A Song of the Redeemed: Isaiah Devotional Journal 53

Isaiah 26    Septuagint Modernized

Isaiah 26:1 In that day they shall sing this song in the land of Judah; Behold a strong city; and He shall make salvation its wall and bulwark. 2 Open the gates, let the nation enter that keeps righteousness, and keeps truth, 3 supporting truth, and keeping peace; for on You, O Lord, 4 they have trusted with confidence forever, the great, eternal God; 5 who has humbled and brought down them that dwell on high; You shall cast down strong cities, and bring them to the ground. 6 And the feet of the meek and lowly shall trample them. (CAB {1}, LXE)

A Song of the Redeemed

How does the reader know that this passage in Isaiah is a song of the redeemed? Before the details, I present two “housekeeping” points. First, this post for the most part follows the Septuagint translation. Second, I’ll present verse 7  in a following section, rather than this.

I. “A Strong City”–What City?

A. What clues does the text provide concerning the nature of this city?

1. “In that day” (v 1). The song opens with the phrase, “In that day.” What day is this? This is the day Israel had waited for since Moses’s bold announcement that God would send another prophet like Moses.

Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you– from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him. (NET)

Mark 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (ESV)

2. “The land of Judah”(v 1).  Israel’s Messiah came from the tribe of Judah.

3. “Salvation its wall and bulwark” (v 1). The reader finds here a poetic image. It seems entirely difficult to picture a concrete wall and outer wall constructed of “salvation.” The Greek text uses the adjective “our,” which Brenton (LXE above) does not include. The Orthodox Study Bible writes, “He [God] will make our salvation its surrounding wall.” The New English Translation of the Septuagint writes, “He will make our salvation its wall and outer wall.” This abstract, metaphoric description implies that only the “saved” will enter the city. Further, all those who live inside the “strong city” will be protected from harm by their “salvation.”

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (ESV)

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)

4. “Open the gates” (v 2). Salvation and residence in Messiah’s strong city is for everyone. “Open the gates,” beckons and invites. Like the voice of wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-21 and 8:1-3, the call is to “Come!”

5. “Open the gates; let the people enter who keep righteousness and guard the truth” (v 2).

 Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (ESV)

Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (ESV)

Notice also the unity of the people who inhabit the city in Isaiah 26:2. The song speaks not of a multitude of nations nor of people, but one “laos” (people, nation). This lines up with Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2 and Jesus’s prayer to his father in John 17.

6. Open the gates to “the ones who have trusted…forever” (v 4). Old Testament Israel always supported a remnant, a small minority who clung to their Lord and obeyed him faithfully throughout the generations. The “strong city” will welcome these, as well as all new believers. The city will endure “forever.”

7. “The great, eternal God” (v 4). Jesus, the Messiah, is he who unites the Old and New Testaments. Throughout Old Testament Scripture, including Isaiah, references abound which use more than one name for God. Verse 4 in the Greek Septuagint (3-4 in Brenton’s translation) uses both the name “Lord” and “God.” “Lord” in Greek in the Old Testament is identical to “Lord” in the New Testament. “Lord” in the New Testament is generally used with reference to Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “God” (theos) in Isaiah 26:4 is identical to the Greek word for “God” in the New Testament.

The old (1952 and 1971) Revised Standard Version matches the old (1917) JPS (Jewish Publication Society) version:

Isaiah 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever, for the LORD is GOD, an everlasting Rock. (JPS, 1917)

These older translations in English speak even more strongly than the Septuagint, concerning the single identity of  the “Lord” and “God” of the Old Testament.

Isaiah 26:3 … for on You, O Lord, 4 they have trusted with confidence forever, the great, eternal God;

8. God, in the “strong city,” has humbled the proud and placed the lowly above them (vv 5-6). Everyone who reads the gospels must recognize that Jesus Messiah directly appealed to the humble. He promised the “world” to them.

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (ESV)

B. Comparison with Other Scriptures
  1. Jesus’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This parable illustrates the principles of Isaiah 26:5-6.
  2. Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:13-14. These references point to a spiritual city of  God, as opposed to a concrete city. The characteristics of the city which the writer to the Hebrews describes correspond to the city in Isaiah.
  3. Galatians 4:25-27. Here again, Paul relies on the spiritual nature of the cities he describes.
  4. Revelation 3:12 speaks of a future (not yet) city. 17:18f speaks of a spiritual, anit-Christian city. Revelation 21:2f (not yet) again speaks of the (currently) spiritual city of Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven in the new creation.
  5. In John 4:21-23, in the context of “salvation,”  Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about the spiritual nature of the worship of the “true worshipers” whom the Father seeks. That time (“in that day”), he tells her, “is coming, and is now here.” It is as though Jesus said to her, Not yet (is coming) and Already (now here.)

II. Conclusions

  1. The “strong city” of Isaiah 26:1 is the Kingdom of the Lord Christ (Messiah).
  2. This city displays strong Already/Not Yet characteristics.
  3. The New Testament writers “spiritualized” this city (a good thing, not a bad thing).
  4. The exhortations and encouragements of the New Testament indicate that Christians now (see the verses in Hebrews) are already citizens of this city. Testimony from Christians around the world confirms the biblical view.
  5. The book of Revelation indicates that the complete fulfillment of the song of the redeemed in Isaiah 26 is not yet. 
  6. The characteristics of Isaiah’s city are the characteristics of the Kingdom of Christ. Those who enter the opened gates enjoy the following blessings.
    • righteousness
    • truth
    • faithfulness
    • salvation
    • strength
    • eternity
    • humility
    • peace
  7. Scripture is a unified whole. Jesus Christ fulfills the invitation Isaiah extended for all peoples of all nations to join the song of the redeemed.

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1 The Complete Apostles’ Bible. Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.

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