Isaiah 26 – He Built This City

Bible opened to Isaiah 26 with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans topped with Justin's Almond Butter on snowman plate

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans topped with Justin’s Almond Butter

Today’s PassageIsaiah 26

There’s more about cities in today’s passage, but there’s also some stuff not about cities in yesterday’s passage that I didn’t get to cover. And the more I think about it, the more I feel that I haven’t done Isaiah 25 justice unless I step outside the ruined city and look at that other stuff, so let’s begin today by backtracking before we move forward.

After all, Isaiah doesn’t praise God merely for leveling a city. He praises God for protecting the helpless, for being city walls to those without a city: “You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress” (25:5). Moreover, God will do good for all of humanity. Isaiah goes on: “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain…He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces” (25:6, 8). Isaiah’s picture of God isn’t simply a one-man wrecking crew. He also prepares a banquet available to everyone, complete with wine fit for an actual party, not bitter and sorrowful wine. He even promises to put an end to death and tears. A tall order, but Isaiah has confidence in God’s constructive as well as destructive powers, and he believes that God doesn’t destroy cities without creating something even better. And so he praises.

Chapter 26 picks up by presenting a new city to contrast chapter 25’s wrecked one. Isaiah states, “We have a strong city; he sets up walls and ramparts for security. Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful” (26:1-2). God himself has built and strengthened this city, providing protection for those who trust him. On the other hand, says Isaiah, God judges the city of pride: “For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city” (26:5). There’s that theme of pride again, of God bringing down those nations and individuals who stand up against him. On the one hand, you have faithful people, trusting people; on the other hand you have the proud.

What’s the difference? God reaches out to the proud people, but they refuse to trust him. Isaiah writes,

Though the wicked is shown favor,
He does not learn righteousness;
He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness,
And does not perceive the majesty of the Lord. (26:10)

God throws all these banquets and offers all this protection in cities with the purpose of teaching righteousness, of showing people what goodness is so that they can practice it themselves. The wicked man, though, doesn’t listen. He doesn’t recognize that he needs God, he doesn’t recognize God’s goodness, and so he stands up in arrogance against those who have learned to act with righteousness. Isaiah predicts judgment for these people: “O Lord, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it” (26:11). They think they can go on like this forever, as if justice isn’t strong enough to hold them accountable, but justice plays the long game.

One final note on this chapter: there’s another prophetic mention of triumph over death here. In 25:6, the last chapter promised that death would be swallowed up, and here Isaiah reiterates the idea. He states, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise” (26:19). This resurrection will be cause for rejoicing; since the world went south in Eden, death has haunted humanity, but in time God will conquer death and force it to release its captives.

endangered species chocolate bar wrapper with tiger facts

Today I finished off the Endangered Species espresso chocolate. The wrapper contains several fascinating tiger facts, but it has omitted the most important tiger fact of all: that God made the tiger. Why have they neglected such a crucial fact, the very cornerstone of tiger facts? As William Blake wrote in his poem “The Tyger,” “What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” God displays his fierce creative power in the strength of the tiger. William Blake knew the importance of good tiger theology, and so should we.

 

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