1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
5 For he has humbled
the inhabitants of the height,
the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
6 The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.”
7 The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
8 In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. – Isaiah 26:1-9 ESV
The prophet, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, continues to reveal a future day when a remnant of Israel will be restored to the land and Jerusalem will once more be the city of God. While some aspects of this prophecy have been fulfilled, in part, through past events, the majority of what Isaiah reveals in these verses speaks of “that day” – a reference to the end times. By the descriptions given in this passage, it would appear that Isaiah is speaking of the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, spoken of in Revelation 20. In God’s great redemptive plan, there is a day coming when His Son will return and set up His Kingdom on earth, ruling from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
And Isaiah is given a glimpse of what that great day will mean to the Jews who survive the seven years of the Tribulation, and are alive when Jesus returns. They will sing a song of joy, praise and thanksgiving.
“Our city is strong!
We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation.” – Isaiah 26:1 NLT
Unlike their ancient ancestors, the Israelites will recognize God as the source of their strength and salvation. It will be readily apparent to them that the walls of Jerusalem were not what had kept them safe and secure. During the second half of the Tribulation, a period known as the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will turn his hatred against the people of God, even desecrating their temple by erecting an idol to himself in the Holy of Holies. He will put an end to all sacrifice and begin a pogrom of extermination aimed at all those who follow God, having refused to take the mark of the Antichrist and worship him as a false god.
So, when Christ returns and defeats the kings of the earth and Satan, the prince of this world, the Jews will rejoice. And they will call all the righteous to join them in the city of Jerusalem where the Messiah has set up His throne. It will be a time when all who have remained true to God will be able to rejoice over the faithfulness of God.
“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” – Isaiah 26:3 NLT
This verse, which has been quoted by so many of God’s people over the centuries, would have been meant to provide encouragement to the people in Isaiah’s day. It was intended to be a reminder that they remain faithful and true to God, no matter what was happening around them. They were in the midst of their trials and tribulations, but God was with them. All He asked in return was that they trust in Him and keep their thoughts fixed on Him. The song of the saints who come out of the future tribulation makes this point perfectly clear.
“Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” – Isaiah 26:4 NLT
The whole purpose behind Isaiah’s vision of Jerusalem’s future restoration and Messiah’s ascension to the throne of David was to challenge the people of Judah to remain true to God. He wanted them to trust God, rather than put their hope in an alliance with another nation. Their circumstances were intended to turn them back to God, not to false forms of hope and pseudo-salvation. And these prophetic visions of future salvation were meant to remind God’s people that He was, is and always will be faithful.
He humbles the proud and arrogant. He destroys the powerful cities of the enemies. But He cares for the downtrodden and poor. He avenges the oppressed and restores the fortunes of the faithful.
“But for those who are righteous,
the way is not steep and rough.
You are a God who does what is right,
and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” – Isaiah 26:7 NLT
The difficulty every child of God faces is the seeming disconnect between the promises of God and the nature of our circumstances. Because, too often, the road we walk seems extremely steep and rough. And it does not always appear as if God is doing what is right. We question Him constantly, doubting His goodness and love because we have a difficult time seeing Him in the midst of all our trials. Rather than a smooth path, we see a rocky road, filled with faith-jarring potholes and seemingly pointless twists and turns that serve no purpose.
But Isaiah would have us remember that God is there, and He has a plan. That plan, much to our chagrin, goes far beyond our immediate need for relief from suffering. God has far more planned for us than simply our immediate happiness. A big part of what Isaiah was trying to get across to the people of Judah was their need to be obedient to God. Their suffering was due to their disobedience. They had allowed their love for and obedience to God to wain. Love of the world and love of self had replaced their love for God.
But the saints who weather the storm of the Tribulation will sing of their obedience to God and their desire to glorify His name, even in the midst of the worst suffering this world will ever know.
“Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;
our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.
In the night I search for you;
in the morning I earnestly seek you.
For only when you come to judge the earth
will people learn what is right.” – Isaiah 26:8-9 NLT
Notice that last line. It says it all. We will never fully understand the ways of God until He completes His grand plan for this world and all who live on it. One of the reasons the Bible is filled with prophetic visions of the future is so that we will keep our eyes focused on the entirety of God’s redemptive plan. As human beings, we have a severely limited perspective on life. It tends to focus on our immediate context and produces in us a myopic sense of self-importance. It ends up being all about us. Our problems. Our suffering. Our pain. Our loss. Our desire for happiness and our demand that all our troubles be eliminated right here, right now.
But the apostle Paul, like Isaiah, would remind us to look up and look forward.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NLT
As he told the believers in Rome:
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
– Romans 8:18 NLT
And Peter adds his words to the mix, encouraging us to see our present suffering as a natural part of our life as followers of Christ. But there is a day coming when God will make all things right.
…be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. – 1 Peter 5:8-10 NLT
And, once again, Paul reminds us to keep our eyes focused on the larger plan of God. This world is not all there is. What we see now does not represent the full scope of God’s redemptive plan.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. – Colossian 3:1-4 NLT
And like the saints in the Millennial Kingdom, we will sing and rejoice as we share in all His glory.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.