The greatest sin one can commit is to fail to depend on God. That dependence is the very nature of faith and faith is the required foundation of a righteous life. No faith? No righteousness.
Israel has trusted in her political alliances (chapter 17). Judah has trusted in her military prowess (chapter 22 – see esp. vss. 8ff). Both are to be disappointed. Isaiah 26 begins with a reference to the “strong city,” but the trust of the singer is not in the strength of the city, but in God who makes the city strong. It is God who keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on trusting in God.
That has not, however, been Judah’s history, and God has disciplined her harshly for it. I want you to see something about discipline here. God did not discipline His people harshly all at once, nor did he do it for every infraction. But discipline, if it is to be real discipline, the kind that promotes learning and changed lives, increases with intensity the more it is needed. Thus, in this chapter, by the time God got done with them, they could barely whisper a prayer. It didn’t start out that way, but over time, that’s how it ended up. Why didn’t God just give up on his people? Why didn’t he say (as many parents do) “I’ve tried, but you know kids, they have a mind of their own. Whatcha gonna do?”
Because God is not in the “giving up” business. He is in the life formation business. And He intends lives be formed.
Life training in righteousness is an on-going task, serious to the core. Whether we are talking about training children, or the rehabilitation of criminals, or the development of a spiritual life, it takes work and discipline and sometimes, for the recalcitrant . . . pain.
This lesson is especially important for the Christian community. God’s people were to make God’s will known to the world. But they didn’t. They gave birth to “wind” and did not bring God’s “salvation to the earth.” They could not teach and encourage in others what they did not live. The Church has the same mission. We are the last hope of the earth. We need to live worthy of the commission we have received.