I am still in the process of learning that by reading and reading the Bible, my mind becomes more and more released from what Professors and Doctors of Divinity say, and am led into new trails of thought, hearing more and more of my own thoughts, from deep prayer and meditation, speaking for themselves. Let me make it clear that I do not mean that I have stopped reading other books. Neither do I in any way mean that my thoughts are therefore automatically superior to any thoughts of academics or professorial types in the world of Bible teachers. Not at all – and never! Also, I do not in any way mean to discredit the professors and Doctors who have spent their lives studying the academic issues raised by the scrolls and manuscripts of the Bible. We need academics to do the work of apologists among the sceptics in particular. And, I think I need to add yet another rider that states categorically that my comment above does not mean that I do not check out my thoughts and insights with others. The “called out ones” of the church (Every believing Christian is a “called out” one. The Greek word for church – Ecclesia means exactly that, i.e. “Called out”) need to inter-act and exchange views constantly in order to guide each-others character and growth. I promise all my readers that I am neither a “Lone Ranger” of a Christian, nor some half-baked novice trying to strain at a philosophical gnat while swallowing a doctrinal camel. All I mean to say is that by years of reading, I have discovered what I consider flaws in the, so called, biblical doctrinal dusty corners of some of the long held “teachings and accepted traditions.”
No historical literary volume has as many ancient copies as the Jewish Bible and the New Testament scrolls, whether they be full books or fragments. These many thousands of documents and fragments (yes! I said “many thousands” that is not a typo) have always been open to scrutiny by believers and skeptics alike. It’s ease of access and its validation and verification after microscopic research of its textual, documentative and consistent content is both loved and hated by many, depending on which side of the line of faith they stand. To abuse the bard’s classic line: To believe? Or not to believe? That is the question.”
My own approach to scripture over the last forty plus years has been just to read the Bible over and over again. It is my lover and my most intimate friend. To read it fast; and then to read it slow. To read a whole Testament in a huge holiday binge; and then to read each book individually several times. I also read it while meditating on a verse for minutes, and sometimes days before I conclude any impacting thoughts. I read it on the train, in bed, on the loo and on the beach. It keeps me awake, sometimes, during the night, and motivates me during the day. I spend my life asking God for guidance as I plough through it. Since the day of my conversion on the 21st April 1968 I have persistently, consistently and naggingly pleaded with God to give me an experience of truth that exceeds my knowledge. I desperately have sought my physical self to be subject to my soul, and my soul to be a slave to the life in my spirit. I besiege the Bible and its content with my body, soul and spirit – my entire being – in order to lay hold of Christ. Yes! I read the odd commentary or quotes from the famous as well as the infamous. I read background material and devotional stuff also. For Isaiah, for instance, I read through Calvin, Leupold, Motyer, Oswalt, Edward J Young, and John L McKay. I like O. Palmer Robertson’s, “The Christ of the Prophets.” I do not believe all that I read. However, I do believe that the more I just peruse and paw through the scripture for no other reason than its own worth and value, the more I find myself rejecting what some writers say about the Bible. I do this because of the rationale and reasoning that has built my world-view and paradigm that I have arrived at from my continuous attention to my personal life of bible reading.
Concerning Isaiah: I believe I was somewhat intimidated in the first couple of decades as a Christian by the overqualified authors that suggest there were several Isaiah’s within the 66 chapters, and some of them were even suggested to be adding their lines post-New Testament. Not that I would ever have conceded that these “teachings” intimidated me in the slightest. The shadows cast over the Bible, especially by the so called “Higher Critics” were, to me, shocking – and what was worse, the Higher Critical perspective is still happily assimilated by other evangelical thinkers who seem to always include their own weak and timid response to the Higher Critic’s mantra.
There was a time, believe it or not, when many modernists stated that Isaiah just could NOT have any credibility at all since it claimed to be written 700 years before Christ. The reason for its invalid claims, of course, was because the Higher Critics of the time just refuted any thoughts of “the nonsense” of the miraculous. The rationale went like this: “We do not believe in the miraculous. If the statements concerning the virgin birth in Isaiah chapters 7 and 9, and the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Christ in Isaiah 53, as well as other striking statements that are confirmed by the New Testament were in any way true, that would constitute the most incredible series of miraculous substantiations of all the New Testament gives us. And as the thoughts of miraculous prophecy is “sheer nonsense,” it adds up to the conclusion that Isaiah was written by several people, the majority of which lived after the death of Christ.” This kind of stuff was like a cancer to the pathetic apologists of the days in which this kind of stuff was written. But then – the Qumran scrolls were discovered in the late 1940’s and complete copies of Isaiah were among them. After exposing them to the very finest of scientific research processes, it has been unanimously stated by the scientific world that the carbon 14 examinations have proved that these documents were written circa 200 BC. I have, however, never yet read any explanation of any Higher Critic to this fact. Perhaps it is because the carbon 14 dating of these scrolls has led to their conversion. Who knows? I believe, most absolutely, that there is no fakery in Isaiah’s character or writings whatsoever.
On another off-shoot of this Higher Critic tom-foolery, that old “divine,” Cheyne claimed that, in his day, it was becoming “more certain” that the present form of the prophetic Scriptures was due to a literary class of editors that he referred to as the Sopherim, Scribes, or Scripturists, whose principal function was collecting and supplementing the scattered records of prophetic revelation held and treasured for centuries by Jewish believers. I hereby declare Cheyne’s forcefully presented ideas to be sheer tosh, no matter how historical his books may be. His idea of the work done by his imaginary Sopherim editors is utterly baseless and without any evidence whatsoever. The known writings of inspired prophets were and have been guarded by the Jews as by a wall of fire. History suggests that the integrity of the Old Testament was safer than Fort Knox. And all classes, whatever their practical unfaithfulness to biblical truth, stood in awe of the Jewish scriptures then, just as much as they do until this day. I simply cannot imagine Jesus quoting stuff and the writers of the New Testament using Isaiah’s name if there was even the slightest chance that it was not Isaiah that wrote it. Of course, most Higher Critics also indulge their unbelief in the concept that “poor old Jesus did not know whether or not the man Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name, because he was as ignorant as the rest of humanity.” I shall restrain my language and sentiments concerning that kind of fairy tail thinking.
My personal greatest offence concerning western scholarship and its dealings with the Bible is their insulting, general, non-consultation of Jewish expertise, thought and scholarship, mingled together with their subjective unbelief and approach to hermeneutics and exposition. The Jews treasure their Bible preciously, and always have done. The book of Jeremiah, for instance, was treasured and received as inspired, less than seventy years after it was originally written, according to Daniel’s testimony. Daniel took Jeremiah at face value. If Jeremiah predicted a seven decade exile to Babylon, and the 70 years were fulfilled, Daniel accepted it as fact and responded accordingly. The Pentateuch, also, was considered as scripture immediately after Moses’ death. Read what God said about it in Joshua 1. And yet, Higher Criticism is seemingly convinced of various additions and changes to the whole.
If anybody had suggested to add or subtract even a little to any of these writings, there is no conceivable way under heaven where I could accept that the Jewish leaders would have allowed some nameless person to amend what had hitherto been considered a sacred book. Even the thought of some sympathizer, or “disciple” of Isaiah changing lines here and there, whether a close confidante of the prophet, or merely an admirer from a future generation, is so unthinkable as to be laughable. And yet, so called, “serious scholars,” claim that the “original writings” have been added to, simply because of different phraseology, or concepts mentioned that modern scholarship does not believe was prevalent in Isaiah’s time. The reasoning is so debatable, arguable, and at times laughable, and yet received by most commentaries as the absolute truth.
Added to all this, my convictions concerning the supernatural nature of prophecy renders my mind to a state of incredulity. “How is it possible that Isaiah knew of Cyrus?” the Higher Critics ask. Eh?? The very nature of prophecy tells me that Isaiah could have, by the Spirit of God, mentioned anybody’s name of the future. Enoch, alive before the flood, predicted the Second Advent of Christ (see Jude 14 and 15). On issues like this I reject the overall approach and underlying presuppositions of what is known as Higher Criticism.
If one was to read my study notes, hear my sermons, and think on my responses to theological issues in the 1970’s, and then were to do the same of my material in the last ten years or so, one would note such an incredible difference of it all, even in the superficialities of the neatness of my handwriting that one may consider that there is a “60’s Lannon,” and then there is a separate, “Millennial Lannon.” Two different characters! In fact, to take the principle even further, even since the new Millennium year onwards, my time in Nigeria changed my language and doctrinal emphasis radically. So, from a future perspective of examining my life, it may suggest to some future researcher that there were three men that went by the name of Lannon. There will be Lannon “O” documents (“O” for Original). Then there will be “P” documents, (“P” for prophetic, as under the prophetic tuition of TB Joshua) and then presently there are the “M” documents (“M” standing for my more meditative days, as of now). If this sounds ridiculous, I rather think that is because it is exactly that: ridiculous. The more I read Isaiah, the more I am totally convinced the same person wrote the whole. The substance and subject flow of Isaiah runs smoothly and in a steady gradient as one ploughs through the chapters. It is my opinion that the New Testament itself verifies what I am saying.
Isaiah 26 is an integral part of the flow that I refer to. Having seen the future of all the surrounding nations that were, in Isaiah’s day, occupying land promised to Abraham, Isaiah lifts his prophetic eyes to the far flung future and the end of days just prior to and into Messiah’s reign on the earth. Isaiah 24 tells us how the days of a great and terrible tribulation will see the deaths of the majority of the world’s population. Of the survivors there will be a remnant of believers, mostly Jews. The majority of the survivors will be anti-God, anti-Semitic and anti-anything that even whiffs of godliness and righteousness. The believing survivors will see the advent of Messiah and His earthly kingdom centred in Jerusalem, and they will be singing the song, and rejoicing in the joy that Isaiah 26 here expresses.
The song in the first eleven verses of the chapter is a lyric of joy in God’s salvation, and the exultation in God’s righteousness for the perfect judgement He will have, at that future point in time, performed over the planet. They rejoice not at all in the fact that the evil of men has slain so many billions of humanity, but because of the manifest righteousness and perfection of God in His response to the evil. The book of Revelation indicates that the wrath of God, at this point of time, is poured out on the planet in the midst of the great tribulation. In the combined works of God’s wrath poured out, the rise of the anti-Christ and the hatred and confusion precipitated by him, will wreak so much terror and horror as to bring all of humanities issues to a climax.
Carrying on from our last paper, we arrive at Isaiah 26:12:
12. Yahweh, you will establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.
The Hymn of chapter 26 presses forward with a line that directly addresses Yahweh and outlines the existential present blessings that are the result of commitment to following Yahweh with faith, hope and love. Isaiah is glancing over Israel’s history. The godly remnant in Judah confesses what God has done for them. They are in “shalom shalom” or, as it says in most English translations, “perfect peace” (as in Isaiah 26:3). A person requires, first of all peace with God, which must be followed by the internal peace of God. This is as far as the east is from the west when compared to the judgment on the wicked that has been extended to the evil and godless hordes of the world. God will, as He has done and does in the present, appoint peace and inner tranquility for His people. That peace stands guard over the heart of faith. Whatever the righteous have attempted and enacted and achieved, they see the truth that it is Almighty Yahweh that has achieved it and established it through them. Yahweh has done everything for them. His salvation is wholly His work, there is no human contribution to its flow, apart from the repentant heart that receives it.
13. O Yahweh, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.
“Other lords” would include Pharaoh, various Philistine overlords and the various rulers who subjugated Israel during the time of the judges, as well as other nations who, in Isaiah’s past, have at times subjugated Israel and Judah to themselves and their false deities. Isaiah is studying and making a total reflective meditation over Israel’s history. Those who walk in the righteousness of God, honour Him alone. God is the Lord of history. History is truly His story. He has been faithful and has facilitated His grace in their hearts, so that His people keep His name in perpetual remembrance as their only true Leader.
14. They are now dead, they live no more; they are departed spirits, shades that do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.
Those former lords that were human, considered themselves gods, but they were indeed merely mortal men—and “they live no more.” Isaiah persists with his backward look on those human lordships that had, at various times and in diverse ways, ruled over the Hebrew people. These “lords” may have loomed large like some eerie shadow over the prosperity and family life of Israel, but they went the way of the rich and the poor, the hero and the coward. “You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.” They are “departed spirits” in Sheol, the place of the dead, and they shall not rise, or be resurrected, with the righteous, who will rule and reign with Christ during the Millennium. God visited judgment on them, “brought them to ruin,” and caused memory of them to fade. It is self-evidently implied in this statement that the wicked have absolutely no future at all to look forward to. Who honors the name and memory of the pharaoh of the Exodus? Scholars disagree and choose to argue and debate about the identity of even that particular pharaoh. Whoever and whatever – he is forgotten about.
15. You have enlarged the nation, O Yahweh; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land.
In all these memories of backsliding and being ruled over by Israel’s various enemies, there is one blessing that cannot be forgotten: The Jews greatly increased in number in the midst of all the moral and spiritual decline. It is for His glory that God has “enlarged the nation.” Isaiah could be remembering the greater expanse that was all subject to David and Solomon. He may also have been chewing over the increase in territorial possession that came about in King Uzziah’s day, even though it was far less than that land that existed under David’s heel.
But then again, I believe Isaiah is looking to the millennial gains of the state of Israel during Christ’s reign. He is standing in the vision of the future reign of Messiah, and lyricizing what people will be sing in that future day. The will know and sing how Yahweh has expanded the nation. In that day it will be said that He has extended the borders of the land s and nations that submit to Christ right to the ends of the earth. That is, He will have enlarged it not because of who the Israelites are, but because of who He is. Yes indeed! There was some expansion of Judah’s territory in Isaiah’s lifetime. But Isaiah looks ahead to something greater in the Millennial Kingdom. Then they will truly recognize God’s glory. This verse has an analogy in Isaiah 9:2-4: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For you shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.”
16. Yahweh, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.
Prayers shouted, whispered – or even written are meaningless without faith and repentance. The Psalmist affirmed that if he regarded, or meditated and treasured evil, then Yahweh would not hear his prayer. Isaiah “reminds” God of how the Israelites sought God in times of trouble. They could hardly whisper, but as they did give a murmur of prayer, God “disciplined them” and brought them back to himself. This repeatedly occurred during the time of the judges. It also occurred in an abortive revolt of 712 to 711 B.C. To cut to the chase: Israel had an incredible destiny – and still has – but the fact that they were so far away from moving towards that destiny caused them to shamefacedly whisper their prayer rather than shout it out loud to Yahweh.
17. As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O LORD.
Now, in Isaiah’s own time, he and his people have endured suffering in the LORD’s presence. Because of His judgments, they have cried out like a woman in the pangs of birth. The high calling of Israel was embedded within the life and development of Israel,but hitherto they had given nothing but wind.
Isaiah is saying that in contrast to the huge and high heavenly hopes of Israel in the earth, next to nothing has transpired throughout the nation’s history. They have produced nothing tangible in Isaiah’s perspective.
Verses 17 and 18 are the lowest thoughts and the saddest memory recollections in the entire song of Isaiah 26.
18. We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we only gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world.
When a child is born the pain turns to joy. But in the suffering of this people there has been no birth, no good results—only wind, only pain. There has been no deliverance, no salvation in the land, and the world’s rulers, the Assyrians, have not fallen. God would deal with the Assyrians in due time (Isaiah 10:12), but that time had not yet come.
Then, there is a sudden inspirational moment of revelation that is amazing, far reaching and truly astounding with verse 19. Isaiah’s prophetic sight raises from the lowest to the highest, from the darkest to the lightest, from what is most earthly to what is actually heavenly, from what is death to what is resurrection life. This is revelation at its purest and most sublime. As Leupold says: “It makes a zenith point of all eschatological hope and faith. And this is 700BC Isaiah, not New Testament Paul, or even John the revelator. We can only jaw droppingly be amazed as Isaiah writes.
19. But your dead body shall live, together with my dead body. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the light of the morning; the earth will cast out and give birth to the dead.
It is as if Yahweh had put something within the beings of the dead that were “His.” A seed planted within them. An investment made in them. An ownership ticket attached to them. The dead are the dead – in our eyes. They are left their cadavers behind them and died. The good, the bad and the ugly – no matter what took them, or how they died. But there is the human point of view, and there is the divine point of view. There are those among the dead that are His. Isaiah is self-evidently inferring, of course, that there are those in the grave that are not his, as well as those that are. And His dead will rise again, and not just their spirits. Their bodies shall rise again with their spirits rehoused. God has an abiding interest and possession in his people that had died. That was true in Isaiah’s day, just as it is true today. Though they were dead, buried, and to a great degree, forgotten, those that died in faith were – and still are – His dead.
Yes! Indeed! Isaiah sees the resurrection of the righteous.
But that is not all!
The “your” and the “my” tells us that there is somebody else’s dead body as well as Isaiah’s dead body. But hold on! There are some scholars who are convinced that it is God who is speaking, stating that His dead body shall live and come to life again. This is heavenly stuff! We have, in contrast to the wicked who are brought “down to the dust” (Isaiah 26:5), the dead who belong to Yahweh (“your dead”) will live.
Plainly, to God’s people, death does not mean the end. Isaiah expects his dead body to rise with them. Or is he saying in Christ’s words that we shall rise with His resurrection?
Some apply this to the restoration of national Israel, as in Ezekiel 36 and 37, but the language is too individualistic here. There will be a call for God’s people to “wake up and shout for joy.” Like David in Psalm 23:6, they already had a hope of dwelling in the house of Yahweh eternally. Like Asaph in Psalm 73:24, they expected God to guide them in this life with His counsel and afterward take them into the glory of heaven. Like Solomon, those that fear and worship the LORD expected the path of life to lead to the place above in order to avoid Sheol beneath (that is, hell). But Isaiah’s prophecy adds another hope that is the hope of resurrection. See Daniel 12:2. “Dew” is symbolic of God’s blessing and favor. The Authorised Version has “dew of herbs.” In 2 Kings 4:39 “herbs” refers to the Malva Rotundifolia, commonly referred to as the Mallow, a plant sensitive to light. However, it is better translated here as “lights” (NASB margin), meaning a fullness of light that comes when the morning sun appears above the horizon. It speaks of a fullness of life here when the graves in the earth break open and the dead rise. We are talking of seriously bright and glorious expectation. Isaiah is at his most exciting with stuff like this. Read this verse with the following:
Job 19:26 says: And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, (ESV)
Ps. 16:10 says: For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. (NLT)
Dan. 12:2 says: Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. (NLT)
John 5:28–29 says: Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
1 Cor. 15:50–53 says: I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Phil. 3:21 says: He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (NLT)
1 Thess. 4:16–17) says: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
Who says the Bible is not clear?
20. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
The prophet continues with his vision of the very end of times, and sees the horror and terror that there will be right up to the moment that Messiah comes bringing his “resurrected righteous” with Him. Yes, that day is coming! The gates will be open in that glad millennial day, as seen in verse 2. But now the call is for God’s people to go into their rooms and shut the door “for a little while,” until the judgment “has passed by,” literally “passes over.” Significantly it is the same word used of the Passover in Exod. 12:12, 23. Perhaps to see the great tribulation as a passing over of the angel of death around the world is a sound perspective to adopt. That context gives a solid meaning as to why God’s people should stay locked in their rooms, as were the Children of Israel in that last night in Egypt. There are a small number of expositors who align Isaiah 26:20 with Matthew 6:6, where Jesus instructs His listeners how to pray “in secret.” Here it clearly seems to indicate that God’s people will escape the terrible wrath and judgment of God which will not last long, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:9),
21. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.
The reason for God’s people shutting the doors to their rooms, and thus closing themselves in with Yahweh Himself, is that God will come “to punish the people of the earth for their sins,” for all their crookedness and wrongdoing. A type of this ultimate sentence on the entire unsaved world is the biblical record of the judgment on the Assyrians. “The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.” Prophetic insights don’t get any stranger than this. Planet Earth will cooperate by disclosing the blood and the bodies of the slain. I have no suggestion, at this moment, how the geography of the planet will accomplish such a thing. But be assured, nothing will be hidden from God, and on the grounds of the exact Hebraic text, it is self-evident that all survivors will see the result of this disclosure.