Encouragements from Isaiah 26
October 15, 2020
Our lives experience the greatest satisfaction and peace when the singular, all-encompassing desire of our souls aligns with the desire of God’s heart: the enjoyment of God’s glory by all peoples. In this “Encouragement from Isaiah,” Pastor Scott shares how this truth from Isaiah 26:8 has shaped his own life over the last two decades and how the the gospel hope and joy in Isaiah 26:12–13 can sustain us as we turn again and again to be satisfied in Christ.
Today, I’d like to offer some more personal reflections on some verses in Isaiah. Usually in these weekly “Encouragements from Isaiah” I try to provide a brief meditation on what the passage means more broadly, but today I want to share some verses have impacted my own life and shaped my own faith over the past twenty years.
In between semesters of my first year of college, I went to a conference built around the theme verse of Isaiah 26:8: “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your judgments, we wait for you; for your name and your renown are the desire of our souls.” We spent about 72 hours unpacking what it means to desire God’s name—which stands for the essence of his holy character—and to desire God’s renown—for the beauty and perfection of his glory to be both known and honored by all—and to let that singular desire shape every action and expectation of our lives. That desire is global and total—it should stretch to the ends of the earth and shape every part of my life, my family, my church, my work, my world.
I still have the five-point declaration that each of us were encouraged to make during those days, well-worn after carrying it in my Bible for many years.
But at the core of understanding how to live out a verse like this is a more fundamental truth, a truth that should be obvious and undeniable and yet absolutely revolutionary when we first see it—and once you see it, you can’t unsee it. That truth is this: God’s name and renown is the only rightful desire of our souls because God’s own greatest passion is for the global enjoyment of his glory.
God doesn’t need something other than God to be happy. He isn’t dependent on anything else to be satisfied. He created us not out of desperation or loneliness—God is perfectly content in the loving, eternal fellowship of the Trinity—but out of the overflow of his heart that desires to share the joy of his infinite beauty with others who can find true satisfaction in him, too. God loves you because he first loves himself, and he is the only Being in the universe for whom such self-love is necessarily virtuous. We were created to be captivated by God’s glory, and we can’t find peace and fulfillment in any other way than by finding our greatest delight in God himself.
This is perhaps best summed up in the central idea of the sermons preached by John Piper at this conference, the key thesis of his book Desiring God: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
But to confront this revolutionary truth is a challenge. At first it doesn’t sound like good news at all because we have to recognize how far off we have lived from a truly God-centered life. And we have to recognize how many substitute gods we will have to give up in order to seek the satisfaction of our souls in God alone, to truly glorify God.
But later in Isaiah 26, there are verses that can give us gospel hope and confidence to pursue a transformed life lived for God’s renown:
O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. (Isaiah 26:12–13)
If we are left on our own with all the goodness we can muster up, we’ll never find peace because we will never be enough. But we have hope because the Sovereign Lord himself ordains peace for us—how?—by doing himself all the good works necessary for us in Christ. It isn’t only that Christ takes away our sin on the cross, but he also gives to us his perfect obedience, and through his Holy Spirit, he gives us the heart and the power to live out his obedience in our own lives today. With Christ’s perfect righteousness, God has ordained peace for us with him.
What more could we possibly want, what else could our soul possibly desire? And yet, we know our hearts and we know how quick we are to let desires for anything but God rule our lives and claim our worship and trust. We think we go to them to gain control, but in reality they end up owning us—hence our need to be rescued and redeemed by the perfect righteousness of Christ on our behalf. We don’t want to remember the ways we are enslaved to them.
But the Lord—our God, the God we want to claim as ours—is different. When we know God’s name and renown—when we know who he truly is and all the ways that our souls breathe deeply just at the thought of him—then unlike the idols whose names we can’t forget fast enough, we will want to bring God’s name to remembrance. We want for meditations on God’s glory to dominate our thoughts. To think about all that God has done for us in Christ and to invite others to consider that, too—that will be the all-consuming, life-animating desire of our souls.
It’s because of the goodness of the greatness and glory of God that we can depend so fully on him, eschewing any other pseudo-substitute for the satisfaction and salvation he alone can provide for us. Just as we wait eagerly for the Lord, walking in all the ways that he has shown us to be right and just, Isaiah 30:18 tells us that “the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for him.”
When we remember and exalt the renown of the Lord, when we walk in his ways and wait on him alone, we are blessed. We’ll go deeper in understanding that as we study Isaiah 31 in our Grow Groups this Sunday.
On Zoom or in the room, we’ll see you there.