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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 1:26 Faith Restored

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, December 28, 2023

26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”

Which judges and counselors would the Lord be talking about to Isaiah? The most natural way to think of judges is to think of the group chosen by Moses to be “officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (Exodus 18:21). These were the men who “brought the difficult cases to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves” (Exodus 18:26). Some readers think ahead to the time when this will happen: Would it be after the exile? Or is the Lord talking about the righteousness we have through Christ, either in the New Testament church, or in heaven after the resurrection?

This chapter is all about the immediate change of repentance: A change in heart so that sacrifices will be rightly offered, a change in heart so that prayer will be heard once again, a change of heart so that the fatherless and widow will be cared for. Now the Lord says: I will cause your judges to be like the judges used to be. Ultimately, the Lord is saying: I will change your hearts, all of you. You will worship me with a clean heart. You will repent of your sins and turn to me, and I will once again bless you as I blessed your fathers and as I promised to bless you when I made my covenant with Abraham.

By talking about turning his hand against them (verse 25) the Lord shows that when he acts in the world, he acts for the good of his people. When he permits troubles to come, it is so that his people will turn to him for help. By such chastening, he makes the wicked good.

When God chastens man, he does it in two ways. First, as a kind and loving Father, to turn us from sin. Second, as a stern and wrathful Judge, punishing in eternity to show error and to give full vent to his anger over sin. When God is gracious and allows trouble to come to us now, in this lifetime, it is so that we will remember his threats about everlasting punishment and turn from our sin, to rely on his forgiveness, and to trust that he alone is truly God, that he alone gives good things, and that he wants to give us good things both now and in eternity.

This new condition is called being “the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (see also Zechariah 8:3, “the city of truth”). For the true city of God, the true Jerusalem, is the church of Jesus Christ and all who worship Christ as the Son of God. He is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14). Jeremiah foretells this when he writes: “The Lord will rebuild them as they were before” (Jeremiah 33:7), and Amos says the same thing: “I will build it as it used to be” (Amos 9:11). God calls nothing good, builds nothing, rebuilds nothing, apart from the work of the gospel in our hearts. The gospel creates and sustains faith in man’s heart. Faith is described as the organ (like a hand, or a channel, or an I.V. tube) through which we receive God’s grace and all his blessings.

Our Confession affirms this and summarizes the Bible’s promises: “This faith strengthens, sustains, and quickens the contrite according to the passage (Romans 5:1), ‘Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.’ This faith obtains the forgiveness of sins. This faith justifies before God, as the same passage attests, ‘We are justified by faith’” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession).

It is not only our judges and counselors who are restored, but we ourselves through the gospel. We are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). This righteousness does not come from the law, but, as Paul constantly says, “through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9; Colossians 2:12).

“Have faith in the Lord your God” (2 Chronicles 20:20). Trust in him at all times, with all your heart.  His love never fails.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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