Isaiah 26:1
In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.
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(1) In that day shall this song be sung . . .—The prophet appears once more, as in Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 12:4, in the character of a psalmist, and what he writes is destined for nothing less than the worship of the new city of the heavenly kingdom.

Salvation will God appoint for walls.—Better, salvation He appoints. The walls of the heavenly city are not of stone or brick, but are themselves as a living force, saving and protecting. The same characteristic thought appears in Isaiah 60:18.




Isaiah 26:1 - Isaiah 26:2

What day is ‘that day’? The answer carries us back a couple of chapters, to the great picture drawn by the prophet of a world-wide judgment, which is followed by a burst of song from the ransomed people of Jehovah, like Miriam’s chant by the shores of the Red Sea. The ‘city of confusion,’ the centre of the power hostile to God and man, falls; and its fall is welcomed by a chorus of praises. The words of my text are the beginning of one of these songs. Whether or not there were any historical event which floated before the prophet’s mind is wholly uncertain. If there were a smaller judgment upon some city of the enemy, it passes in his view into a world-wide judgment; and my text is purely ideal, imaginative, and apocalyptic. Its nearest ally is the similar vision of the Book of the Revelation, where, when Babylon sank with a splash like a millstone in the stream, the ransomed people raised their praises.

So, then, whatever may have been the immediate horizon of the prophet, and though, there may have stood on it some historical event, the city which he sees falling is other than any material Babylon, and the strong city in which he rejoices is other than the material Jerusalem, though it may have suggested the metaphor of my text. The song fits our lips quite as closely as it did the lips from which it first sprang, thrilling with triumph: ‘We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.’

There are three things, then, here: the city, its defences, its citizens.

I. The City.

Now, no doubt the prophet was thinking of the literal Jerusalem; but the city is ideal, as is shown by the bulwarks which defend, and by the qualifications which permit entrance. And so we must pass beyond the literalities of Palestine, and, as I think, must not apply the symbol to any visible institution or organisation if we are to come to the depth and greatness of the meaning of these words. No church which is organised amongst men can be the New Testament representation of this strong city. And if the explanation is to be looked for in that direction at all, it can only be the invisible aggregate of ransomed souls which is regarded as being the Zion of the prophecy.

But perhaps even that is too definite and hard. And we are rather to think of the unseen but existent order of things or polity to which men here on earth may belong, and which will one day, after shocks and convulsions that shatter all which is merely institutional and human, be manifested still more gloriously.

The central thought that was moving in the prophet’s mind is that of the indestructible vitality of the true Israel, and the order which it represented, of which Jerusalem on its rock was but to him a symbol. And thus for us the lesson is that, apart altogether from the existing and visible order of things in which we dwell, there is a polity to which we may belong, for ‘ye are come unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God,’ and that that order is indestructible. Convulsions come, every Babylon falls, all human institutions change and pass. ‘The kingdoms old’ are ‘cast into another mould.’ But persistent through them all, and at the last, high above them all, will stand the stable polity of Heaven, ‘the city which hath the foundations.’

There is a lesson for us, brethren, in times of fluctuation, of change of opinion, of shaking of institutions, and of new social, economical, and political questions, threatening day by day to reorganise society. ‘We have a strong city’; and whatever may come-and much destructive will come, and much that is venerable and antique, rooted in men’s prejudices, and having survived through and oppressed the centuries, will have to go; but God’s polity, His form of human society of which the perfect ideal and antitype, so to speak, lies concealed in the heavens, is everlasting. Therefore, whatsoever changes, whatsoever ancient and venerable things come to be regarded as of no account, howsoever the nations, like clay in the hands of the potter, may have to assume new forms, as certainly they will, yet the foundation of God standeth sure. And for Christian men in revolutionary epochs, whether these revolutions affect the forms in which truth is grasped, or whether they affect the moulds into which society is run, the only worthy temper is the calm, triumphant expectation that through all the dust, contradiction, and distraction, the fair city of God will be brought nearer and made more manifest to man. Isaiah, or whoever was the writer of these great words of my text, stayed his own and his people’s hearts in a time of confusion and distress, by the thought that it was only Babylon that could fall, and that Jerusalem was the possessor of a charmed, immortal life.

This strong city, the order of human society which God has appointed, and which exists, though it be hidden in the heavens, will be manifested one day when, like the fair vision of the goddess rising from amidst the ocean’s foam, and shedding peace and beauty over the charmed waves, there will emerge from all the wild confusion and tossing billows of the sea of the peoples the fair form of the ‘Bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ There shall be an apocalypse of the city, and whether the old words which catch up the spirit of my text, and speak of that Holy City as ‘descending from heaven’ upon earth, at the close of the history of the world, are to be taken, as perhaps they are, as expressive of the truth that a renewed earth is to be the dwelling of the ransomed or no, this at least is clear, that the city shall be revealed, and when Babylon is swept away, Zion shall stand.

To this city-existent, immortal, and waiting to be revealed-you and I may belong to-day. ‘We have a strong city.’ You may lay hold of life either by the side of it which is transient and trivial and contemptible, or by the side of it which goes down through all the mutable and is rooted in eternity. As in some seaweed, far out in the depths of the ocean, the tiny frond that floats upon the billow goes down and down and down, by filaments that bind it to the basal rock, so the most insignificant act of our fleeting days has a hold upon eternity, and life in all its moments may be knit to the permanent. We may unite our lives with the surface of time or with the centre of eternity. Though we dwell in tabernacles, we may still be ‘come to Mount Zion,’ and all life be awful, noble, solemn, religions, because it is all connected with the unseen city across the seas. It is for us to determine to which of these orders-the perishable, noisy and intrusive and persistent in its appeals, or the calm, silent, most real, eternal order beyond the stars-our petty lives shall attach themselves.

II. Now note, secondly, the defences.

‘Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.’ This ‘evangelical prophet,’ as he has been called, is distinguished, not only by the clearness of his anticipations of Jesus Christ and His work, but by the fulness and depth which he attaches to that word ‘salvation.’ He all but anticipates the New Testament completeness and fulness of meaning, and lifts it from all merely material associations of earthly or transitory deliverance, into the sphere in which we are accustomed to regard it as especially moving. By ‘salvation’ he means and we mean, not only negative but positive blessings. Negatively it includes the removal of every conceivable or endurable evil, ‘all the ills that flesh is heir to,’ whether they be evils of sin or evils of sorrow; and, positively, the investiture with every possible good that humanity is capable of, whether it be good of goodness, or good of happiness. This is what the prophet tells us is the wall and bulwark of his ideal-real city.

Mark the eloquent omission of the name of the builder of the wall. ‘God’ is a supplement. Salvation ‘will He appoint for walls and bulwarks.’ No need to say who it is that flings such a fortification around the city. There is only one hand that can trace the lines of such walls; only one hand that can pile their stones; only one that can lay them, as the walls of Jericho were laid, in the blood of His first-born Son. ‘Salvation will He appoint for walls and bulwarks.’ That is to say in a highly imaginative and picturesque form, that the defense of the City is God Himself; and it is substantially a parallel with other words which speak about Him as being ‘a wall of fire round about it and the glory in the midst of it.’ The fact of salvation is the wall and the bulwark. And the consciousness of the fact and the sense of possessing it, is for our poor hearts, one of our best defenses against both the evil of sin and the evil of sorrow. For nothing so robs temptation of its power, so lightens the pressure of calamities, and draws the poison from the fangs of sin and sorrow, as the assurance that the loving purpose of God to save grasps and keeps us. They who shelter behind that wall, feel that between them and sin, and them and sorrow, there rises the inexpugnable defense of an Almighty purpose and power to save, lie safe whatever betides. There is no need of other defenses. Zion

‘Needs no bulwarks,

No towers along the steep.’

God Himself is the shield and none other is required.

So, brethren, let us walk by the faith that is always confident, though it depends on an unseen hand. It is a grand thing to be able to stand, as it were, in the open, a mark for all ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ and yet to feel that around us there are walls most real, though invisible, which permit no harm to come to us. Our feeble sense-bound souls much prefer a visible wall. We, like a handrail on the stair. Though it does not at all guard the descent, it keeps our heads from getting dizzy. It is hard for us, as some travellers may have to do, to walk with steady foot and unthrobbing heart along a narrow ledge of rock with beetling precipice above us and black depths beneath, and we would like a little bit of a wall of some sort, for imagination if not for reality, between us and the sheer descent. But it is blessed to learn that naked we are clothed, solitary we have a Companion, and unarmed we have our defenceless heads covered with the shadow of the great wing, which, though sense sees it not, faith knows is there. A servant of God is never without a friend, and when most unsheltered

‘From marge to blue marge

The whole sky grows his targe,

With sun’s self for visible boss,’

beneath which he lies safe.

‘Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks,’ and if we realise, as we ought to do, His purpose to keep us safe, and His power to keep us safe, and the actual operation of His hand keeping us safe at every moment, we shall not ask that these defences shall be supplemented by the poor feeble earthworks that sense can throw up.

III. Lastly, note the citizens.

Our text is part of a ‘song,’ and is not to be interpreted in the cold-blooded fashion that might suit prose. A voice, coming from whom we know not, breaks in upon the first strain with a command, addressed to whom we know not-’Open ye the gates’-the city thus far being supposed to be empty-’that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.’ The central idea there is just this, ‘Thy people shall be all righteous.’ The one qualification for entrance into the city is absolute purity.

Now, brethren, that is true in regard to our present imperfect denizenship within the city; and it is true in regard to men’s passing into it in its perfect and final form. As to the former, there is nothing that you Christian people need more to have dinned into you than this, that your continuance in the state of a redeemed man, with all the security and blessing that attach thereto, depends upon your continuing to be righteous. Every sin, every flaw, every dropping beneath our own standard in conscience of what we ought to be, has for its inevitable result that we are robbed for the time being of consciousness of the walls of the city being about us and of our being citizens thereof. ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?’ The New Testament, as emphatically as the old psalm, answers,’ He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.’ ‘Let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous.’ There is no way by which Christian men here on earth can pass into and keep within the city of the living God, except they possess personal purity, righteousness of life, and cleanness of heart.

They used to say that Venice glass was so made that any poison poured into it shivered the vessel. Any drop of sin poured into your cup of communion with God, shatters the cup and spills the wine. Whosoever thinks himself a citizen of that great city, if he falls into transgression, and soils the cleanness of his hands, and ruffles the calm of his pure heart by self-willed sinfulness, will wake to find himself not within the battlements, but lying wounded, robbed, solitary, in the pitiless desert. My brother, it is ‘the righteous nation’ that ‘enters in,’ even here on earth.

I do not need to remind you how, admittedly by us all, that is the case in regard to the final form of the city of our God, into which nothing shall enter ‘that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie.’ Heaven can only be entered into hereafter by, as here and now it can only enter into, those who are pure of heart. All else there would shrivel as foul things born In the darkness do in the light, and be consumed in the fire. None but the pure can enter and see God.

‘The nation which keepeth the truth’-that does not mean adherence to any revelation, or true creed, or the like. The word which is employed means, not truth of thought, but truth of character; and might, perhaps, be better represented by the more familiar word in such a connection, ‘faithfulness.’ A man who is true to God, keeping up a faithful relation to Him who is faithful to us, he, and only he, will pass into, and abide in, the city.

Now, brethren, so far our text carries us, but no further; unless, perhaps, there may be a hint of something yet deeper in the next clause of this song. If any one asks, How does the nation become righteous? the answer may lie in the immediately following exhortation-’Trust ye in the Lord for ever.’ But whether that be so or not, if we want an answer to the questions, How can my stained feet be cleansed so as to be fit to tread the crystal pavements? how can my foul garments be so purged as not to be a blot and an eyesore, beside the white, lustrous robes that sweep along them and gather no defilement there? the only answer that I know of is to be found by turning to the final visions of the New Testament, where the spirit of this whole section of our prophet is reproduced. Again, Babylon falls amidst the songs of saints; and then, down upon all the dust and confusion of the crash of ruin, the seer beholds the Lamb’s wife, the new Jerusalem, descending from above. To his happy eyes its glories are unveiled, its golden streets, its open gates, its walls of precious stones, its flashing river, its peaceful inhabitants, its light streaming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And when that vision passes, his last message to us is, ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes that they may enter through the gates into the city.’ None but those who wash their garments, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, can, living, come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; or, dying, can pass through the iron gate that opens to them of its own accord, and find themselves as day breaks in the street of the Jerusalem which is above.

Isaiah 26:1-2. In that day — When God shall do such glorious works for the comfort of his people, as are described in the foregoing chapter; shall this song be sung in the land of Judah — In the church of God, often signified by the titles of Judah, Jerusalem, Zion, and the like. We have a strong city — Jerusalem, or the church, which is often compared to a city. Salvation will God appoint, &c. — God’s immediate and saving protection shall be to his church instead of walls. Open ye the gates — Of the city, mentioned Isaiah 26:1. An expression which implies the increase of the number of believers, and the enlargement of the church. That the righteous nation

The whole body of righteous men, whether Jews or Gentiles; (for he seems to speak here, as he apparently did in the foregoing chapter, of the times of the gospel;) which keepeth the truth — Which is sincere and steadfast in the profession and practice of the true religion; may enter in — May be received and acknowledged as true members of the church, which all such persons undoubtedly are.

26:1-4 That day, seems to mean when the New Testament Babylon shall be levelled with the ground. The unchangeable promise and covenant of the Lord are the walls of the church of God. The gates of this city shall be open. Let sinners then be encouraged to join to the Lord. Thou wilt keep him in peace; in perfect peace, inward peace, outward peace, peace with God, peace of conscience, peace at all times, in all events. Trust in the Lord for that peace, that portion, which will be for ever. Whatever we trust to the world for, it will last only for a moment; but those who trust in God shall not only find in him, but shall receive from him, strength that will carry them to that blessedness which is for ever. Let us then acknowledge him in all our ways, and rely on him in all trials.In that day shall this song be sung - By the people of God, on their restoration to their own land.

We have a strong city - Jerusalem. This does not mean that it was then strongly fortified, but that God would guard it, and that thus it would be strong. Jerusalem was easily capable of being strongly fortified Psalm 25:2; but the idea here is, that Yahweh would be a protector, and that this would constitute its strength.

Salvation will God appoint for walls - That is, he will himself be the defender of his people in the place of walls and bulwarks. A similar expression occurs in Isaiah 60:18 (see also Jeremiah 3:23, and Zechariah 2:5).

Bulwarks - This word means properly bastions, or ramparts. The original means properly a pomoerium, or antemural defense; a space without the wall of a city raised up like a small wall. The Syriac renders it, Bar shuro, - 'Son of a wall,' meaning a small wall. It was usually a breastwork, or heap of earth thrown up around the city, that constituted an additional defense, so that if they were driven from that they could retreat within the walls.


Isa 26:1-21. Connected with the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Chapters. Song of Praise of Israel after Being Restored to Their Own Land.

As the overthrow of the apostate faction is described in the twenty-fifth chapter, so the peace of the faithful is here described under the image of a well-fortified city.

1. strong city—Jerusalem, strong in Jehovah's protection: type of the new Jerusalem (Ps 48:1-3), contrasted with the overthrow of the ungodly foe (Isa 26:4-7, 12-14; Re 22:2, 10-12, &c.).

salvation … walls—(Isa 60:18; Jer 3:23; Zec 2:5). Maurer translates, "Jehovah makes His help serve as walls" (Isa 33:20, 21, &c.).

bulwarks—the trench with the antemural earthworks exterior to the wall.A song of praise and confidence in God, for the blessings of righteousness, judgments on their enemies, and favour to his people: their chastisement, repentance, and hope.

In that day, when God shall do such glorious works for the comfort of his people, and for the ruin of his and their enemies, as he hath described in the foregoing chapter.

In the land of Judah; in the church of God, which in Scripture is oft signified by the titles of Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion, or the like.

A strong city; Jerusalem, or the church, which is oft called or compared to a city, as Psalm 87:3 Revelation 3:12 11:2 21:2.

Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks; God’s immediate and saving protection shall be to his church instead of walls, &c. But I conceive, with submission, the words may very fitly be thus rendered, He will send, or put, or make her walls and bulwarks salvation, i.e. as safe as salvation itself; or, in safety, there being only a defect of the preposition, which is very frequent in Scripture.

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah,.... When great things shall be done: for the church and people of God; and when antichrist and all their enemies are destroyed, as mentioned in the preceding chapter Isaiah 25:1; then this song shall be sung expressed in this throughout; which the Targum calls a "new" song, an excellent one, as the matter of it shows; and which will be sung in the land of Judah, the land of praise in the congregation of the saints, the professors and confessors of the name of Jesus: in Mount Zion, the church of God below, Psalm 149:1,

we have a strong city; not an earthly one, as Jerusalem; so the Jewish writers, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, interpret it; nor the heavenly city, which God has prepared and built, and saints are looking for, and are citizens of: but rather the holy city, the New Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21:2 or however, the church of Christ, as in the latter day; which will be a "strong" one, being of the Lord's founding, establishing, keeping, and defending; and whose strength will greatly lie in the presence of God, and his protection of it; in the number of its citizens, which will be many, when Jews and Gentiles are converted; and in their union one with another, and the steadfastness of their faith in Christ; when a "small one", as the church is now, shall become a "strong nation", Isaiah 60:22,

salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks; instead of walls, ditches, parapets, counterscarps, and such like fortifications; what they are to cities, that is salvation to the church and people of God; it is their safety and security: as God the Father is concerned in it, it flows from his love, which is unchangeable; it is by an appointment of his, which is unalterable; is secured by election grace, which stands not upon the works of men, but the will of God; and by the covenant of grace, ordered in all things, and sure; and by his power the saints are kept unto it: as Christ is concerned in it, it is as walls and bulwarks; he is the author of it, has completely finished it, and has overcome and destroyed all enemies; his righteousness is a security from all charges and condemnation; his satisfaction a bulwark against the damning power of sin, the curses of the law, and the wrath of God; his mediation and intercession are a protection of saints; and his almighty power a guard about them. As the Spirit is concerned in it, who is the applier of it, and evidences interest in it; it is a bulwark against sin, against Satan's temptations, against a spirit of bondage to fear, against error, and a final and total falling away; particularly the church's "walls" will be "salvation", and her "gates" praise, of which in the next verse Isaiah 26:2, in the latter day glory; to which this song refers; see Isaiah 60:18.

In that day shall {a} this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; {b} salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.

(a) This song was made to comfort the faithful when their captivity would come, assuring them also of their deliverance, for which they should sing this song.

(b) God's protection and defence will be sufficient for us.

1. salvation will God appoint … bulwarks] Two interpretations are possible: (a) “Salvation will He appoint in place of walls and moat” (see below), implying that Jerusalem has no material defences, but only the supernatural protection (“salvation”) assured by Jehovah (as Psalm 125:2; Zechariah 2:4-5). (b) “He appoints for salvation (her) walls and moat” (as ch. Isaiah 60:18). The choice depends on whether Jerusalem is or is not conceived as a fortified city. Since “gates” are mentioned in the next verse, (b) seems more suitable. The word for bulwarks (a sing.) is usually understood to mean a low outer wall separated by some space from the wall proper (τεῖχος καὶ περίτειχος in the LXX.); other authorities think it means a ditch or glacis.

1, 2. These verses might almost have been written for a dedication of the fortifications of Jerusalem. Cf. Psalm 48:12 f.

Verses 1-18. - A SONG OF THE REDEEMED IN MOUNT ZION. The prophet, having (in Isaiah 25.) poured forth his own thankfulness to God for the promise of the Church's final redemption and triumph, proceeds now to represent the Church itself in the glorified state as singing praise to God for the same. Verse 1. - In that day. In the "day of God" (2 Peter 3:12), the period of the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). In the land of Judah; i.e. in the "new earth" - whose city will be the "heavenly Jerusalem," and wherein will dwell "the Israel of God" - the antitype whereof the literal "land of Judah" was the type. A strong city; literally, a city of strength. In the Revelation of St. John the new Jerusalem is represented as having "a wall great and high" (Revelation 21:12), and "twelve gates," three on each side. The intention is to convey the idea of complete security. In the present passage the city has "gates" (ver. 2), but no "walls" - walls and bulwarks being unnecessary, since the saving might of God himself would be its sure defense against every enemy. Isaiah 26:1Thus the second hymnic echo has its confirmation in a prophecy against Moab, on the basis of which a third hymnic echo now arises. Whilst on the other side, in the land of Moab, the people are trodden down, and its lofty castles demolished, the people in the land of Judah can boast of an impregnable city. "In that day will this song be sung in the land of Judah: A city of defence is ours; salvation He sets for walls and bulwark." According to the punctuation, this ought to be rendered, "A city is a shelter for us;" but עז עיר seem rather to be connected, according to Proverbs 17:19, "a city of strong, i.e., of impregnable offence and defence." The subject of ישׁית is Jehovah. The figure indicates what He is constantly doing, and ever doing afresh; for the walls and bulwarks of Jerusalem (chēl, as in Lamentations 2:8, the small outside wall which encloses all the fortifications) are not dead stone, but yeshuâh, ever living and never exhausted salvation (Isaiah 60:18). In just the same sense Jehovah is called elsewhere the wall of Jerusalem, and even a wall of fire in Zechariah 2:9 - parallels which show that yeshuâh is intended to be taken as the accusative of the object, and not as the accusative of the predicate, according to Isaiah 5:6; Psalm 21:7; Psalm 84:7; Jeremiah 22:6 (Luzzatto).
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