Isaiah 26

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

26:1.  “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.”


“... that day” will be the Millennium; and Judah, meaning he shall be praised, represents the nation Israel as a redeemed and praising people.


The “strong city” is Jerusalem, but it won’t be the city’s fortifications on which those worshipers will rely for security: it will be their faith in Jehovah that will guarantee them His protection; and it is our salvation, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that assures us of that same preservation today.  All believers can live in the peaceful assurance of knowing that nothing can touch them except what God orders or permits, our confidence being based on His promise that “... all things work together for good to those who love God,” Romans 8:28, obedience being the evidence of our professed love, as declared by the Lord in John 14:15, 21, “If ye love me, keep my commandments .... He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me ....”


26:2.  “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”


The song continues, not so much with the plea, but rather the assurance that in the Millennium, Israel - then become a righteous nation - will have Jerusalem not only as her capital city, but as the center of government of the millennial earth, she herself being chief among the nations.


26:3.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”


26:4.  “Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength:”


“... perfect peace” is that which cannot be disturbed.  It is possessed by the very rare few who realize that “ All things work together for good to those who love God,” Romans 8:28, love being demonstrated in obedience, as declared by the Lord in John 14:15, 21, “If ye love me, keep my commandments .... He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”  Their thinking is governed, not by circumstances, but by the knowledge that God is omnipotent, and orders or permits every circumstance for the ultimate blessing of His own.


26:5.  “For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust.”


In the past the “lofty city” was Babylon whose counterpart today is Rome, the evil religious system which has ruled much of apostate Christendom for almost two thousand years, and whose tentacles extend into every corner of the earth.  As literal Babylon was destroyed, and has never been rebuilt, so also will Rome be toppled, never to rise again.


26:6.  “The foot shall tread it down, even the foot of the poor, and the steps of the needy.”


As the streets of Rome have been trodden by the feet of many of earth’s great ones, so in a soon coming day will God scatter those who today are high and mighty; the “poor and needy,” i.e., true believers, being delivered from their thralldom during Christ’s millennial reign, that literal deliverance being a picture of the emancipation enjoyed by every man who confesses himself a sinner, and who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.


26:7.  “The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”


The “just” are believers, their faith in Christ as Savior absolving them from all guilt in God’s sight, and setting them before Him as justified and upright: as sinless in His sight as is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, for faith enables God, on a basis of perfect righteousness, to impute His Son’s righteousness to every believer, so that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1.


Relative to God’s weighing “the path of the just,” other translations render this as directing: making level: right: even: smooth: straight.


“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” Proverbs 4:18; but “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble,” Proverbs 4:19.


26:8.  “Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.”


“... judgments” is also translated regulations; and Taylor’s translation of the latter half of the verse reads, “O Lord, we love to do Your will!  Our hearts’ desire is to glorify Your name.”


26:9.  “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”


When Isaiah woke in the middle of the night his thoughts turned immediately to God; and if he awoke at dawn his thoughts were also of Him.  It is to be feared that few of today’s professing Christians could make the same claim; yet few things are more likely to preserve our obedience than just such remembrance of the Lord.  (Incidentally, the difference between soul and spirit is that with our souls we have self-consciousness; and with our spirits, consciousness of God).


Relative to God’s judgments being in the earth, many take this to mean that when obedience to His laws is enforced, as it will be in the Millennium, there will be righteousness.  Others understand it to be a general description of millennial blessedness resulting from free-willed obedience impelled by love rather than by fear of punishment.


26:10.  “Let favor be showed to the wicked (lawless), yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty (splendor) of the Lord.”


Other renderings of this verse are, “The wicked man, spared, does not learn justice; in an upright land he acts perversely, and sees not the majesty of the Lord,” NAB; “The wicked are destroyed, they have never learnt justice; corrupt in a land of honest ways, they do not regard the majesty of the Lord,” NEB. 


During this age of grace the wicked are not instantly struck dead by God; but instead of being led to repentance by His mercy, they are emboldened to sin even more, neither knowing nor caring that His forbearance is designed to lead them to repentance so that He might save them.  They are not awed by His glory before which even angels fall upon their faces, see Revelation 7:11, “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God.”


A day is swiftly approaching however, when they will be awed and terrified at His presence, see Revelation 6:15-17, “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”


26:11.  “Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.”


Taylor’s translation of this verse reads, “They do not listen when You threaten; they will not look to see Your upraised fist. Show them how much You love Your people.  Perhaps then they will be ashamed! Yes, let them be burned up by the fire reserved for Your enemies.”


Too late to save themselves, unbelievers will yet see how much God loves His own, and how great is His hatred of those who refuse to confess themselves sinners, and who, despising the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ shed at Calvary for the remission of their sins, pass for ever beyond the pale of mercy into the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.


“... devour” in the present context does not mean to end the existence of those who die in unrepentant unbelief. 


26:12. “Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.”


The prophet here makes it clear that those who will enjoy temporal and eternal peace are they who yield themselves as willing instruments to the control of the Holy Spirit Who indwells every believer, for it can’t be over-emphasized that though He desires our submission to His control, He will never override our will to compel obedience.


26:13.  “O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”


“... once we worshiped other gods; but now we worship you alone,” is Taylor’s translation of this verse.


26:14.  “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.”


By God’s grace they had been taught that the “gods” they once worshiped had no real existence: those idols were the products of their own deluded and corrupt imaginations; but by God’s enlightenment they had been led to see their error, and were now His devotees.  God’s having “made all their memory to perish” doesn’t mean that He had come down and literally destroyed the idols, but that He had shown the people the utter folly of idolatry.


26:15. “Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hast removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.”


Other translations of this verse read, “Thou hast enlarged the nation, O Lord, enlarged it and won thyself honor,” NEB; “O praise the Lord! He has made our nation very great,” Taylor; “You have swelled the ranks of our nation, Lord, you have shown us your glorious power.  You have extended our borders on every side,” Phillips.


This past extension of Israel’s dominion foreshadows her coming world-wide rule in the Millennium.


26:16.  “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.”


In response to God’s chastening, Israel had turned again to Jehovah in repentant submission, this being His objective in chastisement in every age, as it is written, “For whom the Lord loved He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receives.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons .... Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Hebrews 12:6-11.


26:17.  “Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O Lord.”


The NT counterpart of this is recorded in John 16:21, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”  As the anguish of labor must precede the joy that follows the birth of a child, so must the pain of chastening under God’s hand precede the peace and joy which follow repentant submission to His correction.


Two thousand years ago Israel could have entered into that joy had they received the Lord Jesus Christ as their long-promised Messiah, but in rejecting Him they doomed themselves instead to writhe in the equivalent of labor pain, and will continue to do so until that day, now fast approaching, when their sin-blinded eyes will be opened, the terrible “labor pains” of the Tribulation judgments resulting in their seeing in the despised and long-rejected Jesus their equally long-awaited Messiah.


26:18.  “We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind: we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.”


For Israel weary century has succeeded weary century without the coming of the Messiah, their sin-blinded eyes having failed to recognize Him when he was born in their midst in a stable in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.  Even though Scripture attested the circumstances of His birth, their preoccupation with the coming of a world-conquering king prevented their seeing that no mere man could have performed the miracles he wrought in their midst for over three years; nor did the manner of His death convince them that the death to which they consigned Him had already been foretold in detail in their own Scriptures, see Psalm 22, for example.


They spoke absolute truth when they here confessed their failure to bring deliverance to the earth, and equal failure to bring its inhabitants under Jewish dominion.  That day however, is now imminent, for all the signs point to the fact that the rapture of the Church could occur today, to be followed shortly by the seven-year Tribulation era, which will end with the Lord’s return in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom, which will bring earth’s history to a peaceful and glorious close.


26:19.  “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they rise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”


This describes the resurrection of life, i.e., the raising of the bodies of all believers at the end of the Great Tribulation being described here as being “cast out” or yielded up by the graves.  The resurrected believers, then complete as body, soul, and spirit, will dwell for ever in heaven with Christ. 


“... thy dew is as the dew of herbs” is translated by Taylor as, “For God’s light of life will fall like dew upon them.”  As dew is mainly associated with morning, the beginning of the day, so does the resurrection of life introduce the believer to the complete enjoyment of a new day: eternal life in heaven with Christ.


26:20. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”


This is generally understood as being God’s encouragement to believers in the coming Great Tribulation, “the indignation” being the terrible judgments that will ravage the earth during that three-and-a-half year period.  This may not be taken to mean that all believers will be preserved alive through that terrible time, for Scripture teaches otherwise.


26:21.  “For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”


The description continues to be of the judgments of the Great Tribulation, which will be God’s just punishment of man’s wickedness in every form, but particularly in his destruction of life by both murder and warfare.  There is however, good reason to believe that this judgment may refer also to that of the Great White Throne.

[Isaiah 27]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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