Isaiah is prophesying about the way things will be in the future. In our immediate context, Isaiah has spoken about a coming time when all peoples will come to the mountain of the Lord for banqueting and feasting with the Lord. Rather than putting their trust in the wreckage of the world, people are going to find rich food and wine when the Messiah comes. In the kingdom of the Messiah people will find their satisfaction and joy. The twenty-sixth chapter of Isaiah continues to picture what will happen when the Messiah comes and establishes his kingdom, the mountain of the Lord.
In that new kingdom there is going to be a song that is sung in the land. Listen to the words of this song. “We have a strong city.” In the Lord we have a strong city. We don’t think of the need for strong cities today. Back then you needed a strong city, high walls, large towers, and powerful armies to protect and defend the inhabitants of the city. Otherwise your city would be conquered and you would be captured or killed by the enemy. Isaiah has pictured the devastation of every city on the earth. No city will stand. Not even Jerusalem will stand (cf. Isaiah 22). No earthly city is strong enough to withstand the judgments of the Lord for sins. But there will be a time when people will have a strong city to turn to. What makes this city strong? Notice that the walls are made of salvation. The strength of this city is the salvation the Lord offers. Isaiah 24:10 described a city laid waste. Now there is a strong city and its strength is in the salvation God offers. Who are the people that get to go into this city? Verse 2 tells us that there is a group of people who are allowed to enter. It is a nation that is allowed to come in. Not just an individual but a whole nation can enter. What nation is allowed to enter? What group of people is this? It is the righteous nation. It is the people that are faithful to the Lord. They are the ones who can enter this strong city.
God keeps each individual in that nation who enters through that city in perfect peace (26:3). We will have real peace and stability in our lives because our thoughts are fixed on the Lord. Those who have their minds resting on God, a mind dependent on God are those who live in perfect peace. There is true peace in life that people can have if they will enter the strong city. There is no peace living outside of the strong city. Living outside the strong city means that we are open to attack. We have no defenses against those who would desire to wreck and ruin our lives. True peace, perfect peace can only be found in the strong city. The Lord God is the everlasting rock. Everything else is movable and shakable in life. The Lord is our rock and we can put our trust in him forever.
Those who enter the strong city must be free of pride. They cannot think to themselves that they can protect or defend themselves. The proud are humbled before the Lord. Only the righteous wise will recognize that they need to get inside the strong city of God, relying upon the walls of salvation for their protection. Real security and peace comes from resting in the salvation that God gives to those who are his. Trust in the Lord forever because he is our immovable foundation.
The Way of Life of the Faithful (26:7-9)
This is the path of the faithful. The faithful see their path in life as the divinely smoothed path. The path leads us in the way we must go and God blesses those who walk down that righteous path. Jesus said that this path was narrow and difficult, and few find it (cf. Matthew 7:14). But it is the path we must travel to belong to the strong city. Verse 8 further pictures the lifestyles of the faithful. First, we walk in the ways of God’s laws (NIV). Second, God’s name and God’s renown are the desires of our hearts. His honor, his glory, his worship, and his celebration are the deepest desires of our hearts. We want to see God praised. We want to see God celebrated. We want to see God worshiped. We do not want anything more than God receiving what he ought. Those who enter the strong city and find peace are those who look on their earthly path as God-given, cling to God in faithful expectation and desire, and remain steadfast in their obedience to him.
Blind to God’s Blessings (26:10-11)
The faithful are not blind to the blessings of God, but the world is. When grace and favor are shown to the wicked, they do not go and learn righteousness. The wicked continue in their wickedness and do not see the majesty of the Lord. God’s blessings and grace were to cause the wicked to turn to righteousness. This is the reason we have turned from wickedness to righteousness. God’s goodness is supposed to drive our change from evil toward walking in the laws of the Lord. They do not see how God is ready to act for his people. Let them see the zeal that the Lord has for his people!
You Alone Are Our God (26:12-15)
Verses 12-15 picture how God has done for us everything that we need. His people will choose the Lord because of all that he has done. Notice verse 13: we have let other masters rule over us but they are nothing. There is no life in them. They are worthless. The faithful recognize that there is no life in false gods and false masters and therefore reject them. We will reject the false god of sexuality. The world tells us that you can find joy and fulfillment in better sex or with different partners. Every magazine promotes this idol on the cover. Five ways to have better sexual relations tonight. Ten movies to drive your partners wild. These are false gods that do not bring fulfillment. The faithful recognize the emptiness of pornography and sexual immorality and reject it because of all God has done for us. The faithful reject the false gods of power and success. Even if we have charge over a few people or a few thousand people through our work or business, it does not solve the inner void that you are seeking to be fulfilled. The faithful recognize that having more power will not bring satisfaction. The faithful recognize that wealth is not the answer to this life. The more wealth we acquire, the more wealth we need. More just births the need for more. The faithful do not find their identity in their careers. You are not somebody just because you work hard or think you have an important job. Everyone thinks they have an important job and yet each of us are replaceable. The faithful desire God to be honored, not themselves. The faithful will do anything so that glory will belong to the Lord. We will not sit idle. We will not serve the idol of comfort. We will act for the glory of God because God has richly blessed us.
The Self-Sufficient Are Destroyed (26:16-21)
Self-sufficiency is like giving birth to the wind. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot bring to our souls the satisfaction that we are yearning for. The writer of Ecclesiastes called such self-sufficiency, “chasing after the wind.” Our self-sufficiency only brings about two things: (1) God’s judgment and (2) senseless suffering. Notice the language returns to the present. The nation has tried the road of self-sufficiency. They tried to live on their own wisdom by turning to the Assyrians for protection. It was a foolish venture. They have invoked the anger of the Lord for not listening and trusting in the Lord. They have also brought about their own suffering for now Assyria will be the instrument of their judgment. These things did not have to happen. But the people failed to trust in the Lord.
What a thought for us today! Our self-sufficiency is pointless. It is like chasing the wind. All that we think in the world that can provide for us what we need is empty and futile. Further, seeking those things invokes God’s deserved wrath upon us. Not only this, we experience all kinds of consequences and suffering when we pursue these other masters. We are enslaving ourselves to false gods, empty masters who will not bring us satisfaction. Only God frees us from these empty ways and gives us the joy we are seeking.
Only God can bring true, complete peace and stability for life. God’s people look to him and wait with hope. Our hope is found in the walls of salvation. We are safe in God’s strong city. They were wrong for seeking other masters and were judged for it. But God is making the offer of new life to the world again (26:19). God is coming out of his chambers and executing his wrath upon all peoples, nations, and cities (26:20-21). But those who turn to the strong city of the Lord will find salvation. They will find new life. They will experience a new Passover, as the wrath of God will pass by those who are faithful, belonging to the strong city of God. Life will be offered again to the nation, not the physical nation, but those who put their trust in the Lord. Revelation 21:22-27 describes the beauty of this city where only the pure are allowed in to be with the Lord forever in glory.