In his prayer Isaiah has shown his confidence in Yahweh’s ultimate purpose. He knows that God will intervene in human affairs and that His judgments will bring long awaited justice. Looking beyond this day he sees the emancipation of God’s people from the cruel hands of rulers who have oppressed them, the peace which they shall enjoy and the extension of the borders of the land. In all this Yahweh, the supreme Lord, is glorified.

Isaiah 26:12–15 Yahweh is the Supreme Ruler. Others Who have Ruled over His People Will Perish, but Yahweh will Redeem Them From All Adversity

Verse 12

“Yahweh thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.”

These words are a continuation of Isaiah’s prayer, which concludes with verse 19 and is followed by God’s answer (v20,21). The prophet longs for the day when he and those who share his hope will be recipients of peace. This “peace” Isaiah knows has been reserved for God’s chosen and is referred to in verse 3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee”. “Peace with God” is available today to all who believe and obey the Prince of Peace (9:6; Rom 5:1). In the coming day of God’s intervention peace will be the result of judgment and will be the fruit of a righteous reign (32:17,18; Psa 72:3–7). It is for this calm following the storm that Isaiah prays.

But he gives a reason why God will appoint “peace for us”, namely, “for thou hast wrought all our works in us”. This is a powerful exhortation and the words are worthy of contemplation. How is it that God “works all our works in us”? When one believes in God, the Word of God becomes the motivating power. Life’s activities are no longer dictated by the “mind of the flesh” but by the knowledge of God’s will and His commandments revealed in His Word. There are a couple of New Testament passages which bear directly upon this fact.

1 Philippians 2:12,13 “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” God works in our lives when we are driven by faith in His Word. In Hebrews 11 we have a catalogue of works done by faith. God was clearly at work in the lives of those listed.

2 John 3:21 “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” Jesus is here making the same point. Men who have read God’s Word sincerely and are seeking to do His will, will inevitably be drawn to Jesus, because the light of God so brightly shone in his words and works. All in harmony with God would be drawn to him by their common purpose: as God was at work in Jesus (John 5:17), so also was He in others attracted to him. They would have no fear of exposure by the light because their deeds, too, were “wrought in God”. See also Hebrews 13:20,21.

Verse 13,14

“Oh Yahweh our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name [rsv but thy name alone we acknowledge]. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased [Heb rephaim], they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.”

Again we might ask the critical question, to whom do these words apply? Are they a reference to the calamities of Israel and Jewry before Messiah was manifested? Or do they also have reference to the “times of the Gentiles”, when saints in Christ were persecuted by civil and religious powers? Some have sought to confine the words to the Babylonian captivity, as yet future in Isaiah’s day, and to the deliverance under Cyrus which Isaiah also predicts (Isa 41–48). The application is broader than that and applies to faithful saints before and after Christ’s first advent. Reference to the ultimate deliverance by resurrection (v19), and the invitation to escape the judgments coming on the inhabitants of the earth (v20,21) make it plain that the ‘Isaiah class’ of all ages are involved.

In verse 13 Isaiah reflects upon the fact that saints have been ruled and oppressed by a long list of tyrants. In the “times of the Gentiles” these would include the emperors of Rome such as Nero, Trajan, Diocletian and the Papal system supported by the “kings of the earth” (Rev 6, 13, 17 etc). While these rulers pursued their own objectives and glory, saints have been trodden underfoot, forbidden as they have been by their Lord to “take the sword” (Rev 13:10; Mat 26:52). But in due time ‘the tables will be turned’ and their Lord will move to vindicate them and assert His majesty. In expectation of this day, when all human power and authority will be crushed under the feet of Christ, Isaiah says, “by thee only will we make mention of thy name”; or, as the rsv translates, “but thy name alone we acknowledge”. This aptly describes the position of saints today, for while called upon to “submit to the powers that be”, their true citizenship is in heaven and it is the fear and love of God that is the real controlling influence in their lives (cp Phil 3: 32 rsv; Heb 11:13–17).

Verse 14 presents an emphatic contrast between the destiny of human lords and the position of Yahweh. He is in total control. He has made man and appointed death as the wages of sin. None can escape His appointment. So while men might wield great power and authority, they only do so for a limited time and under Yahweh’s jurisdiction. The tragedy is that they do not recognize that they exercise such power at His discretion! Their life and breath is in his hand! Stressing their ephemeral hold on power, Isaiah says, “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased they shall not rise”. And why and how has this come about? Because Yahweh is supreme. They are but puppets in His hand. He raises them up for His purpose and “rules in the kingdom of men” (Dan 4:17).When Jesus stood before Pilate, it appeared that Pilate was in control and all power was in his hand. Jesus reminded him that in reality he could have no power against him except it was given him from above (Jn 19:9–11). Pilate has corrupted and mouldered into dust, but Jesus, glorious in immortality, is alive forevermore (Rev 1:18). When authorities and powers have served His purpose He removes them and they pass into oblivion. “Therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish” (cp 24:22; Eccl 9:5).

A doctrinal point arises from verse 14. Isaiah tells us that the oppressors of God’s people “are deceased” and “shall not rise”. Not being responsible to God, as they were ignorant of His purpose, they will not be called upon to answer for their deeds before Christ’s judgment seat. Some other passages which show the hopeless state of men, ignorant of God’s will are Psalm 49:19,20; Jeremiah 51:57; Ephesians 2:1, 12.

Verse 15

“Thou hast increased the nation, O Yahweh, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.”

What is the “nation” here referred to? It is the “righteous nation” of verse 2, which “keepeth truth” and is welcomed into the “city of God” (Heb 11: 16; 12:22; Gal 4:26; Ps 87:5,6). Twice Isaiah exclaims that Yahweh has “increased the nation”. This is in contrast to the demise of all human governments and nations. “The nation” will be “increased” by resurrection (v19). So many saints does Isaiah “see” that he declares that Yahweh has “removed it far unto all the ends of the land”; and the rsv corroborates this, “Thou hast enlarged all the borders of the land”. This is consistent with the preceding thought: if the numbers have been increased, then the borders will need to be extended, a thought often expressed in the Word (cp Isa 49: 18; 54:2,3).

“Thou art glorified”

There is one other idea expressed by Isaiah and that touches upon the overall purpose of God—“thou art glorified”. We “glorify” or honour God when we obey Him and bring forth much fruit (Jn 15:8). In that day when the redeemed stand upon the earth, whose lives have been dedicated to glorifying the Name of their heavenly Father, and they begin the work of “filling the earth with His glory”, the truth of these words will be evident to all.

Conclusion

There are many beautiful thoughts in this prayer of Isaiah with which we can empathise. The circumstances and feelings of the prophets, though removed from us by nearly 3000 years, are equally applicable and relevant to us. His confidences and hopes represent those of us all today. May we continue in this spirit as we anxiously await this day of Divine intervention, when it will be said to Yahweh, “Thou art glorified”.