Doesn’t it seem like Isaiah is just judgment upon judgment upon judgment? He seems to move from one prophecy of doom to the next without a breath. I think that’s why chapter 26 seems so refreshing when I read it now. Israel will rejoice in God’s deliverance of them and declare their admiration and worship of Him. Several of the encouraging verses we commonly hear quoted from Isaiah come from this chapter: verse 3 (“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”), verse 8 (“Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you;your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”), and verse 13 (“Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.”). Great stuff.
One thing that has struck me in the past few chapters of Isaiah is illustrated by one of the “other” verses here in chapter 26, one of the ones I’ve never heard quoted, and I wanted to bring attention to it. Verse 5 says, “He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.”It doesn’t even say that the “lofty city” is doing anything particularly wrong, just that there is a sin in overly exalting oneself. Maybe it’s just my reading, but it seems to me that many of the judgment prophecies Isaiah has given for the cities and nations in the past collection of chapters have been not for the “really bad” sins like violence, sexual misconduct, greed, etc. Many of them seem to be nothing more than a judgment upon the pride of considering themselves to be special and exalted. Pride is one of the “respectable” sins that I think we Christians tend to overlook in ourselves, and tend to excuse in “successful” people. If they (or we) earned it, then who’s to say anything, right?
The problem is that God doesn’t share this same ambivalent attitude toward pride. There is nothing we achieve that He didn’t make possible, and no success comes except from His benevolence. No human (or city or nation) has the right to think of himself as such a hotshot that the world needs to bend to accommodate him in some way. Even apart from anything else being done wrong, that offends God and invites His judgment. I need to remind myself to give God His due, and consider myself and my relative importance in an appropriate light. In Philippians 2:6-8, where we are exhorted to follow Christ’s example, look at what verbs are used to describe His attitude: “emptied Himself”, “assuming the form of a slave”, “humbled Himself”, “becoming obedient”. May these same words describe me as I seek to follow His example.