"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." NIV translation
In the Hebrew, this verse gives you the feeling of someone strolling along and singing in reflection on what God has done. The song remembers the fact that God watched over His people and the city delivering them from the enemy and uniting them together.
Isaiah 26:2 & 3
"Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." NIV translation
The "righteous nation" refers to Gentiles that had guarded the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word that is translated here as "steadfast" is the Hebrew word "camak" and it speaks of taking hold or grabbing onto something. Jesus said that he was The Way, The Truth, and The Life and that nobody would enter the kingdom except through Him.
The word that is translated as "trust" is the Hebrew word "batach" which describes boldness or confidence. This passage speaks of both Jew and Gentile that have confidently accepted the gospel and held onto it through the Great Tribulation. They have now become one nation in Christ. The "perfect peace" that is spoken of is commonly called "Shabbat shalom" which means "Sabbath peace". This is a complete peace that is based on freedom from work as when the Sabbath is observed. This is a contrast to religion and man's efforts to reach God. When you trust in your own efforts, you will not know whether they were sufficient until the final judgment. That doubt and worry is the opposite of peace and can be avoided by resting in the completed work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Religion in any form is used by the devil to bring division and conflict which is why we have so much war in the world today. As world religion attempts to replace the completed work of Jesus Christ, the wars and rumors of wars will only increase.
"Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." NIV translation
This "perfect peace" is only possible through Jesus Christ as he is the Rock that is mentioned here.
A rock is not describing some little boulder that can easily be moved but speaks of something that is very large and immovable. We can have this peace by remembering how Jesus has brought us through the tough times and especially by remembering that He has never left us or forsaken us.
Isaiah 26:5 & 6
"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. Feet trample it down - the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor." NIV translation
The phrase "those who dwell on high" speaks of the proud and we are reminded of the fact that pride is a characteristic of the devil. The lofty city speaks of the chief city of the new world order that is set up to oppose God during the Great Tribulation. The song celebrates the fact that God has destroyed that religious system and the city that was at its center. The poor and oppressed refers to those that have understood that they could not achieve salvation on their own and have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ. During the Millennial Reign, people will rejoice at the replacement of religion with a restored relationship between God and men.
"The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth." NIV translation
The path speaks of faith in the completed work of salvation through Jesus Christ. This path is so simple (level) that it has been a stumbling block to the religious. Since the fall of man, he has this inherent desire to work to achieve something and that is the basis for most "religious activity". The path of any religion seems like an uphill climb as men must constantly work to achieve their goal. Through Jesus Christ, our way to achieve salvation is like a nice stroll on flat ground. We simply accept His gift and trust in what He has done on our behalf.
Isaiah 26:8 & 9
"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. 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 earth learn righteousness." NIV translation
The phrase "way of your laws" speaks of "mishpat" or God's verdict (judgment) on sin. This passage speaks of the yearning of a Christian to be united with the Lord and how His disciples have waited intently for this Millennial Reign. We also see that this period of time is a time of learning as those who are left on the earth get to see the example of the righteous rule of Christ.
"But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord." NIV translation
As we see in Revelation 20, this thousand year period is a time without the influence of Satan. In the last days, people went so far as to blame everything on the devil and to say that, without his influence, they would be righteous. This song now speaks of the fact that, even though Satan has been bound and has no more influence in the world, the people do not see that the problem is in their own hearts.
"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." NIV translation
It is sad as the song continues and acknowledges the fact that, even though God's grace has been put on display, men will still reject Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word that is translated as "zeal" is "qin'ah" and it speaks of jealousy like a husband who sees another man after his wife. As we have seen, this period of time is a time for those who have not accepted Jesus to see His love for His people and to be provoked to jealousy. Those who are not provoked to jealousy will face the rejection of Christ and the punishment of hell which was created for Satan and his followers.
"Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." NIV translation
The song continues as the saints rejoice in the fact that Jesus has brought peace to the earth but, more importantly, He has brought peace between them and God. There are all sorts of conflicts and peace plans in the news these days but this verse reminds us that real peace is not possible without the presence of the Prince of Peace. We are reminded that, in the last days, there will be a world leader arise that will promise to bring this kind of peace but it will not last because it is not of God.
Isaiah 26:13 & 14
"Lord, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor. They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them." NIV translation
God's people were subject to men as kings over them but the reign of Christ is much different. He is honored and His reign is just and with love. Those that oppressed His people have been judged and are not even in their memories anymore.
"You have enlarged the nation, Lord; you have enlarged the nation. You have gained glory for yourself; you have extended all the borders of the land." NIV translation
This verse has a twofold meaning as it refers to the land and to God's people. First, it speaks of the fact that Jew and Gentile are united in Jesus Christ to become one people under His rule.
Secondly, the land of God's people has been extended to the very ends of the earth. During the Old Testament times, the land of Israel (the land of God's people) was limited and was constantly facing threats of invasion from other nations. This has continued and even increased to this day but, with the arrival of Jesus Christ, the entire earth is for those who believe in Him. The entire earth will glorify God and all of those who opposed Jesus and His people will be removed and face the judgment of hell.
Isaiah 26:16 & 17
"Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord." NIV translation
The song now speaks of the great revival that has taken place during the Great Tribulation and that reminds us of the purpose of that period of time. After the church is removed from this world, there will be three groups of people left. They are the 144,000 witnesses, those who do not believe in the existence of God, and those with a religion. At this point, God's focus shifts to the Jewish people and bringing them back to a right relationship with Him. We see, from this passage, that many will come to faith in Jesus Christ and, in fact, it will be the greatest "revival" that the world has ever seen. There may still be Gentiles that accept Him but the focus is on the Jews. We also note that this revival only takes place after the Jewish people have exhausted themselves in their attempts to reach God through "religion". The prophet compares this to the extended labor of a pregnant woman. Although I do not know from personal experience, I can imagine the pain that a woman goes through in bringing a child into this world. This comparison reminds us that it is God who gives a child life but the woman has the privilege of caring for the baby and introducing it to this world. In the same way, Israel was to "carry" the faith until the arrival of the Messiah which is Jesus. We are also reminded that the pain that is associated with this wonderful event is the result of the sin of Eve (see Genesis 3:16). In the same way, the "pain" that the Jewish people experienced during the Great Tribulation was a result of their sin of rejecting the fact that Jesus was and is the Son of God. Just as the pain of childbirth is normally made worthwhile by the birth of the infant, the sufferings of this period of time are worthwhile because they produce repentance which, in turn, leads to the new life found in Jesus Christ.
"We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life." NIV translation
For thousands of years, now, the Jewish people have suffered and struggled to be a holy people but all of the religious efforts are for nothing. This is a sad verse as it reminds us of a woman who carries a baby for nine months only to lose it when it is time for the baby to enter the world.
In the same way, the Jewish people were given the responsibility of being the people that would welcome the Messiah into the world but, at the time He entered, they did not accept Him.
The religious duties and practices could not bring eternal life to the people of the earth. Isaiah saw this and the fact that it will be recognized during the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.
We know that the purpose of the Law of Moses was to bring people to knowledge of the fact that no man is able to live up to that standard. It is then, that man can repent (turn away from) his own efforts to reach God and to trust in the finished work of Jesus.
"But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise - let those 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." NIV translation
The song continues with rejoicing at the resurrection of the dead that are in Christ Jesus. In an instant, they will be revived and raised to eternal life with a new spiritual body. The Hebrew word that is translated as "dew" is "tal" and it speaks of a covering and, here, it is speaking of Jesus' shed blood on our behalf. The earthly dew settles on plants and provides them water that sustains them. In the same way, those who are covered by His blood will have a new life with a perfect body and will join in the celebration for all eternity. This resurrection is what Paul described in his letter to the believers in Corinth (see 1 Co. 15:52-54).
Isaiah 26:20 & 21
"Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. 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 on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer." NIV translation
Isaiah now speaks of the short period of time between the end of the Millennial Reign and the final judgment of all mankind. He urges them to take cover and to hold on until God has dealt with the evil of the world. We do not know how long it takes for these events to unfold but we are sure that God protects His people.
During this period of time, Satan is released again from the Abyss and is allowed to roam the earth. John tells us of this time, in Revelation 20, and we see that men are still deceived by the devil into thinking that they can overthrow the kingdom of God.
The devil will gather these people and come against the city of Jerusalem. Jesus, once again, intervenes on behalf of His people and the battle is very short. The final judgment of all mankind follows as the dead that did not accept Jesus Christ are raised to be judged.