13 December 2016

Isaiah 26:1-6

“For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” (vv. 5-6)

Psalm: Psalm 71:12-16


These verses form part of a hymn within the 'Apocalypse of Isaiah'. This one is a processional song praising God. Verse 2 refers to opening the gates and entering them, which might remind us of entry Psalms such as 24, 46 and 48.

The hymn continues with assurances of peace and the everlasting nature of God for those who have been faithful.

In verses 5 and 6 God is praised particularly for reversing the fortunes of the poor and needy. This is a powerful message of hope and transformation, and of expectation for the way people are valued and treated in God's kingdom. It is no surprise that passages such as this have been revolutionary when communities of ordinary people have read them for themselves, as we have seen in Liberation Theology.

In this hymn Isaiah paints a picture of God's kingdom both in the present (the here and now) and for all eternity. This kingdom is to be one full of promise and hope for the people who are left behind, who are at the bottom. On the other hand the promise for the "inhabitants of the height" is not so positive, as they are to be brought low. Those who have brought others low will now be trampled.

The impact of this on us probably depends on how we see ourselves and others. Just as it is hope and promise for some, it can also be threat and fear for others. The idea that God is on the side of the poor seems apparent here as in many other places. Believing that has been a powerful factor in encouraging people to stand against injustice and poverty. However, the idea that God will bring down the rich and powerful, who have brought others down is not something that they like.

Just as much as this hymn is popular with those who find hope for a better future it can be the opposite for others. It is not a passage you will generally hear from those in power and/or with wealth. Perhaps it is not comfortable reading at a time when the UK is again showing increases in inequality that puts us as one of the worst countries in Europe and even the world.

To Ponder

  • How do you see yourself in relation to this song of victory?
  • What brings you hope and peace as you imagine God's kingdom now and for eternity?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.