Isaiah 26:3-4 The peace of God
In the current coronavirus crisis it is very difficult to feel at peace. Almost everything has changed and not for the better. Even the sight of so many closed businesses is unsettling, and our city is like a ghost town. Nobody knows when it will be any different. If you lack peace – if you are anxious, worried, afraid – all of life is affected. You are not able to focus on the important things, not able to give your best to any activity. In the spiritual realm, a lack of peace hinders growth and service. How may we have true peace? The answer lies not in closing our eyes to hard reality, but rather in fixing them on the Lord, the one source of true peace. Isaiah ministered in troubled times, when there were many reasons for fear. God’s provision, described in Isaiah 26:3-4, applies to every Christian.
1. An unwavering trust
This is mentioned first in these verses. This is where we must begin. It sets out the one route to true peace. Unless this description fits us, we will never enjoy this true peace of God. The one ‘whose mind is steadfast’ is the one who ‘trusts in you’ (v3). This can be said only of the Christian. The unbeliever does not trust in the Lord and so cannot have peace. To have peace we must begin with the total commitment of life to the Lord.
There has to be a looking away from ourselves, recognising the inadequacy of our resources to cope with the difficulties of life, beginning with the problem of our own sin. The problem of our own sin can be addressed only by trusting in the Lord’s provision of salvation in Christ: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). Every other source will eventually disappoint us.
Even for the Christian, peace does not come automatically. We need to be ‘steadfast’, a word that suggests leaning and depending on the Lord. The whole ‘mind’ is involved – all our thinking, our values and our priorities are to be shaped by our relationship to the Lord, not by the attitudes of the world around us. To be such a person we need to use the means of grace God has provided, especially prayer and Bible study. Particularly when we cannot meet as a congregation we must be careful not to neglect these sources of spiritual nourishment. If we neglect our walk with the Lord, we will be like a ship in a storm with no anchor, tossed in all directions.
2. A perfect peace
To those who do rest only on the Lord there is a wonderful promise – ‘You will keep him in perfect peace’ (v3). This is God-given peace, such as Jesus promises in John 14:27 ‘my peace I give you’. We can have peace because Christ has dealt with our sins and reconciled us to God – ‘he himself is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14).
Peace in Scripture is far more than an absence of conflict. ‘Shalom’ means ‘wholeness’, every part of life in godly order, in harmony with the Lord and reflecting his likeness. Living ‘in the sunshine of God’s favour’ (as one writer puts it) we have a sense of safety and security, whatever life may bring to us, since we are in the Lord’s hands.
This is the spiritual peace of Philippians 4:7, guarding our hearts and minds (the very centre of life) when all around is turmoil. Literally Isaiah says ‘peace, peace’ – repetition showing how comprehensive it is. Whatever anxieties and fears trouble us, the Lord has the answer. This peace can be enjoyed in the midst of outward troubles. God will ‘guard’ – see the description of God as a fortress in v1. Surrounded by God’s love and power, no enemy can separate us from him or take our salvation.
3. A secure foundation
It is good to remind ourselves that our trust is in One who merits all our confidence – ‘the LORD is the Rock eternal’. Isaiah uses the special covenant name for God – this is the God who has shown grace to the undeserving and who has made an unbreakable covenant with us. He remains faithful despite our sins and failures.
The Rock ‘does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1:17). His care and his love for us never change. He is the source of strength we need to face trials. He endures for ever and our trust in him is not just for time but for eternity. This relationship is full of warmth and love: ‘he is my mighty rock, my refuge’ (Psalm 62:7).
If we fail to trust him we lose our peace, but there is always the possibility of restoration through repentance. When we stumble, he upholds us so that we do not finally fall away (Psalm 37:24). That is a great comfort when we are conscious of our weaknesses.
4. An urgent summons
‘Trust in the Lord for ever’ – there must be personal action if we are to experience this peace. We look to the Lord, trust him in daily living, seek his power to live for his glory. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on the Lord.
We must be aware of the dangers of relying on the unreliable. Although unbelievers may have useful insights into our problems, we are not to rely on them, but must seek help from the Lord and his people. We should avoid the ‘broken cisterns’ (Jeremiah 2:13) of unbelieving worldviews. We seek the Lord’s help directly in prayer and also through the wisdom of his people. If we follow the Lord’s direction, walking closely with him daily, we will know the peace that only the Christian can know, even amid restrictions, dangers and uncertainties. How else can we face the challenges that confront us?