April 26, 2011
Psalm 97, 99, Micah 7:-20, 1 Tim. 6:11-19
Psalm 148, Is. 26:12-19, Jn. 20:19-23
Tonight’s reading in Isaiah is part of the conclusion of a theme that began in chapter 13. The theme is God’s judgment on unbelievers, leading to the day when “the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion” (Is. 24:23). This refers first to God judging the enemies of Judea and restoring the Jews to Jerusalem as His covenant people. Chapters 25-27 are a song of praise and thanksgiving, which 26:1 says will be sung in the land of Judah on the day God accomplishes their deliverance.
26:16 pictures the Jews calling upon the Lord during their captivity in Babylon. They have been scattered to the ends of the earth (15), but in their trouble they have visited (sought) God again. Verses 17 and 18 show the vanity of using human means to accomplish spiritual ends. The Jews tried to build and maintain their nation and their traditions on their own terms. They often kept the outward forms of the Old Testament faith, but their lives were not given to God. Thus, they were like a woman in childbirth, suffering all the pain of labour, but bringing forth nothing. Their labour has been in vain because they were unable to conquer their enemies or secure their land by their own hand. But the day will come, Isaiah says, when God will rescue them. They will be like people rising from the dead, and Judea will be as a body rising from the grave. They will awake and sing to God again when the earth (Babylon and pagan nations) cast out the dead (return the Jews to Jerusalem).
These events have a meaning far beyond the mere return of the Jews from Babylon. Like God’s rescue of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the rescue from Babylonian Captivity is a picture of God rescuing all of His people from their spiritual captivity and bringing them into the Heavenly Jerusalem through Christ Jesus. In a very real sense, the song of praise, of which tonight’s reading is a part, cannot really be sung in its fullest meaning until God gathers His whole Church home with Him forever. On that great Day, all of the redeemed will sing, “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Is. 25:1).