No Weapons will Ultimately Prevail
There is one particular verse about weapons in the Old Testament that needs some explanation. It is relevant because the world uses its weapons against God’s people, weapons to create suffering and to persecute. Isaiah 54:17 says, however, that
“no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.”
How should we interpret this verse? Does it refer to actual warfare or about God’s people amidst persecution? Is it literal or figurative? Does it refer to God’s people going through persecution right now or only to the people of Isaiah’s time?
In the context of Isaiah’s prophesy, it refers to the Jews in exile who need to know that their trials will not last forever and the day will come when no weapon used against them will ultimately prevail. It will be the day when Zion or God’s kingdom is fully established. For us, whether we are going through persecution or standing by those who are, it gives us powerful hope. We see the terrible pain caused by these weapons and we wonder if it will ever end.
Looking at chapter 54 in the context of Isaiah’s book, we can see that it is in part a response and contrast of chapter 53, which describes the Suffering Servant. The Suffering Servant can be thought of as both corporate and an individual. Corporately, it refers to God’s people who suffer as a result of following God and more specifically to THE Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ who died for our sins. The focus of chapter 53 is suffering, punishment, wounding, oppression, and affliction. It is the Lord who will allow the Servant to suffer. It is the Lord who allows his servants to suffer, to feel the pain of the world’s weapons. We do not use the weapons of the world but they are used on us, to inflict wounds in an attempt to defeat our faith and to defeat God. This will not always be the reality.
Just as Jesus suffered, died, and was raised from the dead, the kingdom of God will eventually prevail, and no weapon or argument used against God’s people will ultimately prevail. There will be a time when the weapons of the world are useless. In the meantime, however, God’s servants are living, in a sense, in chapter 53. We suffer because we are followers of the Suffering Servant, who continues his ministry through us. As we participate in this ministry, we participate in his sufferings, not in the sense of obtaining atonement but in the application of the redemptive grace that comes from Christ’s once-for-all-time atonement. Suffering and sacrifice are required to apply this grace in order to redeem the world. That is God’s method for reaching the world.
The weapons of this world may hurt us now but they will not ultimately defeat us. We have already won. That’s what makes the suffering, sacrifice, and service worthwhile.