Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
Dear ICB family,
Notice how this single, very long sentence is structured: "Because you have said…; therefore thus says the Lord God…."
So what did Israel say?
As Pastor Neil commented on Sunday, they said they'd taken out an insurance policy against death. They'd cut a deal to escape suffering and defeat. They'd decided to trust that nice-sounding lies could save them.
Because they said all that, therefore, God had something to say in reply. What did God say?
God said he had laid down a new foundation for his people, something (or someone) to be believed. The foundation that God laid is as straight as an arrow and as strong as bedrock. It's not the kind of foundation that will produce so many of the precariously leaning walls that you see all around Bishkek. Righteousness is the plumb line, which is a string with a weight at the end used to see if a wall is actually straight or not. When the wall built upon this foundation is measured against God's righteousness, both the foundation and the wall will be found standing perfectly vertical. All lies will be knocked down, and all other insurance policies will be annulled.
Now what about the "because" and the "therefore"? Remember, the whole sentence is structured, "Because you have said…; therefore thus says the Lord God…." What is the logical connection here between what Israel said and what God said in reply?
A consistent theme across the book of Isaiah is the image of God looking down upon his people and looking for someone, anyone, to guide his people (51:18), to intercede for them (59:16), to declare his truth (48:14), to answer him when he called (50:2), to help and to uphold (63:5), yet in each case, God is left wanting. There is not a soul capable of standing for true righteousness and bringing ultimate salvation to God's people.
So what does God do? "So my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me" (63:6).
In other words, precisely because no human being can or will save God's people, God rolls up his sleeves and goes about the task of saving them himself.
That is what we have here in Isaiah 28. God's people had begun trusting in everything but God to save them and had become utterly corrupt, so what does God do? He says, "I am the one who has laid a foundation in Zion." In other words, it is because no one else can lay such a foundation that God, in effect, looks down on his people and says, "Well, looks like it's down to me," and he grabs his trowel and gets to work himself.
This is the God we serve. It is because no one else can save that God himself therefore saves us. It is because we are all idolaters and trust in everything else but him that God sent the "precious cornerstone," Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, into the world to be his people's foundation. And what a glorious foundation of justice and righteousness it is, perfectly straight, unimaginably strong! No other foundation can compare.
And who is invited to build their lives upon this sure foundation? "Whoever believes will not be in haste." When you build on any other foundation, you'll spend your life scurrying about and fretting that your house is going to collapse. Not true for those who, by faith, build here. They find rest.
So come. Stop trying to take out your own insurance policies, and admit that precisely because you've already done so God himself must be the one to save you or you're lost. And then allow yourself to be blown away by God's kindness, the kindness that sees all your alliances with Egypt and yet lays a stone in Zion for God's people's foundation anyway. Trust in him, and therein find your rest.
Laura and I are thankful for such a foundation as we prepare to spend the next several months back in the US. We will miss you all, and we are already looking forward to returning.
Grateful that God grabbed his trowel,