LORD, You Establish Peace For Us

26: 7-18

    DIG: How is God contrasted to the other lords (of Assyria and Egypt)? What image of faith is projected over these foreign powers? Contrast Isaiah 26:14 to Daniel 12:12. Are these other lords to be awakened to everlasting contempt, or to everlasting life? Why? What does the imagery of the pain of childbirth add to your understanding of faith - its pain and purpose (26:16-18; also see 25:7-8, 26:4-6 and Ezekiel 37:11-12)?

    REFLECT: When has God smoothed your path? While you are waiting on the LORD, who has their hands on the steering wheel of your life? The LORD spoke to Moses as His friend (Exodus 33:11). How does God speak to you? When has the pain in your life caused you to seek the LORD with all your heart? Israel was supposed to be a blessing to the nations around her. Who are you blessing in your sphere of influence?

    The poem now moves from thanksgiving to an expression of dependence. Isaiah declares that it is only as ADONAI demonstrates His power on the earth that mankind learns the level path of righteousness. Anticipating the lament in 26:18, the prophet insists that it is only through the LORD’s grace that peace and understanding can come. The righteous of the TANAKH can only wait for Him.

    The image of the feet of the poor and the needy (25:6) naturally lead to a discussion of the road they walk. The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, You make the way of the righteous smooth (26:7). In a land where the roads went up and down with grueling regularity, the most pleasant thought was of a road that was level and smooth. So here the righteous remnant confesses that it is good to live righteously, because ADONAI smooths out their path. It is smooth because of the character of the One who formed it (40:3-5). That does not mean that righteous people never have any problems. Isaiah was reflecting on the principle that there are eternal consequences for our actions. The possibility of a Job like experience always exists, and Jesus said: In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). But if we live according to God’s Word, we will generally have favorable consequences; however, if we, like sheep, go our own way (53:6), then we will eventually face dire consequences.

    Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your commandments, we wait for You. Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts (26:8). The remnant will walk according to God’s commandments, or God’s Word and yearn for Him. Going back to 24:14-16a, the faithful remnant has been waiting throughout the judgments of the Great Tribulation for Messiah to return. They cry out: Walking in the way of your commandments, we wait for you. On the surface, walking and waiting seem contradictory. However, the biblical concept of waiting is a way of thinking. It is not doing nothing, but it is doing what you know is right while you wait. It is refusing to run ahead of God to try to solve your problems for yourself. In other words, to trust God is to obey Him by following God’s Word. This is what the writer of Proverbs is talking about when he says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You (26:9a). The Jewish day begins at sundown. So the believing remnant says, “We eagerly wait for your return all day long.” To trust the LORD is to show we know Him in our paths, that is, by the way we live. We trust in the LORD when we are honest in situations where it would be to our advantage to cheat. We trust in the LORD when we refuse to break faith with our spouse by flirting with someone who is obviously interested. We trust in the LORD when we give valuable time to work for the poor. We wait for the LORD, believing He will act in our behalf in His own best time, by obeying His Word, and not making up our own to serve ourselves as we go along. This is how the believing remnant, the Holy Ones (Job 5:1; Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Psalm 16:3; Zechariah 15:5)  will wait during the Great Tribulation.

    When your judgments come upon the earth, introduces a shift in emphasis. The Holy Spirit now gives us another reason why the LORD will sometimes send judgments. It is by means of judgments that the unbelievers of the earth learn righteousness (26:9b). One of the three purposes of the Great Tribulation is to make an end of wickedness and wicked ones (13:9, 24:19-20). One of the factors that will bring about God’s judgments is a worldwide revival of the 144,000. Those who are righteous will respond, and those who are not righteous will not respond. The same sun that hardens clay also softens wax. Only one third of the Jews who enter the Great Tribulation will respond (Zechariah 13:8-9). And the Gentiles who refuse to take the mark of the beast will be beheaded (see my commentary on Revelation Fe – I Saw Those Beheaded For Not Taking His Mark On Their Foreheads). But even if ADONAI Himself shows grace to the wicked, the unrighteous do not respond. Even if they were living where everyone else is righteous, they will still live sinfully.

    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 ADONAI (26:10). This will be tested and proven to be true after the Great Tribulation, in the Millennial Kingdom. During that time, Satan will be bound and the living conditions on the earth will be perfect. The world says that people rebel against all authority because of their environment. They say if a murderer had just been raised in a different environment that things would have turned out differently. They do not attribute evil to sin. But the Millennial Kingdom will dispel that notion. After a thousand years of perfect environment, they will still rebel against the LORD’s authority. Individual responsibility will be the basis for judgment in the Kingdom of God (Ezekiel Chapter 18). If it were true that our environment was the determining factor in the outcome of our actions then we could not take responsibility for them. People could say, “It wasn’t my fault that I was born in this place,” or “It isn’t my fault I had this father or this mother.” But if environment is eliminated as the basis for individual sin, what is left? At the end of the Great Tribulation it will be made clear that it is not environment, but wickedness or sin that causes rebellion against ADONAI, His Word, and His plans. There is never enough evidence for unbelief.

    As Isaiah looks into the far eschatological future he is troubled. He sees that the wicked are not responding during the Great Tribulation. He declares: ADONAI, Your hand is lifted high against Israel’s enemies (Isaiah 26:11; 20-21 and Malachi 3:16-18). But they do not see it (26:11a) because Satan, the Adversary, has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (Second Corinthians 4:4). The prophet begs: Let them see Your zeal for Your people and are put to shame. In other words, “Give the lost a moment of spiritual clarity so they can see their sin for what it is and be ashamed.” But, if they refuse to see the light of the Gospel, Isaiah concludes, “Treat them as Your enemies and let the fire reserved for those who hate you consume them (26:11b). For anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4).

    And while there is war for Israel’s enemies, there is peace for Israel’s people. LORD, you established peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us (26:12). Although Israel’s immediate future was dark, Isaiah was certain of the ultimate outcome. God’s upraised hand would set up holiness and comfort (40:1-3) for His people. Comfort is just as much the product of righteousness as destruction is the result of wickedness (Psalm 1:1-6). More than that, Isaiah realized that the LORD was responsible for everything good that Israel had, and He had not lifted them up, to let them down.

    ADONAI, our God, other lords besides You have ruled over us, but Your name alone do we honor (26:13). Israel has had many other lords, or masters, in the times of the Gentiles (see my commentary on Revelation An – The Times of the Gentiles). But now the LORD will be the only One to rule over them and He will be the only One they will worship. In the past it was Israel’s sins that caused her to be dominated by these other lords, but that will all be over during the Messianic Kingdom. They will be dead, they will live no more; those departed spirits will not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them (26:14). All these past lords will be dead and will not live again. The phrase departed spirits is the Hebrew word that means the shades of Sheol. They have been reduced to mere shadows of existence.

    In contrast to this, the nation of Israel will increase. You have enlarged the nation, O LORD; You have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory for Yourself; You have extended all the borders of the Land (26:15). Because Israel had worshiped other lords, their population had decreased. But when ADONAI reigns over them, this will be reversed. Israel’s new growth involves two things: first, population (anti-Semitism is eliminated) and secondly, for the first time ever, they will live within all the borders of the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18-19).

    Today all the trouble in Palestine and Israel revolve around a twisting of God’s Word by Muslim scholars, motivated by Satan. Lucifer did the same thing in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4), and tried to do so again with Christ in the wilderness after His baptism (Matthew 4:1-11). If the Bible clearly states that the Jews will inherit the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18-19), how can the Muslims claim that Palestine is theirs? They do this by substituting Ishmael for Isaac in the Bible. Because they claim that Ishmael was really the son of promise, they attribute all the promises God made to Isaac to Ishmael and the Muslims. How could they possibly come to that conclusion?

    This is what the Muslims teach. Isaac was about two years old when he was weaned. Ishmael was about sixteen years old because Abraham was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael and was a hundred years old when Isaac was born according to Genesis 16:16. Then according to the Islamic version (of the story), Abraham took Ishmael and Hagar and made a new settlement in Mecca called Paran in the Bible (Genesis 21:21), because of a divine instruction given to Abraham as a part of God’s plan. Hagar ran seven times between two hills, Sofa and Marwa, looking for water; this then became an Islamic ritual for the annual Pilgrimage in Mecca by millions of Muslims from all over the world. The well mentioned in Genesis 21:19 is still present today, now called Zamzam. Both Abraham and Ishmael later built the holy stone Ka’bah in Mecca. The spot where Abraham used to perform prayers near the Ka’bah is still present, now called Maqom Ibrahim, or the Station of Abraham. During the days of pilgrimage, pilgrims in Mecca and Muslims all over the world commemorate the offering of Abraham and Ishmael by slaughtering cattle.89

    There are two problems here. First, they obviously have the ages of the boys wrong. This is crucial to their interpretation. The reason it is wrong is that the Bible clearly states that the birth of Isaac happened before Hagar and Ishmael were sent away (Genesis 21). And in Genesis 21:9 it says that Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking Isaac. That is the reason Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. Secondly, this entire episode contradicts the Biblical account, because Genesis 21:14-21 does not mention Abraham going with Hagar and Ishmael. It says: Abraham sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. Abraham did not go with them; he sent them off. But even more obvious, it says in Genesis that it was Isaac that was sacrificed, not Ishmael. Then God said: Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about (Genesis 22:2). With this being so clear, how could this be misinterpreted?

    This is what the Muslims teach. The Islamic version (of the Bible) states that the covenant between God, Abraham, and his only son Ishmael was made and sealed when Ishmael was supposed to be sacrificed. And on the same day Abraham, Ishmael and all men of the household were circumcised while Isaac was not even born yet (Genesis 17:24-27). They say the descendants of Ishmael, including the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH], and all Muslims remain faithful even today to this covenant of circumcision. In their prayers at least five times a day, the Muslims include the praise of Abraham and his descendants with the praise of Muhammad [PBUH] and his descendants. But if you say Genesis 22 says Isaac was to be sacrificed, they will say, “I know it, but you will see the contradiction there. It is mentioned there: your only son, Isaac. Should it not be written: your only son, Ishmael because Ishmael was thirteen years old and Isaac was not yet born? As I said, they obviously have the ages of the boys wrong. They say that because of chauvinism (or prejudice) the name Ishmael was changed to Isaac in all of Genesis 22! They say that God had preserved the word only to show us what it should have said Ishmael and not Isaac.90

    Therefore, the Muslims take all the promises for Isaac, the son of promise, and credit them to Ishmael. Consequently, they believe the land of Palestine was promised to Ishmael. This is the basis of the argument that the Jews are on their land. They count on ignorance of the Bible and deception to promote this point of view.

    One of the three purposes of the Great Tribulation is to break the stubbornness of the Jewish nation (Daniel 11-12; Ezekiel 20:34-38). It is through the crucible of the Great Tribulation, the distress that it brings being compared to childbirth, that Israel will be brought to repentance. LORD, Israel came to you in their distress; when You disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer (26:16).

    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 (26:17). It is Israel’s prayer at the end of the Great Tribulation that brings about the Second Coming of Christ. The actual words of this prayer are found in four key passages of Scripture, first in Psalm 79, secondly in Psalm 80, thirdly in Isaiah 53:1-9, and lastly in Isaiah 63:7 to 64:12. The agony of the times is compared with the agonizing pains of a woman in travail. Other prophets also use this comparison (Hosea 8:13 and Micah 4:10).

    In the past, Israel has failed to produce a delivery. We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world (26:18). ADONAI had told Abram that all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3b). She has had birth pains, and birth pains and birth pains, but has failed to produce what God had intended for her. But that will all change in the far eschatological future.

    The hearers of Isaiah’s message centuries before the coming of the Messiah might have thought to themselves, “That’s great for those Jews living then. But what hope is there for me and my loved ones today?” That question is answered next.

 

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