Isaiah Chapter 26

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
   
The Tale of Two Cities. Is Jehovah the Name that is intended for Christians?
The resurrection of the nation of the Jews a figure of the personal resurrection.


In chapters 25 and 26, as in our prophecy called "Revelation," we have what might be termed The Tale of Two Cities; the one representing that proud city which man is building, contemptuously called (chap. 24:10) "the city of tohu," or confusion; the other, the building of God. When one is up, the other is down. When Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles then that "great city" of the nations flourishes. When Jerusalem is lifted up, then that falls. This is the burden of the song.

We now come to the third division of this songthe separation by the chapter being simply a human unjustified intrusion. This "third" brings its constant significance of Jehovah fully revealed, and here in the resurrection of the long buried nation of Israel. As God was fully revealed as Father in the resurrection of His Son (and then He too sings, as in Ps. 22:22), and our Father by our resurrection with Him (Eph. 2:1), so we too may sing, for we "rejoice in the Lord always." We listen sympathetically to Israel here:

1: Then in that day this song shall be sung
In the country of Judah:
Strong is our city: its walls and its bulwarks,
Jehovah's salvation.
2: Fling open the gates that a nation all righteous,
The people that keepeth the truth, may go in.
3: Thou keepest in peace, yea, a peace that is perfect,
The mind of the one leaning hard upon Thee,
For in Thee he confideth.
4: Trust in Jehovah forever and aye,
For in Jah, our Jehovah, is strength everlasting.
5: And low hath He hurled the dwellers on high:
Low hath abased the proud city exalted
E'en to the ground hath Jehovah abased it.
Cast it down low, yea, to the dust-heap.
6: Low 'neath the foot of the trampler 'tis trodden,
'Neath the feet of the lowly, the tread of the poor.
The last verse of the previous chapter has told us of the great world-city, represented by Moab, brought down to the dust; but in contrast therewith, Israel, brought through the time of trouble, cries: "We have a strong city"; yet not strong in walls of huge stones as in that day when the disciples said: "See what manner of stones!" for little did they avail to save the city from destructionthey must have a much stronger wall than that. They find it in "Jehovah's salvation." His tender favor makes it impregnable.

Incidentally let us apply it to present conditions. Let the feeblest of churches unfeignedly confide in all that the Name of Jesus tells, and that church, or assembly, also becomes impregnable to every form of danger by precisely the same "bulwark"; for that Name means "Salvation," and it is a strong tower indeed. The assembly bulwarked by our Lord alone is impregnable to all the assaults of every foe.

The city of which our prophet writes is evidently on earth, yet corresponds very closely to its counterpart, the heavenly Jerusalem, since its gates also admit nothing that defileth, or works abomination, or a lie, but open wide to admit the righteous nation. Should it be asked who compose that righteous nation and where can they be found, let us turn to Zech. 12:11, and find the "righteous" there, for among the children of Adam, those only are righteous who confess to their unrighteousness and gratefully accept God's provision for it.

This brings us to that lovely verse that has been the stay of many a stricken heart: "Thou keepest in peace, a peace that is perfect, without one ripple of anxiety, the mind of the one leaning hard upon Thee." We must note the emphatic individuality here pressed. Though everyone about you is trusting the Lord Jesus, and you are not, the companionship and atmosphere will profit you nothing. On the other hand, if you are in an atmosphere of mistrust, let your own heart be firmly confiding, you shall not be affected at all. This individuality characterizes the last days, as evidenced in the letter to Laodicea: "If any one," etc.

The word for "mind" here is yehtzar, "that which is formed." It is the formed outcome of thought, as that, in its turn, comes from the "heart" whose depths are beyond the human power of fathoming. The Lord alone knows it. The three words are together in Gen. 6:5: "Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart." The heart is thus the womb whence emerge, and that without the impulse or consent of the will, thoughts which are still shadowy, undefined as a fog from a marsh. These thoughts are formed into imaginations, of which we can discern the character, and the will can then repress them, or see that they are properly directed. That proper direction for all of all ages is to have them stayed on the Lord. We too may find our "everlasting strength," or, as our old hymn has made so happily familiar, our "Rock of Ages" in our God as revealed in Christ. But this is in the next verse.

We have an outburst of exultant exhortation in ver. 4: "O trust in Jehovah forever and aye, for in Jah our Jehovah is strength everlasting." The reduplication of the name has its significance, and to get it we must remember the meaning of the name Jehovah. It is truly a divine word, for, like Him of whom it speaks, it is impossible for finite minds to compass its infinite significance. Its most simple English equivalent would be, "He Who Is," answering precisely to Exod. 3:14, "I AM"that is, He who is ever existent, ever present, ever immutable, who, therefore, if He enter into any covenant, will surely maintain it. But this being true, then the Name must cover all tenses. "He who is," is always the I AM, must ever have been, and ever will be. Thus we have in the one sacred name, the full equivalent of "The Same, yesterday, today and forever," written to Hebrews who would understand the reference as we might at first fail to do. Again, in Revelation 1, we note a similar reference in the greeting from Him, "who is and who was, and who is to come," for that is a translation of Jehovah for us. In the day when restored Israel has learned again to sing, she is not content with the one Name, but must intensify her comprehension and delight in the covenant-keeping faithfulness thus expressed by reduplicating it "Jah, Jehovah," the Jah speaking of simple Personality, of what He is in Himself, apart from any relation; the latter of His relation with men and especially Israel. I need hardly say that in Christ we have a far dearer Name of relationship, that of Father; nor does that debar us in the least from accepting this exhortation to put unwavering confidence in our "Rock of Ages."

In strong contrast to this sweet peace of the penitent, are God's dealings with pride (vers. 5, 6). All such boastings shall be silenced, all its "city" that forms the basis of that boasting shall be cast down to the dust.

7: Footprints of uprightness ever do mark
The path of the just.
Thou, the One Upright, dost level1 aright
The path of the righteous.
8: Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord,
Have we waited for Thee.
To Thy holy Name, and remembrance of Thee,
Is our soul's strong desire.
9: For Thee my soul thirsted in the night of my sorrow,
My spirit-depths in me were thirsting for Thee.
I long for the dawning Thy presence will bring.2
For when on the earth Thy judgments are striking,
Then only its dwellers will righteousness learn.
10: Yea, let Thy favor be shown to the wicked,
Righteousness still he never will learn.
In the land of uprightness he'll still deal unjustly,
Nor own to Thy glory, Jehovah!
11: Jehovah, Thy hand was upliftedthey saw not!
But they see and are shamed by Thy zeal for Thy people,
And the fire for Thy foes shall feed on them.
12: Jehovah, Thy peace is our portion,
For Thou hast ordained it;
For Thou too hast wrought all our works for us.
13: O Jehovah, our God, other lords have enslaved us,
But by Thee, and Thee only, Thy name will we praise.
Is there one feature of life in which we are more deficient than in discerning the right path in which we should walk? What perplexities! What exercises! What waverings! What fears arising from our many errors in the past! How often have we not longed for that promised Voice that should speak to us, when two divergent ways lay open, and much depended on our decision! "This is the way; walk ye in it." Well, says our verse, look at the footprints of the flock, and while the blood-marks tell you plainly enough that it has not been an easy one, yet it has been marked by uprightness of intent; and He who is the very Source of uprightness has levelled it as they walked. Mountains of difficulties, that looked too formidable to be crossed, have sunk as they approached. Thus the way, although it led through the Great Tribulation, has been levelled aright. It is not without interest that we note that the word rendered "uprightness" is very literally "uprightnesses" (comp. Rev. 19:8, R. V.), indicating that this level path is made up of successive stepsstep after stepof which we can only see one at a time, and as we take that one, the next becomes clear. Distress and poverty, sickness and bereavement, extreme need, and even death, are no evidences of the path being a wrong onevery far from it, it is in all these things that we are more than conquerors.

The Jew never looks for divine intervention on his behalf by being caught up to meet his Messiah in the air; but he waits for that Messiah in the way of judgment on his oppressors on the earth. Dear to their thoughts, through the dark night of their sorrows, has been the Name of Jehovah, for their salvation lies imbedded in that Name, as ours does in the same God, but under the Name of Jesus. The Jew's night will cease when his Sun shall arise. Then shall it be a morning without clouds for him, as verse 9 intimates.

Favor has long been shown to the earth-dwellers, in the gospel of the grace of God. Have they learned either the righteousness on which that gospel is based, in the judgments overflowing on the Holy One, or the practical righteousness in self-judgment that ever follows such comprehension? Far from it; there are those even dwelling in the "land of uprightness" (a reference to the apostate mass living in their fatherland of promise), who yet even there deal unjustly. Long has Jehovah's arm been uplifted ready to strike. Many a portent, many an infliction, like the few large drops that herald a rain-storm, have given warning of coming wrath, but, blinded by pride and by confidence in a false Science that excludes God from His creation, they have accounted for all by natural causes, and they will not see. Now the Lord is revealed in flaming fire. That cannot be attributed to nature, and see they must. He has come in His zeal for the remnant of His people, and that fire of wrath which has been prepared for other foes, even the devil and his angels, shall feed also on their enemies. This is the just portion of those who afflict His people, but Thou hast ordained peace for us after all our storms, for Thou hast never forsaken us. Indeed, as we review the past we now see that Thou hast worked in us and for us; never should we naturally have loved Thy ways: it is not due to our goodness that the veil has been withdrawn from our hearts (2 Cor. 3:16); these are Thy works.

"Other lords, O Jehovah our God (note the tenderness of this appeal), beside Thee have had dominion over us." We have served Baalim and Ashtoreth, and what resulted? Bondage to Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome! These are not our rightful lords, and now we will take none other Name on our lips, and the very liberty that we enjoy shall make that Name to be praised.

We can but note one important principle that verse 13 emphasizes; each individual of the nation identifies himself with the common sin of the nation. So the remnant of this day, as of that, is not manifested by denouncing the wickedness of others, although that may have its place, but in confessing their part in it all, for that alone is the spirit that brought the words, "O man greatly beloved," to Daniel. It needs far less grace to condemn othersthat may feed pridethan to confess our own part in the common sin.

So unspeakably precious to us all is the hope of a personal resurrection of the dead, that we are inclined to resent any word that appears to bear upon it being applied to anything else than the literal, physical resurrection of the deceased. The words that we are now to consider are constantly applied to that blessed hope. But we need have no fear of this being weakened, far less lost, by a true and faithful interpretation of Scripture, nor does truth ever need the diverting of any scripture from its clear application to sustain it.

14: Dead are they now, nor ever shall live,
Shadows are they, nor e'er shall they rise:
For Thou hast visited, so hast destroyed them
Made all their memory forever to cease.
15: Thou hast enlarged the nation, Jehovah,
Enlarged the nation and gotten Thee praise;
Hast stretched out afar the bounds of the land.3
16: In their affliction, Jehovah, they've sought Thee,
Poured out their prayer in whispering words,4
When Thy chastisement was on them.
17: As a woman in travailthe birth-hour approaching
Writhes in her pangs: in her anguish doth cry,
So have we been in Thy sight, O Jehovah!
18: We too have travailed, have writhed in our anguish;
We have, as it were, given birth tothe wind!
Nought of salvation have we wrought for the land,
Nor have the world-dwellers by us been brought low.
Verse 14 must be interpreted by its context. Who are these dead who shall never revive? These shades who shall never again rise? To say that they were individuals who shall have no personal resurrection would contradict the plainest scripture that there shall be "a resurrection both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). Who then can these be? They can only be those "lords" who have had dominion over IsraelGentile world-powers that have successively lorded it over her. These shall pass away and never return.

Nations die; empires crumble, and others take their place; but they never recover; and this is the fate of the dominant world-powers that are here referred to as "lords" in verse 13. But in strongest contrast here is a little nation, long dead and buried in the dust of the earth (that is, long scattered amid other peoples), now revived and restored to their homeland. It is growing fast, and its borders need ever enlarging. That national resurrection shall speak of Jehovah's work, tell out the glory of God as did that of Lazarus, or as shall that brighter day for which we wait.

The prophet soliloquizes in verse 16 and his memory lingers over that time of sorrow and suffering through which they have been so recently brought, and in which that penitent little remnant, gradually turning to the Lord, express their repentance in timid whispering appeals, now admitting that their sorrows have been the chastening of His love.

Still musing, the prophet likens that time of anguish to travail-pangs,5 and the word suits so well the character of that "Great Tribulation" that he dwells upon it. The anguish has increased in its intensity as the hour of the delivery draws near; but there the parallel stops, for all the sufferings of Israel have been absolutely resultless. There has been no deliverance to her land, nor have her earth-dwelling oppressors been brought down. But now another Voice is heard:

19: Thy dead men shall live, My dead bodies arise.
Awake and rejoice, ye dwellers in dust;
For thy dew is the dew of the dawning,
And earth shall cast out the dead.
Here the voice of the prophet is lost in that of Jehovah Himself who cries: "Thy dead shall live!" Whose dead? There can be no other answer to this than Israelwith which the whole chapter and the whole prophecy is primarily occupied. It is in this reviving that she is in contrast with all other Powers of earth. "Thy dead shall live:" other dead shall not. The final hegemony of this earth shall belongnot to Babylon nor Rome, to no modern nation nor League of Nations, butto Israel. It is this little people identified with its Head, Christ, who even speaks of her buried members as "My dead bodies," that is here invited to sing with joy; for is she not that Treasure of the parable (Matt. 13:44) to obtain which He bought the whole earth with His blood, and had hidden it there, with this very day of resurrection in view?

Yet this must not be altogether divorced from our blessed morning when "the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we (the living) shall be changed"; for as each of the six formative days of Gen. 1 was a kind of prophecy of the first Adam, for whom all this beauty was being arranged, so each dispensation carries with it a prophecy as to the "Second Man, the Last Adam," to whom the age to come is to be subject, and for whom all is being prepared. The earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, through the resurrection of Israel, as foretold in our chapter. But the heavens too must be filled with the same glory, and that shall be by the resurrection of all the redeemed for heaven; for all things, both in heaven and in earth, are to be headed up in Christ.

But some may still question whether such a word as, "Thy dead shall live," must not refer exclusively to individuals, so let us see how clearly a national resurrection is taught in other prophetic scriptures. Ezekiel 37 deals with a figure: a valley of dry bones becomes, under prophesying, "an exceeding great army." The interpretation tells us that these bones represent "the whole house of Israel," but certainly not literally individuals who are dead and buried, for they complain (which the literally dead do not): "Our bones are dried and our hope is lost," yet the Lord promises that He "will cause them to come out of their graves and bring them into their land." It is Israel as a nation that is buried among the nations of the earth, and each of these nations that contain them is here termed their "grave," from which their restoration is certain.

Daniel 12:2 has been almost universally accepted as referring to a personal resurrection, and whilst it is of great value as a figure and prophecy of this, it cannot be its direct application. For (and I beg you consider it) in all the proofs of the resurrection of the dead given in the New Testament, not a single speaker or writer ever refers to this, or any other of these scriptures as such proofs. How could they be thus ignored if they plainly asserted what was desired to be proved? In the chapter devoted to this very subject (1 Cor. 15), not one word of proof is drawn from this or any of these passages! Yet the resurrection of the dead, in perfection of spirit, soul and body, is triumphantly proved altogether apart from it, so that we may rest assured that that truth is not in the least affected by this interpretation whereby we recognize that the Jewish nation is to be divinely restored to its nationality in its homeland.

Consider how impossible it is that Dan. 12 should speak either of a general or discriminative resurrection. It cannot be the former, for only "many," not all, are awakened. Nor can it be the latter, for at the same time some "awake to shame and everlasting contempt" as well as "some to everlasting life." Thus it can be neither the one nor the other. Then what is it? It can only be national, and they err greatly who teach that God has no further use for the Jew. Verse 19 declares, "For thy dew is as the dew of the dawning." The long-buried Israel is called to awake and sing for joy, for she awakens to a morning without clouds. The night has been cold, the moisture of the atmosphere has been pressed by condensation out of it, and now the rising sun causes this to sparkle as dew-drops in their purity and beauty. So after Israel's long, cold, dark nightthat "night" referred to in verse 9in the last hour of which the remnant of faith has been pressed out from the mass, the Sun of Righteousness arises. His beams manifest that beloved Remnant in radiant beauty as the "dew." Another scripture also makes use of the same beautiful figure: "In the beauty of holiness, from the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy youth" (Ps. 110:3). This, if I err not, refers to the Jewish youth flocking in holy devotion to Him, their Messiah, who are likened to dew-drops on a bright cloudless morning, glittering like diamonds in the sun beams. Nature affords Revelation some lovely illustrations.

One sentence remains: "And the earth shall cast out the dead." Someone says, "Surely that can only refer to a literal resurrection, when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth." No; it is a mistake thus to connect those two scriptures. They refer to quite different events. The Old Testament gives us in this, as ever, the shadownot the very "image"of the New. Here is rather a companion picture of that given by another Old Testament prophet, Jonah, who himself representing his nation, was cast into the sea, but remained unassimilated by the great fish, as the Jews by the Gentiles, till he was "cast forth" as here foretold. Again we must remember that there is in the New Testament a scripture directly giving divine light on this vital theme, as John 5:28 does not, and that plainly tells us that the resurrection bodies of glory come, not from earth, but in a sense, to be determined from the context, from heaven (2 Cor. 5:1).

Now the standpoint of the prophecy changes and returns to a time before the divine intervention. "Indignation" is still to come, and Jehovah counsels His people to come, as it were, like Noah, into the Ark, whilst the storms of that indignation sweep over the earth.

20: Come then, My people, and enter thy chambers,
Shut fast thy portals that close thee around:
Hide thyself thus'tis but for a moment,6
Till the storm of His anger forever be past.
21: For, lo, from His place Jehovah is coming,
To punish the people that dwell on the earth,
For the iniquity they are committing:
The earth too exposes the blood shed upon her,
No longer her dust shall cover her slain.
All prophetic Scripture unites in a harmony that is convincing, that, while martyr blood shall flow freely during that awful time still awaiting the returned Jew, there shall be a saved as well as a slain remnant. Here that remnant is seen hidden as in secret chambers. (How they will enjoy Ps. 27:5: "For in the time of trouble He shall keep me secretly in His pavilion; in the covert of His tabernacle shall He hide me.") In Matt. 13 it is the "barn." In Rev. 12, "the earth" is used as a figure of its preservation by the well-disposed Gentiles as seen in Matt. 25:40. Under these various figures, is clearly told that Jacob shall be saved through his time of trouble, as was his type Noah; whilst Christ's Church, like Enoch, shall be kept out of it altogether.

Long has God been apparently indifferent to the violence and corruption of the dwellers upon earth. Blood, by rivers, has sunk into its soil, and been forgotten. No, never forgotten, for in our prophecy the time has come. Jehovah arouses, and in that Jehovah we already discern, as will Israel, "That Man whom He hath ordained to judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31), even Jesus, before whose Eye the earth exposes all the innocent blood that has been shed, and the murdered hosts arise to justify His awful intervention.

Footnotes:


1 The prime meaning of the word rendered "weigh" (A. V.) is "to make level," and as in weighing the scales must be made level, the word "weigh" became a derived meaning; but the original is better here.

2 "The dawning of the morning after a night of sufferingby God manifesting Himselfwas the object for which he longed"Delitzsch.

3 This line might also read:"Thou hast moved it far away to the ends of the earth," but the context favors that given above, for it is recovery here.

4 The first meaning of the word rendered in A. V. by "prayer," Is a "whispering," indicative of the timid humility of the suppliant.

5 In Matt. 24:8 the word "sorrows" is literally "travail-pains."

6 "A moment," literally, "a little wink," or, "a twinkling of the eye."