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How will the covenant with death be annulled (Isaiah 28:18)?

covenant with death annulled

Isaiah 28:18 says, “Your covenant with death will be annulled;
your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
you will be beaten down by it.”

In context, Isaiah records an indictment by the Lord of the leaders in Jerusalem. He calls them scoffers (Isaiah 28:14). He exposes that they have made a covenant with death and a pact with Sheol (or the grave). They thought that they could avoid the coming judgment and exile by taking refuge in falsehood and trying to conceal themselves with deception (Isaiah 28:15). But God would not allow their tactics to be successful. They would not avoid judgment. Their covenant with death would be annulled.

God explains how He would annul their covenant with death. He would lay in Zion (or send to Zion) a cornerstone that would be the Messiah, and the one who trusts or believes in Him would not be disturbed (Isaiah 28:16). Rather than trust in falsehood and deception, the believer in this Cornerstone would trust in One who would actually deliver because He is just and righteous. He would be God’s way of making justice and righteousness the norm, and through Him God would sweep away lies and deception (Isaiah 28:17). But for those who had made a deal with death, that covenant with death would be annulled (Isaiah 28:18); their pact with Sheol would not stand. The overwhelming scourge of the coming exile would not pass by them; rather, it would trample them (Isaiah 28:18). The leaders in Jerusalem who had led the people astray would meet judgment.

There would be a near-term judgment for these leaders in the form of exile at the hands of Babylon, but there would also be an ongoing judgment for those who make a covenant with death and pact with Sheol in order to avoid God’s justice and righteousness. Those who trust in falsehood and deception will find such things are worthless in the day of judgment. Anytime God’s judgment comes, it will be unavoidable, and it will be full of terror (Isaiah 28:19). The one seeking to find refuge from His judgment will find that the bed is too short and the blanket too small for him to find comfort (Isaiah 28:20). The Lord will accomplish His work and will complete His judgments (Isaiah 28:21). Any means one might seek to avoid His judgment will fail. God will ensure that the “covenant with death” will be annulled (Isaiah 28:18). Isaiah warns those to be judged that they should stop carrying on as scoffers or else their fetters would be made stronger—their judgment would be more severe, as judgment was coming on all the land (Isaiah 28:22).

This warning to the wicked leaders of Judah that their covenant of death would be annulled provides an important caution for future generations: while God is full of lovingkindness and mercy, He is also righteous and just, and we cannot hide from Him nor escape His righteous judgments. Rather than trust in our own ability to deceive our way out of consequences, we ought to trust in the One who actually has the power to annul the wicked’s covenant with death. We can rely on Him as He is the tested and costly Cornerstone—the righteous One who can deliver us from judgment through His own sacrifice and gift of grace for all who believe in Him.

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How will the covenant with death be annulled (Isaiah 28:18)?
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This page last updated: September 22, 2022