Summary: Isaiah gives us four contrasts between those who trust God and those who don’t.
If you were to take out a United States coin or bill you would find somewhere on there the phrase, “in God we trust.” This motto was adopted by congress during the civil war, and has been confirmed by acts of congress and by various courts. In recent times various groups have been challenging that motto as being a violation of separation of church and state. To date such efforts have been fruitless.
There have been some interesting suggestions as to what we should change our motto to be. Let me share two of them with you. “Peace be the Journey,” is one. The writer gives this reason for adopting that particular phrase: “What this country needs is peace, and “In God We Trust”, a motto which supports religion - something that proliferates war and hostility both domestically and internationally - is far from the want of peace.” Her reasoning obviously shows her lack of understanding of what Christianity really proclaims – namely peace.
Here’s another one: “In Sex, drugs and rock & roll we trust.” What is their reasoning? “We propose to change the national motto of the United States to "In Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll We Trust." We feel that this more accurately reflects both the values and the attitude of most Americans than "In God We Trust," and that it contains at least one component that almost every American can identify with.” I think they are trying to be sarcastic.
The basic reason people want to change the national motto is this: Our current national motto has never represented all citizens of the United States. I would agree with that statement. To say that eveyone in the United States has trusted exclusively in God, or that the United States government has trusted exclusively in God is absurd. God is not nearly concerned about whether we say we trust in God nearly as much as whether we actually trust in God.
We keep returning to this issue of trust because the whole first half of Isaiah has this basic underlying theme of trust. The Israelites claimed they trusted in God, and to a certain degree they did. But they also trusted Baal, Molech, Ashtera, and other gods. They trusted God, but they also trusted Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and other nations for their protection. They trusted God, but they also trusted their own schemes to get ahead financially by forcing the poor into deeper poverty or even slavery. While the names and context is different, we see that the issues are the same for the United States in the 21st century AD as they were for Judah in the 8th century BC.
Here in chapter 26 Isaiah gives us four contrasts between those who trust in God and those who do not. 1) Inhabiting the divine city or lofty ruins, 2) Walking the divine path or the aimless way, 3) Working with divine ability or human inability, and 4) Rising to life eternal or to judgement.
Inhabiting the divine city or lofty ruins (1-6)
In verses 1-6 we see the contrast between inhabiting the divine city or lofty ruins. Isaiah tells us that those who trust in God will live in a strong city. We have the same call today. The writer of Hebrews calls us to look for a city “whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10b). John descirbes this city in Revelation 21, we won’t read that this morning but I encourage you to take a look at that some time.
What does Isaiah say about that city? First he tells us that the city is strong, and that salvation is its walls and ramparts. Our slavation is our protection, but it is also our seperation. There is a clear distinction here, those who are saved are inside the city with God and are protected by God. Those who are not saved are outside the city.
So how does one get inside the city? There is a gate. We who know Christ know that he is the gate. (John 10:9-10) "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." We can’t enter by climbing over the wall, by trying to save ourselves through works of righteousness. We can’t enter by digging under the wall, by trying to get around God’s righteousness and salvation. Just as there would be only one way to enter a fortified city – through the gate, so the only way to enter into God’s salvation is through the gate He provided – through Jesus Christ.
We don’t enter because of righteous works, but by faith. Verses 3 and 4, both well-known verses, show that this righteous nation is righteous because they trust in God. They are righteous because such trust is steadfast. They are righteous because their trust is in the Lord forever. We are declared righteous when we trust in God, not because we carry around coins that have that motto. We are declared righteous, and we live in a strong city of faith, because Christ bore our sins on the cross so that we may be given his righteousness.