Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Gospel in Isaiah 26

Editor's Note: I haven't posted much lately because I've been busy wrestling with the implications of Isaiah 53:5 while preparing for the next installment in the Suffering Servant series. That post should be ready for presentation soon. After we finish our study of Isaiah 53, I plan to present a series of articles from a devotional book on Biblical paradoxes (the author - a like minded preacher from a Plymouth Brethren background - has graciously granted me permission to re-publish his material on this site, which is very exciting!). After that, I plan to discuss some key theological concepts related to the goodness of God - particularly Augustine's theodicy and its relation to Calvinism and Christian faith in general). So, while I continue to struggle joyously through the implications of Isaiah 53:5, I have decided to publish the following brief doctrinal/devotional on Isaiah 26. Hope it's encouraging!

The book of Isaiah has been called "The Gospel according to Isaiah." Let's take a quick look at Isaiah 26 to find out why.

1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.

Here is the doctrine of justification by faith
What a strong city this doctrine is. What a welcoming gate of entrance it opens to those who trust in Christ. The word "nation" in verse 2 is the usual word for Gentiles, so for the Jews there was a great irony here. Could be read: "The righteous Gentile that keeps faith may enter in."

3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Here are the doctrines of reconciliationsanctification and preservation. He reconciles us to Himself and keeps us and protects us. We trust in Him and fix our minds on Him and flee to Him.

5 For he has humbled
the inhabitants of the height,
the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
6 The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.”

7 The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.

Here is a continuation of the doctrine of progressive yet militant sanctification, with emphasis on God's work of humbling the proud and then exalting the humble. His triumph is our victory! His conquering "army" is a band of blessed, triumphant, ragged beggars. Sanctification is the pathway in which we walk - humbly, by faith - never losing sight of our poverty and neediness. The meek shall take the land.

8 In the path of your judgments,
O LORD, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Here are the results of the doctrine of regeneration. Only a regenerated heart can have these holy desires and worshipful yearnings. You must be born again.

For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.

Here are the doctrines of total depravity, common grace and reprobation. The unregenerate man militates against the things of God, even in a godly environment. God's favor is shown to all, but those who do not believe cannot "learn righteousness" by grace. They are blinded by sin.

Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

Here is the doctrine of divine wrath and judgment. Make no mistake, God reserves fiery wrath for His enemies. But He has a great saving zeal for those who are His.

12 O LORD, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.

Here is the doctrine of man's entire dependence upon God. No "free will" here, but a bold affirmation of the divine decree and compatibilism. "For it is God who works in you . . ."

13 O LORD our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
14 They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.
15 But you have increased the nation, O LORD,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.

Here are the doctrines of confession and repentance from sindivine sovereignty and the glory of God. We are natural idolaters, but the one Lord of all has captivated our hearts. He is jealous over us for our good and His glory. Soli deo gloria.

16 O LORD, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O LORD;

Here is the doctrine of God's discipline. God loves us enough to humble us and bring us to the end of ourselves through suffering. Isaiah has just finished saying that God "increased" and "enlarged" the nation. Now he explains how it was done: by the pruning that leads to greater fruitfulness.

18 we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.

Here is the doctrine of man's inability to save himself. Apart from effectual grace, all our works and efforts and strivings accomplish nothing of value. God's hand of discipline leads us to this realization - so that we may learn to trust in Him rather than ourselves.

19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Here, combined, are the doctrines of regeneration and the resurrection of the dead.  As a new day dawns, bringing fresh dew and light from above, the regenerated heart joyfully praises God. The night has passed! There is new birth! Death itself is overcome!

20 Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
21 For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

Once again, here is the doctrine of divine wrath and judgment, along with the doctrine of atonement for sin. These verses call to mind the first Passover, when the righteous were covered and hidden away from God's judgment because an unblemished lamb was slain for them. And One has been sacrificed for us, too.

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