Thursday in the Second Week of Advent

Isaiah 26:16-21

Giving Birth to Wind

A common theme throughout Isaiah is God’s greatness and our smallness.  He is eternal in the heavens, and we are like the flower that fades away.  His work endures forever while we build castles in the clouds.

These verses in Isaiah express this very thing.  Isaiah rehearses in graphic language the failure of the nation from its beginning to the present.  I have said in other places that God’s covenant with Israel was preparation for His new covenant with His Church.  God set His people of the old covenant up for the coming One whose life, ministry, death, and resurrection inaugurated the new covenant in which we live.  Of course Israel could not live up to the terms of the old covenant.  God did it this way that we might know our need of Him and His forgiveness that was made real through the atonement of His Son, and applied through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives – truths veiled from the eyes of the Israelites but revealed to us upon whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

So here Isaiah expresses the futility of the work of the nation apart from God.  They labored, but in vain.  The image of the woman in labor giving birth to wind is powerful.  To experience the pain and agony of childbirth without results is a poignant figure of just how fruitless and empty our works are.  “We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,” Isaiah wails.

But then comes the promise that is only foreshadowed in a few places in the Old Testament but becomes the victory of the New: The resurrection of the dead.  And this is something only God can do.  “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise,” speaking of the Lord’s people.  The Lord redeems His people even from the dust.  They can accomplish nothing, but God does the impossible – for their sakes.  Thus, once again, we are encouraged to take our eyes away from helpless man and fix them on almighty God.

The passage ends with a beautiful call to the righteous to come in from the coming storm, the calamity that God is about to bring upon the earth in judgment.  God may chasten His people as sons but never condemns them with the wicked (Hebrews 12:3-11).  Thus, He tells us to “hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.”  Advent reminds us that our Lord is coming again to gather his people and judge the wicked once and for all.  Until then many storms will pass.  May we rest in His ever faithful arms through them all until the day comes and we appear with Him in glory.

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