In yesterday’s reading, Isaiah celebrated God’s future reign, where death’s stain would be removed and God would fill the bellies and hearts of all who love Him. Isaiah 26 begins with a song that will be sung in those glorious days. One stanza works as a promise for us today. We are told God keeps, “him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace sounds really nice. Can one really experience perfect peace in the midst of our war-torn world?
When God’s past work to redeem us through Jesus, His present presence through the Holy Spirit, and the inauguration of the future kingdom become central in our thoughts, we will have peace irrespective of circumstance. This song is unblushing in its insistence that a man wrongfully imprisoned (like Joseph in Genesis), or a people in exile (like those in Babylon), and even someone about to die an unjust death (like Jesus in the garden), can find true peace through keeping their hearts and minds laser-focused God and His goodness. You might say, “didn’t Jesus sweat blood in the garden?” For sure, Isaiah isn’t promising that at all times our emotions and even our physiological reactions to stressors or pain will always be calm like a smooth river. Rather Isaiah is promising confidence, in our hearts and minds, that all things will be alright if our mind is directed towards God, even in great suffering.
True peace, as Cornelius Plantiga pointed out in a great book called Not the Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin is not primarily the absence of conflict, but rather holistic relational wholeness between humans and God, self, nature, and one another. Such peace is only possible when God “whose name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8).