Isaiah 26: 12-21

We need to be able to openly acknowledge that all we have achieved that is good and genuine is actually God’s work (12), and that the growth and extension of the ”nation” (think ‘church’) is God’s doing for God’s glory (15). There is no place for boasting: ””all that we have accomplished you have done for us”. One of our greatest idolatries is that of self. We so easily set up monuments to ourselves, as Saul did, or erect pillars to ourselves as Absalom did. We become proud of our achievements. May God write: ”Hallowed be your Name” upon our hearts so that we seek His glory alone (8): ”everything we’ve done, you’ve done for us.” The Message. It was God who had delivered them from the oppression of foreign kings who once ruled over them (13, 14). They could not pat themselves on the back for this. The victory and the growth came from God and all the glory was to flow back to Him.

There are also times when we have to openly and vulnerably admit our failure (16-18). There are moments when we have to confess that we have not fully lived up to our calling; that we have not been as fruitful as God intended. Maybe we have been totally unfruitful. It’s no use pretending otherwise if that is the case. Isaiah looks backward from the prophetic future into his own day. Israel had suffered so much throughout her history, but the prophet said, ‘It’s all to no avail.’ Israel had gone through the pains of child birth, but there was no child to show for the agony. God’s purpose in establishing the nation of Israel was that she would be a blessing to the world (Gen.12:3), but by Isaiah’s time that had not happened. Only through Christ, the true seed of Abraham, would God’s original promise to Abraham be fulfilled (Gen.22:18; Gal.3:16, 29). ”Nothing came of our labour. We produced nothing living. We couldn’t save the world.” The Message.

Years ago I underlined the words of verse 19 in my Bible, as I saw them relating to the New Testament teaching about the ‘rapture’, the catching away of the church (1 Thess. 4:13-18) to meet Jesus at His second coming. Way back in the Scriptures we find this magnificent teaching about God’s victory over death (see also 25:7, 8). These words in Isaiah are among the clearest utterances in the Old Testament on the subject of resurrection. Note the apparently contradictory concepts of giving birth and death, but God is going to work a miracle. There is going to be a new day for the righteous dead when they awake to the freshness of a brand new morning. No wonder Bishop Thomas Ken wrote: ”Teach me to live that I may dread, the grave as little as my bed.” May God help us to view death through His eyes.

This sinful world has had a bloody history. Countless atrocities have been committed and many have sought to cover up their dastardly crimes. But a day is coming when all will be revealed (20, 21). Numerous ‘Abels’ have been slain, but God knows about it (Gen.4:10). He knows where they lie in the earth. Every crime will be exposed and judged. And all who have died in the love of God will joyfully rise to live in the presence of God (19). In the meantime, while the earth is judged, there will be a hiding place for God’s people, just as Noah’s family ‘hid’ in the ark during the flood (Genesis 6-8), and the Israelites ‘hid’ in their houses during the time of the first Passover (Ex.12:21-23).

Prayer: thank you Lord for the ‘blessed hope’ of seeing you and being with you forever. May this thought affect my life every single day. ‘We are an Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.’