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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 4

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 25, 26: Songs of Praise

Chapter 13: The Strong City

Isaiah 26:1-9 is a second song of praise to God for His deliverance and for his wonderful plan. Each line of the lyric reads in this way:

1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security.

2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful.

3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.

4 Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.

5 For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city;

For He has brought low to the ground, He casts it to the dust.

6 The foot will trample it, the feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless.”

The song will be sung in Judah because Judah means “praise.” Likewise, the song is about Jerusalem, “City of Peace.” The background problem was that Judah was not praising God, nor was Jerusalem really a City of Peace. Idolatry was rampant, and few people believed or obeyed the words of God through the prophets.

But the prophet was speaking of a future time when the promises of God would be fulfilled. Everyone wanted to believe that God would bless the nation and the city, but they did not realize that those blessings would not come upon the disobedient. The blessing was inevitable, but only after the people truly praised God and were “faithful.”

The New Covenant Understanding

Few in those days understood the New Covenant principle of becoming a new creation, begotten by God rather than by man. Not understanding the difference between the old man and the new man (as Paul taught) made it unlikely that they would know the difference between fleshly Judah and the true people of praise. Neither would they know the difference between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem.

The Old Covenant veil yet covered the nations. It took a New Covenant anointing through the light of Pentecost to begin seeing such things. Hence, while these things were prophesied throughout the law and the prophets, the Old Covenant veil prevented most of the people from having eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand (Deut. 29:4).

Nonetheless, Moses gave Israel a second covenant (Deut. 29:1) that had all the features of the New Covenant, and he spoke of heart circumcision, which was also a New Covenant sign. Jeremiah spoke clearly of a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31). Isaiah and the other prophets described the New Covenant every time they spoke of the promises of God that were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But their words largely fell on deaf ears, because God had not yet opened their ears to know and understand the words being spoken.

Even the teachings in the New Testament have fallen on deaf ears in the majority of those who call themselves believers. Paul understood Psalm 8:6 as a promise of God that the entire earth would one day be subject to Christ in a universal reconciliation (1 Cor. 15:27, 28; Heb. 2:8). But relatively few people today share his understanding of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant veil is yet upon their eyes.

Likewise, Paul taught the difference between the two covenants and the distinction between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:25, 26; Heb. 12:22, KJV), but many believers today do not share his understanding.

Which Country and City were Promised to Abraham?

It is clearly stated in Heb. 11:10, 14-16 that the city and country that Abraham sought—and which God had promised to him—were not the land of Israel and Judah nor the earthly city of Jerusalem. Yet few believers today understand this. Hence, Christian Zionists, as with Jewish Zionists, have turned aside and no longer “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Instead, their desire is for “that country from which they went out” (Heb. 11:15).

Therefore also, when Isaiah speaks of the song of praise in “Judah” and the gates of the “strong city,” he was not prophesying of the old land or the earthly city. He was speaking of the same country and city that Abraham sought. Though the prophet does not expound upon this as clearly as the author of Hebrews, his description is given in New Covenant terms and supports the concepts in Hebrews 11.

Who enters this “strong city” but “the righteous nation” and “the one that remains faithful.” Unrighteous and faithless people may have opportunity to enter “that country from which they went out,” but only the faithful—those with Abrahamic faith—may find the “better country.” Many unfaithful people have entered the earthly city of Jerusalem; but of “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2), the apostle John says emphatically in Rev. 21:27,

27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abominations and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

This aligns perfectly with Isaiah’s prophecy, where he sees the gates of the city opening only to the righteous and the faithful. This is the city promised to Abraham and to his seed after him—all who share his New Covenant faith as it is defined in Rom. 4:21-24,

21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Righteousness, as God defines it, is not based on genealogy from Abraham. The children of Abraham are those who follow his example of faith, Paul says in Gal. 3:7,

7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

To say that one must be descended physically from Abraham in order to be an heir of the promises given to him is an Old Covenant way of thinking. It is evidence that the veil is still over one’s eyes.

Isaiah 26:3, 4 says,

3 The steadfast [samech] of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for in God, the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.

“Steadfast” is from the Hebrew word samech. It is also the 15th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it means “a prop, support.” Hence, Isaiah uses the word to refer to one who rests upon God. God is a trustworthy support, allowing those who have “steadfast” minds to fully relax and to be at peace.

Such trust is necessary to enter into God’s rest and to do nothing except what one sees his heavenly Father do. The prophet compares it to leaning up against a rock or a cliff, having confidence that it will not move, shift, or crumble.

Isaiah says that these are the ones who gain entry to the New Jerusalem, and John agrees with him in Rev. 21:27 and 22:14.

Trust in the Rock

Isaiah 26:5 continues,

5 For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city; He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground. He casts it to the dust.

The “unassailable city” is the same as “the unassailable fortifications” of prophetic Moab in Isaiah 25:12. Though the prophet speaks of Moab, he was describing any city opposing the rule of the Messiah, including the earthly Jerusalem. Any such “city” fortifying itself against Christ’s rule will crumble, for it is not truly “steadfast.” Those who put their trust in such a city are like those who lean upon a rock that crumbles under their weight.

The metaphor of the rock was used in the Song of Moses, where Deut. 32:18 says,

18 You neglected the Rock [Father] who begot you and forgot the God [Mother] who gave you birth.

Later, he sings in Deut. 32:31-33,

31 Indeed their rock is not like our Rock. Even our enemies themselves judge [discern] this. 32 For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison [rosh, “head” of a poppy], their clusters, bitter. 33 Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras.

Sodom and Gomorrah had a thriving opium trade in those days. Jeremiah contrasted “the balm of Gilead” with opium (“poppy juice”). Jer. 8:22 says of balsam,

22 Is there no balm [balsam oil] in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has not the health of the daughter of My people been restored?

Of opium, we read in Jer. 9:13-15,

13 The Lord said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it… 15 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood [lahana, “opium”] and give them poisoned water [“poppy juice,”] to drink’.”

Hence, Jeremiah tells Judah that they should seek the cure, rather than to hide the pain by masking the symptoms with opium. The cure is to put one’s trust in the true Rock, which is Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). The false cure is a drug known as opium, which makes the people feel good and even euphoric, but cures nothing.

The comparison is made between the rock and the drink. Those who put their trust in the true Rock are also those who seek the balm of Gilead. Those who put their trust in a supposed “unassailable city” that God will cast down are like those who drink from the vine of Sodom, seeking only a feeling of euphoria brought about by opium. In the end, God will win and every false refuge will crumble to the ground. More than this, such false refuges will be put under the feet of the righteous as well, for Isaiah 26:6 says,

6 The foot will trample it, the feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless.

All things will be put under the feet of Christ (Heb. 2:8), but more than that, Paul says in Rom. 16:20, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” While this is a direct reference to the promise to Eve in Gen. 3:15, the prophet Isaiah applies it more broadly. God does it, but He uses our feet as well, for we are the body of Christ.