Isaiah 26


‘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. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. 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. Feet trample it down—the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.’ Isaiah 26:1-6

A Song Of Praise

This chapter is a song in which Judah is longing for God’s protection and His discipline. The song of Jerusalem is sung because of her deliverance.

In the first ten verses, we find an exhortation to trust in God because He blesses the faithful. Reference is made to the ‘day’ of great deliverance from Assyria, however, some think this referred to the deliverance which Christ would bring to the world.

The ‘strong city’ isn’t a city with physical walls, it’s spiritual, Isaiah 60:18 / Jeremiah 3:23 / Zechariah 2:5. It is the spiritual protection that God provides for the spiritual city of righteousness. The gates were to be open so that the righteous may enter, Psalms 24:7 / Psalms 24:9 / Psalms 118:19, that is, the people are entering the salvation of God, they are entering God’s city, Matthew 11:28-30.

Notice that peace depended on their ‘keeping the truth’ and they are steadfast because they trust in God. The joy of this city consists in the blessings of salvation, rather than the strength of material defences.

God will bring low the high and mighty, the lofty city, those who are arrogant and proud, probably Babylon, Isaiah 25:12. The contrast between the two cities emphasizes the principle that pride must be conquered in the life of the righteous, Matthew 18:1-6 / Matthew 23:12.

The feet of the oppressed and the poor will trample this lofty city down, James 2:1-7.

‘The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. 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. But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the LORD. 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.’ Isaiah 26:7-11

During the time of trial, the children of God waited for the deliverance and encouragement which only God can give.

God’s will is the standard of right and wrong, it is God who helps His people overcome obstacles in life, Jeremiah 31:9 / Proverbs 3:6. God works for those whose spirit longs for Him, those who want to be His people, and as a result, His name is glorified because of the way they behave, John 12:28.

God’s judgements are calculated to bring sinners to repentance. The righteous often don’t receive justice, however, they wait for the final justice that God will render at the final judgment, Matthew 25:46 / 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

Since His judgments come with grace and mercy, those of this world, who are mistreated shouldn’t take revenge on those who persecute them, God’s grace should also be extended to them so that they have a chance to repent.

De Hoff, in his commentary, says the following.

‘When wicked men prosper, instead of thinking that God has blessed them, they think their own strength has produced their good fortune. Evil men never learn until they put their trust in God.’

‘LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honour. They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them. You have enlarged the nation, LORD; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory for yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land. LORD, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, LORD. We were with child, we writhed in labour, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.’ Isaiah 26:12-19

Here we read that God’s enemies are put to shame for the glory of God. The enemies of God are blinded, they failed to see the righteousness and goodness of God. They confessed that they had submitted to other lords, but only Jehovah God was their supreme Lord.

It was God’s original plan that they live in peace in the land of promise, however, because of their apostasy to other gods, God delivered them over to those who brought no peace.

Other gods were ruined because God’s wrath was poured out upon them. Because of His actions on Assyria, other nations glorified God, that is acknowledged His supremacy.

Notice the words, ‘enlarged the nation’ are repeated.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the enlarging of the nation.

‘This refers to the Jewish nation, Isaiah 9:3. The nation was not only enlarged by its regular increase of population, but many converts attended them on their return from Babylon, and probably many came in from surrounding nations on the rebuilding of their capital.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Note the repetition, which, in the Hebrew always means extreme emphasis. This remarkable increase of God’s people points to the inclusion of the worldwide Gentile Church, hence also the enlargement of the borders of the kingdom.’

We also read of Judah’s cry and God’s reply. Judah waited until she got in trouble before she cried out to God. When their captors were gone, Israel continued as the people of God.

Judah was in pain like an expectant mother, Psalms 48:6 / Jeremiah 6:24 / Jeremiah 13:21 / Jeremiah 22:23 / Jeremiah 49:24 / Jeremiah 50:43 / Micah 4:9-10, that is, their efforts to deliver themselves was as a false pregnancy, it was only a delivery of wind.

Many commentators believe that verse 19 is a reference to some future event, a spiritual resurrection, Ezekiel 37:11-14. Other commentators believe that Isaiah is speaking of the final hope of all men on earth. There is a resurrection to come and it will be an event in which all who are in tombs will come forth, John 5:28-29.

Hailey, in his commentary, gives three options, concerning the meaning of the resurrection but favoured the last option.

1. The figurative resurrection of the state of Israel, following their Babylonian captivity.

2. The final resurrection of the body at the end of time.

3. The spiritual resurrection that occurred in the Messianic age.

‘Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. 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 on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.’ Isaiah 26:20-21

Here we have a picture of a cloud of indignation and an assurance for God’s people.

God’s people are to hide for a moment. Some commentators suggest they are to hide for 70 years in captivity and they would be brought forth after that punishment.

Pledge, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Although verses 16-21 could well harmonise with all the facts of the Assyrian siege and deliverance, therefore, it would seem best suited to the general context of the following chapter to refer to Isaiah 26:16-21 to the Babylonian period. As has been pointed out before, one of the difficult features of Isaiah’s work is his custom of shifting without warning from one period to another.’

Rawlinson, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the last verse.

‘The many murders men have committed on earth.’ In the same place, he also wrote that Isaiah denounced murder in his very first chapter, Isaiah 1:27. Manasseh’s murders were the main cause of the first destruction of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 24:4. The second destruction was equally a judgment for the innocent blood that had been shed upon the earth ‘from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Berekiah,’ Matthew 23:35. Bloodshed cries to God for vengeance, Genesis 4:10, and bloodshed will be one of the main causes of the world’s final destruction at the last day, Revelation 16:6 / Revelation 18:20.’

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