Isaiah 26 ‘The peace of God’

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?

David McKay


It’s here!  Covid-19, coronavirus, is here.  We wondered what would fill the headlines and column inches after Brexit – now we know.  Seemingly out of nowhere – in fact probably out of a market in China selling wild animals for meat – a new plague is sweeping the world.  It has moved on from China to its neighbours, especially South Korea, and on to Europe, with Italy worst affected so far, and that hasn’t been the end of the spread.  In many parts of the world, precautions are being taken, and multitudes are taking to wearing (largely ineffective) masks in an attempt to avoid infection.  Who knows where it will appear next or what the consequences will be?

Already in parts of Europe radical steps are being taken.  Badly affected areas such as Italy and neighbouring countries are in virtual ‘lockdown’.  Many sporting and other events are postponed to unspecified future dates.  Anyone who returns from a trip to any infected area who thinks he or she may have been affected is to ‘self-quarantine’ – whatever precisely that means.  Airlines are already being hit by the vast reduction in numbers willing to fly.  Predictions of greater restrictions to come are everywhere, as governments prepare for the ‘worst-case scenario’.  Swathes of the UK population are being confined to their own homes except in very limited circumstances.  Will the infection ‘peak’ in the UK in two or three months, or will coronavirus turn out to be a seasonally recurring infection?  Who can tell?  The production of an effective vaccine by the beginning of next year, it seems, would be a triumph of speed and ingenuity.

As various events are called off, limitations on large gatherings are imposed and other restrictions are put in place, it is clear that not only is the coronavirus a powerful factor – the fear of the coronavirus is equally powerful.  Some international events are being cancelled less because the virus poses a threat and more because fear of the virus makes people unwilling to travel or assemble.  We are living in a climate of fear, fed by daily updates on the number of coronavirus infections in our locality.  Suppose we had similar daily updates on all kinds of other diseases – flu, heart attacks, various cancers?  Could a panic epidemic be far away?

Not all fear is bad, of course.  It can be a valuable motivator to take sensible precautions for ourselves and others.  Those with no fear can be highly dangerous.  We do have to ensure, however, that our fears are directed at appropriate objects.  Notice the Lord’s words in Matthew 10:28 ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’  Crucial for every man and woman is the ‘fear of the Lord’ that is the fruit of his grace and is also ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10), the fear that recognises who the Lord is and submits to him in the repentance and faith that embrace salvation.  In the context of that godly fear, all other fears are to be evaluated.

Even the greatest saints experience a measure of fear on occasion.  Recalling his initial ministry in Corinth Paul can write that ‘I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling’ (1 Corinthians 2:3) – an encouraging thought for any Christian seeking to share the gospel.  Fear, however, is certainly not the dominant force in the life of a child of God.

Notice Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:6, where he says that believers are children of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, ‘if you do good and do not give way to fear’.  He is not denying for a moment that there are frightening things in the world – there is no naïve ‘let’s pretend’ in Peter’s outlook – and Christians know that in addition to all the perils that every human being faces, they are in the midst of spiritual warfare with an enemy who longs to destroy them.  Nevertheless, we may be delivered from fear if our attention is focussed on the Lord who is almighty, the Lord who loves us with infinite love, the Lord who has promised, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5).

It is in the light of that promise that the writer to the Hebrews continues, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (v.6, an allusion to Psalm 118:6).  We know that, in one sense, man (and disease, and many other things) can do a lot to us.  Christians die as martyrs, Christians die of coronavirus.  We do not live in some protective bubble that others do not have.  Nevertheless, nothing comes to us, whether it is the attacks of Satan or the onslaught of coronavirus, that is outside the control of our sovereign God, whose providence governs all things.  Thus we have a peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7) and are set free from fear.  We are, in truth, ready for anything.

David McKay