In essence then, as the words from Isaiah are heard against the backdrop of Israel’s story, it could be proffered that Adam willfully entered into a treaty with death, in that it was because of his actions that death was allowed to make an entrance into God’s good creation. It could also be said that Adam (and Eve) made a lie his refuge, and that he hid himself in a deceitful word, as the serpent in the garden was believed when it said, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil” (Genesis 3:4b-5). Ironically, it was in this rebellion, when death entered, that the divine image in which man had been created, was marred.
Drawing the complete circle then, so as to make the broad application, when God’s Messiah went to the cross, He underwent God’s “overwhelming judgment,” as the wrath of God was poured out upon Him. The experience of this wrath was not arbitrary, and He specifically underwent the cursing that was the lot of God’s covenant people, doing so because He represented all of God’s people (then and now) as their King. By taking the curses upon Himself as He represented Israel, they were, in essence, exhausted. The judgment was first one of condemnation, as it sent Jesus into the grave. Secondly, though, the judgment was one of liberation, as death and the grave could not hold Him, and He went forth for the inauguration of a new creation and a new humanity, with Resurrection power.
Isaiah wrote that “the Lord will rise up, as He did at Mount Perazim, He will rouse Himself, as He did in the valley of Gibeon” (28:21a). Now, this “rising up” is not necessarily correlated to the Resurrection of Jesus, but as one thinks about the cornerstone, the dissolution of the treaty with death, and the breaking of the agreement with Sheol in connection with overwhelming judgment, it is appropriate to look ahead to the next part of the verse which informs the reader/hearer that the Lord rises up on behalf of His people “to accomplish His work” (28:21b).
What work was to be accomplished? The work, of course, was the restoration of that Lord’s people and His creation, delivering them from exile and bondage to corruption, and reversing the agreement of faithlessness that brought death into this world. This work that was to be accomplished is said to be “His peculiar work” (28:21c). It is said that God would rise up “to perform His task” (28:21d), and that task is referred to as “His strange task” (28:21e).
Quite honestly, it is more than possible to look upon the Christ-event, that being the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, and honestly assess it as being a peculiar work and a strange task. The Creator God’s people were not expecting the Messiah to go to a cross, as a crucified messiah was pure folly, nor were they expecting a single resurrection of a single man in the middle of history to mark the ushering in of the kingdom of God on earth. So peculiar and strange was this work that the Apostle Paul indeed spoke of the folly of the cross and its preaching. Nevertheless, it is as one believes in this work and the One in Whom, by Whom, and through Whom it was accomplished, as He underwent that overwhelming judgment and emerged victorious on the other side, that the ultimate power of death has been broken, and that in union with Christ, that believer is “overrun” (28:18) by the eternal life that comes by the faith that is gifted by God’s Holy Spirit.