leads many into deviant teaching, and sometimes even downright heresy. To get to grips with the Old Testament writing prophets, and to seek and search through their statements as a mother searching through a child’s head of hair with, what we used to call, “a nit comb,” (I speak from long held childhood memories), is so necessary to keep us devotionally and doctrinally together.
The resurrected Christ explained His work, His Passion, His death, burial and resurrection all from the Old Testament scriptures (See Luke 24). However, since the writer to the Hebrews talks about the Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system of worship being “obsolete,” it tends to lead some into dismissing the entire Old Testament as outmoded and superseded in its entirety. The body of Old Testament scripture is the only platform from which the apostles jumped from to explain the gospel. I cling to the solid foundational thought so beautifully taught me by my first pastor in the late 1960’s that, “The New is in the Old concealed. The Old is in the new revealed.” He was talking of the Old and New Testament, of course.
I really believe that a lot of eschatological A millennialism, and Replacement Theology is seeded by a sidestepping and an ignoring of many Old Testament issues. The ignored Hebrew Bible leads also to all the unrealistic and uncoherent versions of Universalism. It can also lead to an insipid, “God loves everybody, and therefore nobody will finish up in hell” theology that is unrealistic, and does not match with the reality of life and the world as a whole.
The Old Testament prophets were raised by God to speak into the depravity of man, and the backslidings of the Jews from the promises and commitments that they made to Yahweh as a nation in the days of Moses. “The depravity of man and the evil of the human heart is,” as Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, “the most self-evident and undeniable truth, plain to the whole planet of all races and nations, and is at the same time the most flatly denied of all biblical truths.”
Having spent the first twelve chapters of his writings explaining the evils of Hebrew society and the judgement that will come upon them because of those evils, Isaiah went further. From chapter 13 to chapter 23 he lists how all the surrounding nation states and ethnic groups have a judgement day approaching, That leads us here to the section of Isaiah 24 to chapter 27 inclusively. In 24 the prophet sees a judgement most terrible, a holocaust that is to impact the entire world, Out of this judgement that will reduce the world’s population greatly, there will be a period of a believing remnant that will wait for the coming of Messiah. This remnant will comprise of mostly Hebrews, with a gentile contingent. And on that day, when Yahweh (in the person of Christ) will reign on earth, they will sing a song.
It is impossible to read these verses and redact one’s beliefs and convictions concerning hell, judgement and absolute truths as many Christians do. Isaiah 24-27 has to be absolutely denied and treated as error for people to arrive at Replacement Theology or Universalism. God has given us 66 books, The New Testament is indeed far superior to the Old Covenant, but the entire Old Testament revelation is discarded or belittled at our own peril.
I believe in the New Testament believer being seated in Heavenly Places in Christ. I believe that every person in Christ is a new creation. I believe in that great body of truth that many Bible expositors refer to as “New Creation Realities.” But the statements concerning God’s very nature as poured out throughout the Old Testament and especially men like Isaiah, and the eschatological picture they paint of a day that is even future to us two and a half millennia later must not be denied, buried or ignored by Christians.
In the late 1800’s the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon made a statement while ploughing through the writings of the prophet Malachi. I quote:
“The proper study of the Christian is the character and nature of the Godhead. It is the highest science, and the loftiest speculation. The mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of the child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom Christ calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-contentment, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.”
Extolling the love of God, and humanly arriving at the thought that either God’s judgement is inconsistent with His love, or that to dismiss thoughts of Divine judgement exalts the concept of His love is a downright fallacy, and leads to the shipwreck of faith and a life of integrity. As an aside, and as a point of pure logic, why should I feel any imperative to live a holy life of any degree or description, if Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler and the leaders of ISIS will be sat next to me in glory anyhow? Every single person that has ever lived righteous or unrighteous, Jew or Christian, Atheist or Theist, Hindu, Sikh or Muslim will stand before Almighty God in judgement. Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5 that Christians will stand, alone, individually and personally at the Judgement seat of Christ. That judgement will be severe and thorough for everything a person has done, thought and spoken in their lives since conversion. The rest of the world, and those that have come to faith during Christ’s millennial reign will stand in the same solitary manner at what the Bible refers to as “The Great White Throne Judgement,” when God the Father will be the active Judge.
It is this writer’s conviction that Isaiah 26 gives us a song that is to be sung immediately after Christ has assumed the throne of David in Jerusalem, and has commenced his “millennial reign.” I have no doubt that the song will be relevantly sung throughout the entire thousand years of Christ’s reign.
“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah …” So, this chapter is definitely a song! Or at least it begins with a song. A Hymn of praise! Yes indeedy! This chapter actually contains the lyrics of a song, composed with a view to it being, “released,” and popularly sung at a very particular point of time. “That day,” when seen in the context of Isaiah chapters 24 through to chapter 27, seems to be addressing that point of time when Christ has returned to earth and is enthroned in Jerusalem and His millennial reign has commenced. When that day arrives, Israel will be occupying both Jerusalem and the whole of the land we know as Israel, and likely quite some areas beyond what we call present day borders. It will be the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, including land East of the Jordan, and conceivably the majority of, if not the entire Arabian Peninsula.
I wish we had the melody that Isaiah obviously knew how to sing, but I suppose each generation has its own music style and tastes, so we are clearly left to make up the tune ourselves if we felt the desire to take up this song now. Oh, how important is music, and the lyrics of songs that extol God and His character.
- In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.
“In that day this song will be sung.” It is a lyric in which the great things God had engaged in, as explained in the foregoing couple of chapters, doing things for his people, against His enemies and the enemies of Judah, are celebrated with great and exultant joy and happiness. It is stated that it is primarily to be sung when the predictive prophecies of chapters 24 and 25 are accomplished. As old Matthew Henry said – or was it John Calvin? – “We must move forward to meet God with our thanks while He is coming forward towards us with his mercies.” Or something like that. Wonderful statement Matthew! John! Whoever!
“In that day,” refers to the coming millennial days, when the curse is fully removed from all of creation, and finally from the redeemed. This will be when Judah and Jerusalem, as well as the redeemed from all nations, tribes and tongues will have a glorious God-given reason to sing. The song is a swell of praise to be sung while the impact of the full restoration of all things is in full process. It is a glorious song to be voiced by the thankful population of Jerusalem for the transformation of their capital into a city of peace, as God fulfills His redemptive purpose for the city.
His salvation will be better than physical walls and “ramparts,” or bulwarks (i.e. fortifications that slope on the inner side of a wall in order to give greater resistance at attempts to batter them down). He, that is, Yahweh, will protect His people, and therefore He is said to be their bulwark. He is all-sufficient. A whole new recreation demands an entirely different means of national defence. For although the whole world will be at peace, there will be national parameters and racial parameters also, and not everybody on the planet will be in possession of their resurrection bodies – suggesting differences of mind and opinions will still be existent. Indeed, the city needs to be strong still for reasons of defence – and defence is always because of the potential reality of being attacked.
“This song will be sung in the land of Judah.” All Jews at last will be reunited. But Jerusalem will always be in that section of Israel that we know as Judah. This is confirming what Ezekiel saw three generations after Isaiah’s day, while sat on the banks of the River Chebar and seeing the same scenario as Isaiah sees here, namely that in the millennial blessings of the prophet’s far distant future, the tribes of Israel shall still have their individuality, their respective allotments of land and their separate, personal, tribal identity.
“We have a strong city.” As the song progresses we are confident he is singing of a real and literal city. I am quite aware that Zion, originally, was a small “corner” in that part of Jerusalem that was named Zion. But it is commonly believed that a generation or two after David, Zion became a spiritual epithet for the entire city of Jerusalem. So we conclude that Isiah is referring to Zion, that is, Jerusalem and all that is within her walls. But there clearly seems to be a double identity. Not only does it intimate to be the literal mountain of Zion he refers to, namely Jerusalem as we know it, but the statement, “God makes salvation its walls and ramparts,” indicates a spiritual dimension running concurrent with the physical. Instead of hard stone walls surrounding Zion and protecting them from harm (which there obviously was in Isaiah’s day, and will be in the Millennium), he refers to the hard and solid eternal salvation of God to be the wall and rampart of the city of which the prophet sings. How marvelous is this! Two Zions? It would seem so.
- Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.
The fact that it is God who has built the city walls by means of His salvation and grace, makes it a truth to say that the city will be prepared by God Himself for nobody else but His people – that is those who are saved through their belief in the saving grace of God. The statement is that the gates will only be opened to grant entrance to those of faith in Yahweh. “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter.”
The song lyric that the prophet is inspired to write calls for the gates to be opened for, “the righteous nation” only. That is, the nation that keeps, or guards, faith. This could refer to the very exercise of faith, bringing salvation, and/or the body of belief that is referred to as, “the faith.” Either option, however, is dependent on the other. Those in faith need to keep the belief system pure. And a pure theological body of belief that isn’t being exercised actually loses its purity because of its lack of use and implementation. “Nation” (Hebrew, “Goiim”) is often used of Gentiles. Here, it means any people, of any nation, tribe or tongue, who are right with God, being justified by faith.
- You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
God provides “perfect peace” In Hebrew it actually says, “shalom shalom.” It is repeated to emphasize the genuineness, the depth, and the perfection of the peace given to the soul by Yahweh Himself to those who are mindful of Him continually as they walk in faith. In the midst of difficulties and stress, God will keep those in spiritual well-being, and true internal peace of spirit, whose minds, thoughts, impulses, and tendencies, are unshakable and undeviating because their absolute trust is in God. They believe and do not doubt in any circumstance. The doubter “is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).
Isaiah 26:3 is one of those classic statements that stand as a mighty rock and an inspirational pillar of fire and security, even when taken out of context. The thought conveyed by the verse is an eternal rock in any environment that life finds us in. It could be said that these lines are the ultimate context and premise for faith. It needs no context to be appropriated by the believer. Believing it while we expend our mortal coil is its context.
The statement reveals God’s initiation of the truth here propositionally presented. He built the walls to keep His people safe. He gives the “shalom shalom,” in response to steadfast trust placed in Him. God Himself locates the heart and mind that is fixed on Him in such a manner, and the ramifications are that the peace of God runs rampant in the heart and mind of he or she that is devoted in such a perpetual manner. Notice that, in the text, it is not actually Yahweh that is saying he will keep the believer in peace, but Isaiah who has seen and experienced the workings of God in His own soul. The believer will be sustained and maintained in their glorious dependence on the Master’s grace. Perfect peace is an alien visitor to those who are over mindful of the circumstances of this world.
“The faith” must be mountain-like steadfast and anchor-like sure. Then the peace will be held in perfection and sustained in longevity. It is activated by the mind that is stayed on His provision as well as the whys and wherefores of that provision.
- Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yah, Yahweh, is the Rock eternal.
The desire to evangelise, that others may enjoy a relationship with God comes as an integral component of receiving God’s salvation; Old Testament or New, Apostle or Prophet, the foundation of their writings and world-view is an appeal to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Those with steadfast trust in God will self-evidently call on others to “Trust in Yahweh forever.” Our faith and trust in Yahweh must be continuous and on-going. A one-time expression of faith, or trust, is not enough. He will not fail us because He is “the Rock eternal.” The picture of God as the eternal “Rock” speaks not only of strength, but of protection, security, and permanence (Isaiah 17:10 in the Amplified Bible says: “Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation [O Judah] and have not been mindful of the Rock of your strength, your Stronghold—therefore, you have planted pleasant nursery grounds and plantings [to Adonis, pots of quickly withered flowers used to set by their doors or in the courts of temples], and have set [the grounds] with vine slips of a strange [God]).” Everlasting strength and help flowing towards us are constituent attitudes of God’s very nature, and the embedded components of His salvation. The repetition of “Yah, Yahweh” draws attention to the faithfulness of His covenant-keeping name and character. I was taught by one great leader and soldier of Christ that, “Yah,” was God’s name in battle, while Yahweh refers to His complete integrity in keeping covenant. One cannot get hold of a firmer rock, or more permanent concept than “eternal.” The prophet appealing to us to trust in Yahweh forever obviously suggests consciousness, alertness and choice on the other side of the grave.
- He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.
God is not only a Rock. Rocks are utterly still. Yahweh, however, is ever active. Judgment, Divinely exercised over us in this life, must prepare the way for repentance, faith and restoration. What God did in bringing down the pride of Moab and leaving its cities in total ruin, He will do to the pride of all the lofty cities of the world. This is why this chapter, and even this whole section of Isaiah is referred to as “A Tale of Two Cities.” Isaiah is seeing the City of Zion compared in contradistinction with the proud and lofty cities of the world. Even Nineveh that dwelt on high, or Babylon that later considered itself lofty would both be laid low by the mighty hand of God. He resists the proud. The judgement of God is sometimes seen in this world, but will always be seen in the next. Judgement of Christians in their lifestyle and conduct since conversion of their life “in Christ,” and judgement of the nations for the life of those that saw the end of their mortal coil without yielding their lives to Yahweh.
- Feet trample it down—the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
Though God’s people are “oppressed” (afflicted) and “poor” (helpless and insignificant in the perspective of worldly paradigms), they will walk in triumph on the ruins that God will bring about – a triumph they could not achieve themselves. The world will praise Assyria and Babylon in its day, as they did with the rise of Greece and of Rome. However, the world was also rejoicing in the downfall of these empires. The contrary thrust of the prophetic message, as well as the New Testament apostolic kerygma is that those who humble themselves before Yahweh shall be exalted; for the feet of the poor shall tread upon the lofty cities it says so here. Empires of the world rise and fall. The righteous will be remembered by God Himself, forever.
Isaiah does not say, “Great and forceful armies shall tread the evil cities down,” but, when God wants it done, “the feet of the oppressed” and poor shall do it.
- The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
Having referred to how the haughty and lofty cities are fallen, and how the righteous poor will be trampling over the once might structures that are “now,” in his vision, a ruin, the prophet turns his mind to the life and conduct of the righteous poor, and what motivated them in their actions of purity even though they were externally oppressed. Isaiah looks at the time that the Jewish people will be waiting for Yahweh to visibly come to their rescue, immediately prior to the millennial situation that Isaiah 26 is graphically portraying, that is when Messiah and the future release of the cosmos from the fall comes into realisation when Christ comes to reign on earth. The straight and level walk with God is what he analyses. “The path of the righteous,” i.e. those right with God, is a “level” way. That is, God makes it orderly, upright, and straight as the path trails towards its goal. Yahweh, who is the “Upright One,” makes the path “smooth,” and cleared of obstacles. This does not mean they never have difficulties, problems, or struggles. God sees them through the opposition tendered sometimes by demons, sometimes by people and sometimes by circumstances. Any one, two or all of these factors engage with the person of faith. He makes a way when there seems to be no way. All we need do is walk with Him.
- Yes, Yahweh, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
Those who are expectantly waiting for Yahweh, trusting in Him, walk in the path of His “laws” (in the Hebrew “mispateka,” means, quite literally, as “His decisions”) while the horrors of judgement are overwhelming much of the world. This can mean that either they live in obedience to His Word, or they are faithful in the midst of the judgments that are beginning to come upon on the earth – or, both, of course. The desire for the name of Yahweh is a desire to see His nature, attributes and character manifested on the planet. It is also a desire to see Him in personal manifestation. They hunger to see His nature held in remembrance, that is, His past revelations of who He is.
- My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.
The change to the first person singular shows that the prophet had that same expectant desire as all the righteous do, even “in the night.” The phrase, “my spirit longs for you,” indicates the inner depths of his desire after Yahweh. The believing heart longs for the fullest manifestation of Him whom the human heart lives for. Longing for Him “in the morning” includes the idea of seeking Him often or constantly, as well as the thought of willfully submitting to him at the start of every new day. God’s “judgments [that] come upon the earth” are the motivation for doing this, and the testimony of obedient seekers of Yahweh becomes a means whereby the inhabitants of the earth “learn righteousness.” This will have its future and more complete fulfillment after the judgments of the Great Tribulation as explained in Revelation 15:4.
- Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of Yahweh.
The concept of Divine Judgement on non-repentant adult hearts stands up here to be counted. The wicked, are not ready to, “learn righteousness,” even when God shows them gracious favour and goodness. In “a land of uprightness,” where God’s truth is evident, they still act unjustly, doing evil and refusing to recognize “the majesty of Yahweh.” God’s judgments are necessary, though the wicked cannot see how righteous and just they are. It those who see the full circle of God’s love as well as His most severe judgement that praise Him for that very judgement. They fully realise that they are only participants in God’s saving grace because of their repentance and acceptance of His love. Judgement is part of His justice in the swell of His love
- O LORD, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame; let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.
Yahweh will lift up His hand to act, that is, to bring judgment, but they will not “see [recognize] it.” But Isaiah calls on God to “let them see … and be put to shame.” He wants God’s zeal for His people to be seen. The prophet hungers for God’s holy fire to devour His enemies (who are also enemies of God’s people).
“But this is only Old Testament revelation,” a Universalist said to me. “But he is prophesying something that will take place in the future immediately after New Testament church times. Incoherent illogicality alone can read this and not apply Isaiah’s words here as a universal statement of what will happen in his far distant future. And that is to say nothing of the statements of passages like 2 Thessalonians 2, especially verses 10-12. Eternal, damnable judgement for those that reject God is a simple fact of Biblical Judeo-Christian paradigm. The New Testament world-view ultimately leads to the judgement as described in the book of Revelation, as is summed up here in Isaiah 24-27.
It is a pure and glorious thing to be saved from the wrath to come.