Isaiah 26:12-27:13 Redemption of the Weeds
Updated: May 5
The grand story began with two people in a garden who didn’t trust the One who created them to provide for them what was best. It continued with an impatient couple who decided to hurry God along and so gave birth to a people who would oppose God’s chosen and contest God’s plan from that time in history until today.
God's chosen grew into a multitude who could hear God’s voice but wouldn’t get close enough to see His face. They called themselves by His name but worshiped the gods of their neighbors. They cried out for a king so they could be just like the nations around them and they got their wish: they became just like the nations around them. Israel looked for deliverance from their fair-weather friends instead of their faithful God, and Judah languished in self-reliance, convinced that their lineage was enough to make them holy. Their shallow understanding of what it meant to be the people of God gave birth to a nation that held tight to religion but let their hearts wander far from God.
After centuries of delaying their destiny with a casual approach to a holy God, they became a nation subject to each successive empire rather than the model of a kingdom marked for eternity.
And yet, here we are, considering a song written about them way back in 750 BC foretelling an event that would happen at least 28 centuries after it was written. All because Isaiah, in the middle of a mess, heard the song that disobedient, headstrong, and clueless people would be singing at the end of the day.
When last we met, the redeemed remnant was walking toward the gates of God’s city, entering into a time of peace prepared for them by the Author of the story. Within the gates of the city, they would experience for the first time a kingdom ruled by a good and perfect king. There, they would experience what the Eternal One had planned for them before the beginning of time.
Eternal One, You are preparing peace for us; in fact, everything we have accomplished has come from You. Others have tried to rule over us, but You, Eternal One, are our God. At the end of the day, when all is done, we acknowledge only You. (Isaiah 26)
This song is one big “Woo-hoo!”—a song proclaiming the total defeat of the bullies and the forgetfulness that comes from true freedom. The singers are vital and strong, solid in the knowledge that the triumph of their deliverance was all of God and not of them. (verses 12-14)
You have expanded the borders of this land (verse 15).
Clearly, this song is for the future. When God promised Abraham a land, He said it would stretch from Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18-21). Today we see Abraham’s descendants scrapping for a piece of real estate the size of New Jersey.
But that’s all going to change. God will expand the borders, His people sing, not of “our land,” but of “this land.” What could this mean except the people of God will finally catch on to His vision? That what God had given them to steward was a gateway for the world? He promised that the harvest of the last days will be accomplished by an extraordinary revelation of Himself through His all of redeemed—His one body, filled with life, displaying His glory in the midst of chaos and fear.
Back to the song. The singers haven’t forgotten that things weren’t always this way. They had been corrected, chastised, defeated and humiliated time and time again, all the while working, working, working to hold on to what they had, rather than trusting the God who said it was theirs.
Lord, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer.
As a pregnant woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pain,
so were we in your presence, Lord.
We were with child, we writhed in labor,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth,
and the people of the world have not come to life. (verses 16-18)
In all fairness, the Israelites weren’t the only ones without the smarts to bring redemption to the world. We haven’t done much better in revealing the King and His kingdom. Lots of effort. Lots of wind.
Your dead will live; their lifeless bodies will rise up again!
I’m not sure how this squares with verse 14 above: The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; therefore You have punished and destroyed them, because here in verse 19 Isaiah says, You who sleep in the dust, get up and shout for joy! The dew of a new day will wash you glistening fresh, and the earth will push forth those who had passed before.
Daniel saw the same thing in his vision:
Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. And those who have insight will shine like the glow of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)
He says that those who have insight will “lead many to righteousness.” I guess all I can say is it’s not over until it’s over. Any ideas out there?
Regarding this time of distress Daniel warned about, Isaiah said:
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
the earth will conceal its slain no longer. (verses 20-21)
There is that to consider, isn’t there? Tribulation. A time of distress. We who are alive and remain will have to navigate that before we get to see the Kingdom in its fullness. I don’t focus on it much because there’s much I don’t understand. There are lots of opinions out there about “the Great Tribulation.” Who goes through it and who doesn’t, how they escape it and when they do. But Isaiah assures us of this: there is a place to hide while God makes all things right, and it will only be ”a little while” until His anger has passed.
At the beginning of chapter 27, Isaiah promises us that ”Leviathan”— the forces of evil at work in the world—will be destroyed. It’s not a bloody battle though. The sword of the Lord, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17), is all it takes to put an end to the power of the enemy. I find it fascinating that Isaiah describes Leviathan as a gliding serpent, a coiling serpent, and the monster of the sea. Air, earth, and sea—all of creation, all that was given to Adam to steward—will be set free from the alien powers that have no business in man's domain.
After such a somber, violent verse as verse 1, the transition in verse 2 is startling! Yet that’s how it is in the realm of God. While the Lord is “removing everything that hinders love,” He is rejoicing in His beautiful vineyard:
“A vineyard of beauty, sing of it!
I, the Lord, am its keeper;
I water it every moment.
So that no one will damage it,
I guard it night and day.”
Now here are some most amazing verses, direct quotes from the Destroyer and Protector:
”I am empty of anger.”
Wow. When God lets go, He lets go: Sin. Judgment. Over.
And then there’s this:
”If only there were briers and thorns confronting me!
I would march against them in battle;
I would set them all on fire.
Or else let them come to me for refuge;
let them make peace with me,
yes, let them make peace with me.”
Thank God for “or.” Dealing with weeds is not an act of anger, but the work of a diligent gardener watching over his garden for the sake of the harvest. This gardener, however, goes further than most. He offers redemption even to the weeds.
In the days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will blossom and sprout,
And they will fill the whole world with fruit. (verse 6)
I guess I never really thought about the fruit of Israel, but it’s become obvious to me now. The fruit of the Spirit of God—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—is more than a checklist for self-examination. It’s a revelation of the God who embodies those things. So Abraham was promised a whole earth full of descendants, and those descendants were to reveal the nature of the God that Abraham followed. They were to take root in a hostile land, to “blossom and sprout,” to draw the attention of the world. Once the tribes of the earth could see the God of Israel in the lives of His people they would become the fruit of Israel’s existence.
When Israel proved unproductive, we were “grafted in,“ not to replace Israel, but to make them jealous for their vine. When they see why they were chosen and what they were chosen for, they will be grafted back in to help us get ‘er done (Romans 11).
In verses 7-9, Isaiah reminds Israel that God’s discipline for her has always been with restraint. “By driving her away, You have dealt with her.” Rather than destroying her, He sent her into exile, and always with the promise of return. Her uprooting was not for punishment but for discipline. Her exile was the atonement for her sin, the smashing of her idols for her redemption.
God will use Israel’s opposition to convince His people they are nothing without Him, and when her humbling is complete, the self-sufficient city of Israel’s enemies will be left empty. Refusing to turn to their Creator in the face of overwhelming evidence that He is good, they will put themselves out of the reach of His compassion. (verses 10-11)
But on that day, with blinders off, they will see the fulfillment of the Genesis 15 promise:
On that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing stream of the Euphrates River to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, you sons of Israel.
It will come about also on that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem. (verses 12-13)
So there it is again. Both the perishing and the scattered will approach the holy mountain to worship their Creator and King.
Isaiah and I keep returning to this one theme—the salvation of all who have not put themselves out of His reach. If you think we make much of it, you’re right! This is the good news of the gospel.