By now you have no doubt seen Isaiah 26:20 presented on social media as God’s Word for us regarding COVID-19. But is this really God’s Word for you and me during the lockdown?
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.Isaiah 26:30 (ESV)
Sensational Christianity thrives on finding a verse in the Bible that mentions our own circumstances and promoting it as God’s Word for those circumstances. But that is not true Christianity. True Christianity is seriously intent on finding God’s intentions with each word He wrote for us.
It isn’t even only a matter of true of false Christianity as much as it is a matter of respect for a person’s words. None of us seek personal meanings in each other’s words, but somehow it is popular for Christians to promote some personal meaning in God’s words. For example, if a man named John were to say “I remained in my office all day because of the weather”, it would show a gross disregard of John and his words if you were to tell others “John said we should all find an office and remain there until the sun shines again.” There is a vague connection to some weather condition, and there is a common authority in John’s words, but the reason for John saying those words might have nothing to do with your situation at all.
Likewise, using Isaiah 26:20 to vindicate your submission to COVID-19 lockdown regulations demonstrates a disregard for what God actually intended with those words, it demonstrates an egotistical obsession of thinking everything is somehow about you, and it demonstrates an irrational approach to language.
Isaiah 26 is a song of the deliverance which the LORD would bring. Some of the verses are quite familiar to believers. For example, verse 3 is the theological affirmation that the LORD “keeps in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you”. It is a song of the LORD’s strength to protect His own while judging the ungodly. It ends with a confession of their own ungodliness and the recognition of Divine discipline. Verse 20 is then a closing comfort to them that while the LORD continues His judgment of the nations and His discipline of them, they should hide and rest. As the song earlier even affirms, it wouldn’t be right for the LORD to show the ungodly any favour; justice is needed, but the LORD comforts His own explaining to them that it will pass.
In that sense, Isaiah 26 is a wonderful encouragement to believers during the current pandemic. It is a wonderful reminder that God will avenge every evil while still protecting His own. It is a confident assertion that one day all God’s people will rejoice in song once again.
But Isaiah 26 is not just about v. 20. And v. 20 is not a Biblical justification for lockdowns at home. To ‘like’, ‘forward’, ‘publish’, or ‘send’ Isaiah 26:20 as a Divine confirmation of lockdowns is to use God’s Word to miss the point of God’s Word altogether and to disrespect God’s purpose with His Word.
But to read Isaiah 26 and see God’s strength and justice and disciple and comfort, and then to realise that the God of Isaiah 26 is the same God of 2020, now that is worship. That is proper Bible study—discovering God’s purpose of His words in His words. That is honouring God by honouring His Word. And, as a final observation, a proper use of Isaiah 26 is a whole lot more perspective-bringing, and peace-instilling, and faith-building than merely forwarding verse 20.