CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 26.
When the Savior returns to His temple in Jerusalem, it will be the celebration of the restoration of the kingdom of Judah and everyone will know it (verse 1). The city will open to the world, opening to the people who will come to make sacred covenants and worship there (verse 2). This is the redemption of all its people, and the peace they receive when they trust in Him (verse 3).
Just as this also applies to the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, it applies to all of us, too. The “gates” of the city are actually the place of judgment, the outer courts where deals are made and pleas are made and petitions presented. These are judges that sort out cases to decide who actually gets to go into the king’s courts. This is why Isaiah qualifies that not just everyone gets in: only the righteous come in, only those who have a testimony may enter.
We see this is on our own temples today. Those who are “righteous”, in process of keeping their covenants and following the laws of the Gospel, receive their temple recommend. This gives them permission to enter the gates to go into the temple. The “gates” are the personal interview with the Bishop as judge for the Savior, the interview with the Stake President as one with governing authority, and our own signature symbolic of both interviews being between us and the Savior Himself.
We are not worthy to enter the Lord’s presence, except by the atonement which He has provided.
This is the Father’s plan, to provide us a way home.
That is grace, so much love for us to find a way we can return home again.
That is mercy, providing the atonement to meet the demands of justice so that He can open the gates for us.
By the atonement, we already have permission to enter.
Trust ye in the Lord for ever:
for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (verse 4).
The Lord has accomplished what He promised, which is to meet the demands of justice so that we might have mercy (verse 5). He brings down the proud who demand justice from others by oppression but avoid the consequences of their own bad choices, and sets free those who are oppressed so that they can choose to do good (verse 6).
This begins Isaiah’s personal praise to the Father for His plan and His gratitude to the Savior for carrying it out. He declares that we are made righteous only by what the Savior has done for us (verse 7), and that we will always know and remember this – even when we are oppressed by those who do not do what He asks (verse 8). In the dark “night” of life, when things are hard, when we are persecuted and oppressed and hated, we will remain true to the Savior and keep our covenants (verse 9). He says that rather than waiting a long time to see what the world does, or instead of joining with the crowd to learn lessons by consequences later (verse 10), Isaiah will choose to pay attention now and become righteous by being obedient instead of by suffering consequences. He will seek the Lord and do what the Lord wants, even when others will not acknowledge or do not recognize the Lord’s hand in all things (verse 11). While the wicked suffer guilt and consequences, the righteous will have peace and give the Lord credit for it (verse 12; see also Alma 40:12).
Isaiah then looks back through the history of the people, and sees how often they have chosen other things, leaders, or gods to follow – or have been forced to worship other gods or follow laws contrary to the laws of God; however, Isaiah declares that no matter the risk they will only worship God and follow only His laws (verse 13). He knows that these political tyrants will pass away and simply be a name in history, but the Lord lives and continues to work on behalf of His people (verse 14). While other political leaders conquered territory, and then were conquered by those who came after them, Isaiah says the Lord’s kingdom will spread over the whole earth and endure forever (verse 15).
While the people were slow to turn back to the Lord, not calling on Him until they were in trouble, at least they did call on Him (verse 16). When they began to recognize the signs of the end, just like a woman with labor pains knowing a child is soon to come, the people will finally cry out for help (verse 17).
Isaiah then uses his humor in the imagery, saying that because the people have not done the work (obedience and service) to love the Lord, there is no actual “child” conceived (fruits, evidence, tokens). So when it comes time for the “child” to be birthed, created, given, or brought forth. Instead, he says, the people only pass gas (verse 18). They are bad stewards, wanting the inheritance but not doing the work to obtain it.
The Lord, however, will keep His promise, and did accomplish the victory over death (verse 19). Everyone will be resurrected, no matter what they thought about the Savior. Their quality of that resurrected life – what they are able to do, where they are able to go, what their life is like, and what laws they follow will depend on the choices they make now during mortality. But regardless of those choices, the Savior is able to freely offer the gift of resurrection to all people.
But when the Lord returns to deliver judgment to those who did not choose to follow Him, Isaiah warns the righteous to be patient and endure (verse 20). If we are living the laws of the gospel, we do not need to be afraid (see D&C 38:30). The prophet tells us to “hide” and wait, suggesting we “hold our peace” as the Savior did when He was attacked, or as Alma did in the same situation. The Lord will fight our battles, even conquering our enemies.