O LORD, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O LORD;
we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
(Isaiah 26:16-18 ESV)
One of the most special days of my life was the day that my wife gave birth to our son*. One of the most trying days of my life was that same day. I forget how many hours of labor she endured but I remember it was difficult. Not the worst pregnancy in the history of mankind but far from the easiest. As a man that deeply loves his wife, I hate to see her suffer. And for about 5 out of the 9 months of that pregnancy it was very difficult for my wife.
Yet, as any parent knows once that baby is born every bit of suffering is worth it. Forgive me for being crass here. But I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have waited nine months, to have endured the agonizing labor, and then to only deliver what amounts to a passing of gas.
Yet, this is what Isaiah the prophet says of Israel. They were to be God’s means of restoration and deliverance in the world. They were to spread the glory of God throughout the world and replace the prideful boasting of men with the humble worship of Yahweh.
There were times when they seemed as if they would produce that which they were created to produce. They writhed and moaned as a woman about to give birth. They went through great suffering for the purpose of accomplishing redemption and all they produced was a mighty wind. This is because our suffering, by itself, can not accomplish or provide the redemption that we need.
Simply put only a righteous sufferer is in a position to suffer on behalf of another. The suffering of the fallen is a mere consequence of their position. Only the Suffering Servant is fit to have “the iniquity of us all” laid upon his shoulders. Therefore, all of our writhing and whispered prayers of suffering cannot accomplish the deliverance that we so need. Israel failed in her mission because she failed to be righteous.
Only in Christ
Thankfully, where Israel failed Christ succeeded. Christ was without sin and therefore in a position to suffer on behalf of another. His suffering produced far more than a mighty wind. His suffering does accomplish deliverance in the earth. His suffering does overturn the works of the evil and makes the inhabitants of the world to fall and the redeemed of the Lord to rise anew (see Isaiah 26:19-21).
Christ not only redeemed our souls he also redeemed our suffering. We no longer suffer and give birth to the wind. Because the Suffering Servant has chosen to unite Himself with us our suffering is now linked to His redemptive sufferings. What once produced wind now floods the world with the glory of a risen King.
*Of course the birth of my daughter was just as special. But it doesn’t fit the second sentence referring to the fear and difficulty of Isaiah being born. Therefore, I mention only my son.