A Song of Praise
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
2 Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.
3 You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
5 He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.
6 Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.
7 The path of the righteous is level;
O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.
10 Though grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and regard not the majesty of the LORD.
11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.
12 LORD, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.
13 O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone do we honor.
14 They are now dead, they live no more;
those departed spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin;
you wiped out all memory of them.
15 You have enlarged the nation, O LORD;
you have enlarged the nation.
You have gained glory for yourself;
you have extended all the borders of the land.
16 LORD, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer.
17 As a woman with child and about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pain,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
18 We were with child, we writhed in pain,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth;
we have not given birth to people of the world.
19 But your dead will live;
their bodies will rise.
You who dwell in the dust,
wake up and shout for joy.
Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.
20 Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
21 See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her;
she will conceal her slain no longer.
Stars in the Night
Another hymn of praise!…and another confusing seeming inconsistency. There are a lot of typical elements to this hymn, victory over enemies, establishment of peace and security, and other themes that we’ve read throughout Isaiah.
But in the middle of this psalm, there is this very honest description of their time of trial, that it was like a woman in childbirth, who gives birth to nothing but wind! And this can be a little jarring in the midst of this psalm – why take the time to recount one’s bitter trials and tribulations while praising God? Why not solely praise God for the good times?
I think there are two reasons – first, because this is a very poignant, but fitting analogy for the behavior of Israel, and its consequences. They strove to make their nation secure, made pacts with foreign powers, built their strongholds and defenses, and still were conquered…much like a woman who writhes in childbirth, but labors for nothing. So in this way, it is another wonderfully apt analogy that Isaiah gives for the history of the Jews, and the book of Isaiah is filled with these incredible metaphors.
But in a broader, and more contemporary sense, I think it is good to accurately remember the difficult situations in our lives because they help demonstrate the full extent of God’s grace. Often, our typical understanding of celebrating what God has done includes a great deal of forgetfulness, that we forget all the hard situations and failures, and we mistake forgetfulness for forgiveness. But the difficult moments serve as a backdrop against which we see the grace and mercy of God all the more clearly – if we remember how far we had fallen, we also can celebrate that we could never fall so far as to be out of the reach of God.
1. Have you ever tried so hard for something, worked your very hardest, put your absolute best effort into it…only for it to fall apart in the end? What were you able to learn from that situation of life?
2. How can we balance a life where we try our hardest and are a good steward of our time and gifts…but still place God first in our mind and actions?
3. Has there been a time where you failed, but God saved you from that situation and its consequences? Do you ever spend time recollecting those events? How can we have a more active, and more accurate, spiritual memory?