Isaiah (Part 25): Remnant Rejoice – Song of Judah Continued (Ch 26b-27)
The second half of verse 9 in chapter 26 explains that the longing for God includes looking for his judgment on sin. But the desire is not one of revenge. To make those who act wickedly suffer is not the goal. The objective is to have righteousness take its rightful place. Notice that in judgment the wicked have righteousness revealed to them. And as with any revelation from God, humanity has opportunity to respond. This is simply the backbone of faith electionism. God reveals, we respond, and God moves (toward our faith or away from our rebellion).
Without the revelation in judgment, the wicked, we learn in verse 10, would never understand justice—a statement supporting the total depravity and, thus, inability of humankind. But that’s not the way God works. In verse 11 the wicked see the hand of God only after it comes down both in judgment on the wrong-doers and in care for his people.
The next section—verses 12 through 19—hold on to the idea of the remnant’s longing for God as leader and provider in contrast to other leaders that Judah has had. The section notes that all good accomplished has been from the hand of God. In speaking of the lordship of God, the passage does not expressly state that it is a lordship over “Israel,” but this is what we should understand in the fullest reflection of what Israel is. God chose this nation as his people for the expressed purpose of revealing how he interacts and cares for people with whom he has covenant relational bond. But we must also bear in mind that everlasting covenantal bond come only for those of faith.
The name Israel means something like “striving with God.” Jacob (Supplanter) had his name changed to Israel after his struggle with the angel (most likely a Christophany—OT appearance of Christ) as he sought the blessing of God. So the meaning of Israel—striving with God—does not imply a fighting against or a fighting to overcome (as did Supplanter). It is intentionally the opposite. The striving is very much the same as the “longing” explained here in Isaiah 26. It is a full forced mind and body passion to be image bearer of the God whom we adore and to whom we acknowledge our total dependence. When Jacob realized his total dependence on God, he prevailed.
In our Isaiah passage, then, we find the same attitude of dependence on God, “remembering your name” or realizing the care given based on who he is. The other leaders—even foreign nations like Assyria—may have exhibited a certain kind of strength, but they would die at the hand of the one who lives forever. And their memory (thoughts of their dominion) would be wiped out.
Verses 15 and 16 show us that it is not merely the physical nation of Israel in mind here. These verses play out the thought from verses 9b-11 in the previous section. God’s hand of judgment fell, and based on that revelation, some turned in faith to God. By his judgment revelation, God “added to the nation” (26:15). They came to God literally because his “discipline fell on them” (26:16). But those of Israel, ignoring God for the moment, twisted and squirmed in their striving as Jacob to provide and secure for themselves. But it did not work. It gave birth to only wind (26:18).
Verse 19 has the feeling of triumph. Unlike the self-promoting leaders who have been destroyed in death (26:14), God’s people, although they may have died, will yet live! The verse speaks of a literal resurrection to those whose faith resides in the God of life.
The final section—verses 20 through 27:1—emphasize this renewal of the remnant, but through endurance. The judgment occurs; the remnant wait; and then the resurrected life is realized. There is FAITH in the waiting, HOPE of God’s care to come, and JUSTICE in the judgment of the wicked.
Pay particular attention to that progression. We recognize (especially due to Hebrews’ direction) the shadow, type, and symbol of so much of the OT for New Covenant life. Yet, in this clear depiction of judgment and rescue, sometimes many fail to see the significance of order intended for future, final judgment and rescue. Are pre or post millennialism structured in this judgment until rescue timeline? Perhaps their proponents may travel around the block to link it so. But 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 seems to follow the Isaiah blueprint more strictly as the wicked are judged giving away to the immediate rescue of God’s people.
I have titled Isaiah 27 (verses 2 through 13) as Chosen Faithful. Of course, we have seen the chosen faithful in many chapters so far, especially now that we are in this section of the rejoicing remnant. But this chapter holds particular emphasis about the choosing of the faithful.
The vineyard metaphor carries through the whole chapter. The vineyard is, of course, the place of God’s care. It is not necessarily physical Judah or physical Jerusalem, although both of those physical locations are also used at times to represent the place of God’s care. But the vineyard is a favorite metaphor both of God in the OT and Christ in the NT. It is God’s vineyard and therefore his care that is always the given.
The first few verses of this chapter, however, link God’s care in the vineyard to those who faithfully recognize their dependence on God for that care. Thus, the vineyard is not simply the world at large, although the world at large does constantly receive a measure of God’s care. The point here is to define those to whom God expresses infinite care for infinite relationship.
Judgment pours out from God all around, but he is not angry with those of his vineyard. If they cease to respond to him in faith, however, he will become angry with them, yanking weeds and cutting back brambles. But with that judgment, he brings back to care those who repent. But note that this vineyard called Israel is not limited to the locale of the physical nation. Israel the vineyard takes root throughout the world.