In the opening verses of Isaiah 26 there is great rejoicing for the deliverance Yahweh has wrought for His chosen.  The righteous nation which has preserved the truth is invited to enter Zion in which perfect peace is found. The great  lesson in Hezekiah’s day when he confronted the Assyrian challenge, was to trust in Yahweh, for He is the “Rock  of ages”. The greater fulfilment reaches forward to days yet in the future when the saints of all ages will triumph in  Yahweh being part of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21), when the rival city, Babylon the Great, will be trodden down.

Isaiah 26:7–11 Yahweh is Addressed. The Earnest Longing of the Upright for the Justice of Yahweh in View of Human Perversity

Verses 7,8

“The way of the just [zedek] is uprightness [rsv  level]: thou, most upright, dost weigh [rsv make  smooth] the path of the just [zedek].

Yea, in the way of thy judgments [mishpat], O  Yahweh, have we waited for thee; the desire of  our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee [rsv thy memorial name is the desire of  our soul].

These are the opening words of a personal prayer of the prophet Isaiah himself, in which we get an insight into his mind, his earnestness, and his hope. In verse 7 he makes a comment upon “the way” or character of the just or upright man. Acknowledging that Yahweh is the most upright One, he says He “weighs” or “makes smooth” (rsv, mlb, cp roth “makes level”) the path of the just. In the prophet’s understanding of his God, He is seen as interested in the characters of men. There is an affinity between Yahweh and the righteous: “Yahweh knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly [wicked] shall perish” (Psa 1:6; 2 Tim 2:19). The characters of men are subject to His scrutiny and they will be ultimately judged accordingly. Isaiah has great confidence in Yahweh to “judge righteous judgment”, calling Him “most upright” (cp Gen 18:25). In view of this he declares that He will vindicate the just or “make smooth” their path.

Verse 8 tells us of Isaiah’s attitude in view of the delay in the outpouring of Yahweh’s judgment upon evil doers. He is prepared to wait for the ultimate intervention of God in human affairs, which he knows and believes will take place at its appointed time. This disposition of trust and patience is an important quality for saints today to have (cp Hab 2:2–3; Rev 1:9; 6:9,10; 14:12,13). We believe that in the end God will prevail, despite the fact that so much at present seems to be in conflict with His laws (cp Psalm 37).

“Thy memorial name is the desire of our heart”  (rsv)

This is an interesting element in Isaiah’s prayer. Yahweh, the memorial name of the Deity, was given at a time when the national existence of Israel was in jeopardy (Exod 3). It was to be “his memorial to all generations” (v15). Yahweh is the covenant name of God and the guarantee that His purpose with Israel will be fulfilled, and that they shall never perish, like the burning bush (v2; Mal 3:6; Exod 6:6–8). Their ultimate redemption comes about because of the Name: “Thus saith the Lord Yahweh; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake… And I will sanctify [rsv vindicate] my great name, which was profaned among the heathen… and the heathen shall know that I am Yahweh… For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land” (Ezek 36:22–25). In the context of this prophecy the above words are significant, as Isaiah is also concerned for the deliverance of “his people” (v11 rsv).

Verse 9

With my soul have I desired thee in the night;  yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee  early:

for when thy judgments [mishpat] are in the  earth, the inhabitants of the earth will learn  righteousness [zedek].”

We have in this verse an insight into the prophet’s thinking and desires. They are strongly expressed.

“My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee” (rsv). There is despair at any hope of reform while human hands hold the reigns of government. No satisfactory, just or lasting solutions for the injustices ingrained in human society will eventuate under man’s rule. The subsequent 2500 years of human government have only corroborated the fact that this assessment is right. So therefore saints today, beholding the chaotic state of human affairs, echo Isaiah’s yearnings and pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Isaiah himself looks for the day of Divine intervention as the only hope for the inhabitants of the earth “learning righteousness”. Only after the judgments of God have humbled the pride of man will man be in a fit state of mind, and be amenable to God’s righteous and just laws. This is the message common to all the prophetic Word (Isaiah 2:2–4, 10–22; 9:6–8; 11:1–10; 32:1–4, 15–18; Jer 3:17; 23:5,6 etc).

Verse 10

“Let favour [charun, grace] be showed to the  wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the  land of uprightness [roth honest dealings] will he  deal unjustly [roth act perversely], and will not behold the majesty of Yahweh.”

Isaiah has observed the abysmal ways of the wicked. There are two thoughts set out in parallel that emphasize human perversity.

1 The wicked do not respond and change their ways when the “favour” or grace is shown to them. God sends rain upon the just and the unjust alike, but though they are the recipients of His bounty and blessings men do not acknowledge His goodness and turn to Him (Matt 5:45). God’s love in the giving of His Son for the salvation of all has not brought forth a ready response from all (John 3:16). Paul laments for the same reasons as Isaiah: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom 2:4).

2 In a land of honest dealings, governed by just and righteous laws, men generally will not espouse those principles and change their ways. They will still try to ‘use’ this system for their own selfish ends. “In the land of uprightness they will deal unjustly and will not behold the majesty of Yahweh.” This fact explains why, at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, there will be a rebellion (Rev 20:7–9). It has often been said that such a rebellion after 1000 years of the righteous reign of Christ, in which God’s laws will be obeyed, could not occur. But human nature does not change. The same lusts will be there. With the removal of restraints upon men when the saints are withdrawn in to Jerusalem, ambitious leaders will arise and the nations will be deceived. They shall be gathered together to battle against “the beloved city”, only to be devoured by “fire from heaven”.

Verse 11

“Yahweh, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.”

The sense of this verse is well expressed in the Modern Language Bible as follows: “Though thy hand was lifted up, Yahweh, they refused to look; let them see thy zeal for thy people and be ashamed. Yes, Yahweh, let thy fire for thy enemies consume them”. The rsv and Rotherham are much the same. Yahweh’s hand is “lifted up” when He pours out judgment, as upon Egypt (Exod 15:6,12; cp Psa 118:16).

Rather than reference being made to the “envy” (av) of nations for God’s people, a consensus of versions translates this word as “zeal”, which the Hebrew word can also mean. Isaiah longs for the day of God’s intervention in the affairs of the nations when His zeal for “His people” will be manifest. Armageddon will involve all the nations being gathered against Jerusalem to battle and Yahweh then intervening to destroy their armies and vindicate “His people”. (cp Deut 32:35,36, 41–43; Ezek 38:18–23; Joel 3:1–4; Zech 12:8,9)

The sentiments expressed by the prophet Micah as he represents his people are identical to those of his contemporary prophet Isaiah when he says, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise… I will bear the indignation of Yahweh, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, “Where is Yahweh thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as mire of the streets” (Micah 7:8–10, see also verses 16,17).

Yea the fire of thine enemies shall devour them

rsv “Let the fire for thy adversaries consume them”.  Here Isaiah beseeches God to consume the enemies of Israel with the fire that He has appointed especially for them. Fire is one of the agents the prophets frequently mention as being reserved for the enemies  of God’s people (cp 2 Thess 1:8 “… in flaming fire  taking vengeance on them that know not God…” ;  2:8; Ezek 38:22; Isa 66:15; Psa 21:8,9).

Conclusion

Isaiah’s prayer shows how much he longed for the kingdom of God to come. He despairs of justice being done without God directly intervening. Our sentiments today are the same as we see the rising tide of evil and man’s pathetic attempts to “do justly”. With Habakkuk, Isaiah and all faithful men we “will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come on those who invade” God’s chosen people (Hab 3:16 rsv).