Paeon of Praise
After delivering emotionally traumatic oracles of God’s coming judgment against the nations, Isaiah took time to refresh his spirit in worship. “O Lord, You are my God,” Isaiah began, as his inner gaze rested on the glory of the Lord.
O Lord, you are my God;Isaiah 25:1 (NRSV)
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah had recorded a hymn of acclamation just a little earlier, a song that would be lifted up from the ends of the earth by the remnant who would be spared.
Glory and Majesty
They lift up their voices; they sing for joy;Isaiah 24:14-16 (NRSV)
they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord.
Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One.
Now Isaiah was returning to this paeon of praise.
In the next verse, Isaiah gives the reason why.
For you have made the city a heap,Isaiah 25:2 (NRSV)
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of foreigners is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
The word “city,” קִרְיָה | qiryâ in Hebrew, is evidently used in poetry most of the time. Here, it portrays the citadel for the “palace of foreigners,” opponents of God and of God’s people and a depiction of all the forces of evil leveled against all that is good.
This is the aftermath, the dust has settled, the booming cannons are stilled, the clouds of gloom and horror parted, and the warmth of the sun now shining through.
Every Knee, Every Tongue
And not only would God’s people rejoice, but even those who were enemies of God.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;Isaiah 25:3 (NRSV)
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
Years ago I might have said such enemies were now cowed before the Lord in some sort of epic Lord of the Rings scene. But I feel differently about that now, and it is because of the Greek text in one of Apostle Paul’s letters. He was quoting a first century Christian anthem which itself was quoting the prophet Isaiah.
In order that in the name of Jesus every knee would bend – of heavenly ones and of earthly ones and of under-the-earthly ones – and every tongue would make-acknowledgement-to-the-honor-of-and-praise that the Lord is Jesus Christ in the splendor-glory-honor-praise of God the Father.Philippians 2:10-11 (my own translation)
This is not the begrudging outward obeisance of a conquered yet resentful and simmering foe. This is frank adoration of Messiah and worship of God. I do not quite know what that means theologically, but there it is. An incredible miracle.
God’s victory will be absolute in the way only One as omnipotent and all-loving as God could accomplish, for God will have leveled every stronghold, including those in the hearts of the ones who had opposed the Lord.
Perhaps this will be the best justice of all, that God will make all things right through this incredible turn of events.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,Isaiah 25:4-5 (NRSV)
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
the noise of foreigners like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
What happens in the heart of a child who is being shamed and abused by the ruthless, or the one who is sexually assaulted, or finds themselves bombarded by hateful cyber-bullying? What happens in the heart of the one who is humiliated by another, rejected or summarily ignored?
Think of the many internal messages all of us have buckled under at one time or another, of self-condemnation, self-contempt, or the messages of others that have gone straight into our minds and hearts, and therefore our souls—“the blast of the ruthless,” the “noise of the foreigners,” the “song of the ruthless.”
The apostle Paul identified those inner strongholds.
Indeed, we live as humans but do not wage war according to human standards,
for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NRSV)
God is our shelter from the outward onslaught of shame, condemnation, humiliation, and contempt. God shades us from the heat of others’ scorn and abuse and is our refuge from the icy blast of rejection and abandonment.
But God’s love and restoration does even more, for the Lord brings down the strongholds within our minds and hearts as well. When you and I are willing to receive the full knowledge of God’s acceptance and pleasure in us, we find those strongholds crumbling, and in their place God builds up true relationship, a bond that makes us strong in the Lord, and strong for the Lord.
The Banquet Is Spread
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoplesIsaiah 25:6 (NRSV)
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
Throughout scripture, banqueting with the Lord has been a motif of spiritual communion and physical well-being.
Feast With Me, Says the Lord
The Lord invited all of God’s people to feast yearly with the Lord at God’s own table, to rejoice together in God’s blessing and largesse. This actually blesses God!
In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.
But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, then you may turn it into money.
With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish: oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire.
And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.Deuteronomy 14:23-26 (NRSV)
Moses and the Elders Feasted With God
When the Lord covenanted with the people of Israel, Moses, Aaron and his sons, and the seventy elders were invited to feast with the Lord on Mount Sinai.
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the Israelites; they beheld God, and they ate and drank.Exodus 24:9-11 (NRSV)
Thou Preparest a Table
During one of his darker times, when David huddled in the shelter of the Lord, he wrote what has become one of the most famous of all Psalms.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil,
for you are with me …
You prepare a table before mePsalm 23:4, 5 (NRSV)
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Isaiah drew from this rich spiritual heritage of feasting with the Lord to speak of that far future time, that time after the end of all things when the beginning of something new will come.