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. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock…. The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. In the path of your judgements, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.. O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works.
(Isa 26.1-4,7-9 & 12)
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
As a follower of Jesus, I live in an in-between time, a waiting and watching time, and yet a time when my Lord commands my full commitment to living with and for him in the present and place where I am. For over two millenia, Christians have existed with this tension, and still we wait, reading history through the lens of God’s revelation of his ways with humankind, and discerning how as time goes by, the truth of that revelation is underscored again and again. Therefore, we wait in hope, as those who are confident in the fulfillment of their expectations and content to be busy meanwhile about their master’s business. I cannot know when he will return, but I want to be actively working and worshipping when he comes!
The passage in Isaiah is a meditation on what it is like to inhabit this now-and-not-yet state; to be saved and yet still live with temptations; to be on the victor’s side and yet still experience the pain and damage of warfare; to be transformed into God’s beloved children and yet still live in a world and with people who do not know him and with all the devastating consequences of sin. The believer recognises that peace is the gift of God, indeed, all that is needed for our salvation and eternal life is from God’s gracious hand. It is his choice to make us secure in his family and give us an inheritance in the city of salvation which he has made. It is by God’s grace that we are able to keep faith, in spite of sin and failing in this world, to go on desiring his glory and a better, closer, truer relationship with him every day.
As we choose to live according to his judgements, accepting his definition of right and wrong, living within the boundaries which he lovingly appoints for us, we walk in his paths. As we choose to accept those troubles which he judges permissible, living in a fallen world, under all the consequences of our sins and those of others, accepting them by faith as his decrees and continuing to seek his glory and to obey him, then we walk in his paths. In both those kinds of walking, we are waiting for God to reveal himself through our lives to others – to demonstrate his grace and goodness and love and speak to them.
As I go into another year, with trouble on all sides and many voices clamouring for my attention, I pray that – with Isaiah – I might say the name and renown of the Lord is the desire of my heart, and that I yearn day and night to know and honour him more. I pray that I might trust that the peace which is my portion in Jesus is indeed fully mine – that I might face trials steadily and base my life in God’s promises and the knowledge that he makes my path smooth as I follow in faith where he leads. I am on the way home, to a glory, a love, a family all beyond my wildest dreams; let my heart therefore not be troubled as I walk through this shadowy realm, waiting on the Lord in my spirit and finding him ever present as my unshakeable rock and salvation.