Coming out of the section where individual nations (13-23) and the whole earth (24) experiences God’s judgment, chapters 25-27 look ahead to “that day” when God brings restoration for His people, Israel, and for “all peoples” (25:7).
Isaiah opens this section with praise, extolling God’s name for the “wonderful things” he has done (1). These deeds had been planned “of old” and carried out with complete faithfulness to God’s purposes and plans. The wonderful works of God Isaiah has in mind centre on the righteous judgment God has brought upon the “city” of the ruthless, turning it to a permanent “heap” of ruins (2). While the city that undergoes divine destruction is not specified here, we may be given a clue as to its identity later in the chapter. The final three verses (10-12) speak of God laying low the fortifications and walls of Moab. If these verses are the back half of an inclusio, then the “city” under judgment could be in Moab, more specifically the city of Madmen (not the play on words in verse 10; the Hebrew word for “dunghill” sounds similar to the Moabite town of Madmen—see Jeremiah 48).
The Lord’s judgment has a sobering effect on “strong peoples” and “ruthless nations” (3). They glorify and fear the Lord (3) as they witness God’s humbling of the proud and his protection of his people. The Lord also shows Himself a “stronghold to the poor” (4); those who had been the victims of the storm and heat of the oppressor, now find shade in God’s protection (5).
Verses 6-8 turn our attention from the ruined city of man to the glorious mountain of God. On this mountain the Lord has prepared a delicious, rich feast “for all peoples” (6). They are invited to enjoy the choices of meats and “aged wine well refined” (6). The poor and needy now luxuriate in the goodness of God.
But that’s not all. The Lord does something unthinkable; He puts death to death. “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever” (7-8). The shroud or veil used to cover the dead is swallowed, no longer to be seen again. The tears caused by death are wiped “from all faces” (8). The disgrace and reproach experienced by His people will be “taken away from all the earth” (8). All these amazing things will happen because God made His plans long ago (1) and has spoken to fulfill them (8). What He says is done.
Those gathered on God’s mountain—His people from all nations—extol the saving goodness of the Lord: “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (9). The waiting has paid off. The sting of death along with reproach and ruin have been swallowed up forever. God’s deliverance has come, and His people are “glad and rejoice in his salvation” (9).
While God’s “hand” of blessing rests on his people (“this mountain”—10, compare with verse 6), his hand of judgment rests on the nation of Moab. The Moabites not only shared a border with Israel, they shared a common ancestry, descending from Abraham’s nephew, Lot (Gen 19:37). However, instead of brotherly affection, the Moabites treated Israel with arrogant derision (Jer 48:27). God’s judgment comes upon Moab, humbling it’s “pompous pride.” The nation is overrun, “trampled down in a dunghill” (10). Moab’s high walls and fortifications are pictured as lying in ruins, “cast to the ground, to the dust” (12).
Behold Your God
The Lord carries out his ancient purposes. Isaiah begins this chapter by extolling and praising the name of the Lord who makes plans “of old” and carries them out in a “faithful and sure” way (1). History is not careening out of control. While the proud and ruthless have their way for a time, God will intervene to bring them low (2-3, 10-12). Knowing this should give perspective and peace to us as we live in a world where wrong seems strong. God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished in His time.
The Lord brings both destruction and deliverance. While the Lord brings the city of man to ruin (2-3), He also brings His people through the many dangers, toils and snares they face. In the midst of stormy, searing times, the Lord is a shelter and the Lord gives shade to His people (4-5). One day, He will still the storms for good, bringing His people home to His holy mountain where they will feast on His goodness forever (6).
The Lord will one day put death to death. In a world where death reigns, the Lord promises to put death to death. “And he will swallow up death forever and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (8). These golden words, quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:54 and John in Rev 7:17, give great hope. The separation and suffering brought about by death will be swallowed up by life. Praise God!
Here Am I
I must wait in hope for the Lord to bring final salvation. Knowing the name of the Lord is a strong tower (Prov 18:10) and that His eternal plans and purposes will be accomplished (Ps. 33:11; Eph 1:9-10), I can wait on the Lord to bring about His promised salvation. He has already saved me from the penalty of sin; one day I (and all who trust in Him) will experience salvation from the presence of sin. Until that day, I wait in eager expectation (Rom 8:24-25). As I wait, fixing my eyes on what is unseen and eternal (2 Cor 4:18), I don’t lose heart (2 Cor 4:16) but gain new strength to carry on (Isa 40:30-31).
I can rejoice that God will put death to death. In a world where our faces are wet with tears from the sadness brought by sin and death, I can hold on to hope. More than that, I can join Isaiah in saying, “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name for you have done wonderful things, plans formed from of old, faithful and sure” (1). Even so come, Lord Jesus.