Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Gospel Song of Security and Peace - Isaiah 26

"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.
Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter,
The one that remains faithful.
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because He trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock."
(vs 1-4)

It is only proper that chapter 26 begins with a song. Isaiah has given us a gospel hymn and it is a fitting one in light of all of the gospel grace that has just been proclaimed. Chapter 25 was full of grand promises to those who are in covenant with God. Be reminded of a few of them:

  • He is my God. (vs 1)
  • He has worked wonders.(vs 1)
  • His plans were formed long ago with perfect faithfulness.(vs1)
  • He is a defense for the helpless. (vs 4)
  • He is a defense for the needy in his distress. (vs 4)
  • He is a refuge from the storm.(vs 4)
  • He is a shade from the heat. (vs 4)
  • He prepares a lavish feast for all the people of His mountain. (vs 6)
  • He has swallowed up death for all time. (vs 8)
  • He will wipe tears away from all faces. (vs 8)
  • He will remove the reproach of His people. (vs 8)

It is definitely time for a song - and what a glorious song it is!

+ The first thing sung about is God's protection of His church. "We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security" (vs 1).

Though the church often seems weak in these days, the reality is that she is strong, she is safe, and she is secure. Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. She is a strong city, not because of anything in her but, because HE is in and around her. It is God who has set up walls and ramparts. He is her security. We have nothing to boast in but our God. He alone is our strength and shield, and in Him we have our trust.

+ The second section of this song rings out the reality of the welcoming nature of the gospel. "Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter" (vs 2). The gates are flung open that those who have been robed in the righteousness of Christ may enter into this safe place. The gospel call is universal. Whosover will may come. There is room, flee into the city while the gates are open.

+ The third stanza holds forth a song of peace and it is at this point that I am convicted this morning. "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You" (vs 3).

Oh, what a sweet section of this song. There is much turmoil in life. There is much that tempts us to fret and fear. Our eyes are often taken off of our Savior. The waves regularly crash against our boat. The storms often pound upon our windows. We are rarely a people of peace. Here, in this song, Isaiah gives us the remedy. He gives us the sure answer for peace.

Notice who it is that is kept in perfect peace. It is "the steadfast of mind." It is he who "trusts in You."

Peace is a gospel grace that is given and grown in the same way that all others gospel graces are. Its not a magic pill that we swallow and voila!

First, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 6). Peace is a work of God! We can't just conjure up peace all on our own - it cannot be done, not in the true meaning of the word. We must have His Spirit indwelling us. That Spirit is given to us when we have repented of our sins and have by faith begun to rest in Christ to save us from those sins. True repentance and faith are evidenced in our taking up our cross and following Him daily. Once we are saved by grace we begin to walk in grace. Being "in Christ" is the first step to real peace.

If we are in Christ, we have the Spirit dwelling within. Through Him all the gracious means are available to us that are necessary for peace. However, notice from this song that it is not simply some mystical remedy that falls on us from heaven. No, we are to apply the means of grace in our current situations!

I often hear my friends speaking of being filled by the Spirit in some abstract terms. Rarely do I hear a tangible definition of what that is. Yet, the Scripture gives us a tangible description in Ephesians when it tells us "do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit." In the same way that I will NEVER get drunk simply by walking down the street and having a bottle of wine fall from the sky and land in my mouth, I will also NEVER be filled with the Spirit by simply sitting on my sofa waiting for Him to fall on me.

That is not the way it happens. The analogy of drunkenness in Ephesians is so practical. To get drunk with wine I must take the bottle. I must pick it up. I must put it to my lips. I must drink. The more I drink, the more I become controlled by the wine. In the exact same way, if I am to be filled with the Holy Spirit I must take the means of grace (Acts 2:42). I must pick up my Bible and read, go to church and sit under the preaching, get on my knees and pray, partake of the Lord's Supper and be baptized, and fellowship with the saints. I must pick up the means of grace and injest them into my life. The more I drink of them, the more I become controlled/filled by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, we must have the Holy Spirit to have peace and we must be constantly filling ourselves with the Holy Spirit to have peace. We will not have peace if we are running on fumes. Therefore, secondly, peace comes from being "steadfast of mind". We are "transformed by the renewing of our mind." (Rom 12:2)

Am I in turmoil? Then what is the condition of my mind? What things am I thinking on? Am I dwelling on my circumstances or on the God of those circumstances? Hear the words of Paul in Phillipians 4. They are a remarkable parallel to Isaiah 26:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."

Am I thinking on what is "true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise" (Ph 4)? Or am I thinking on the opposite of each of those? Is my mind "dwelling" on these things or am I simply tossing up the occaisional flare prayer for peace? Is my mind "steadfast"? Am I taking "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Co 10:5)? Am I trusting in my God or am I, like Peter looking at the water I need to walk on more than at the Savior?

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because He trusts in You."

Oh my great God, I must confess I am not often "steadfast of mind" and my thoughts dwell much more on the "what ifs" than on You. You are my God and the gospel promises are mine by covenant mercy. Help me, this day and always to "Trust in the LORD, forever, for in God the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock." Grant me peace, help me sing. AMEN.

Humbled and needy,


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