Text: Isaiah 2:1-5
Date: Advent I + 12/1/13
Shall we start another new year? Shall we do this all over again? Shall we like a battle-worn army continue to march, limping and hobbling, not only because of physical ailments but with all the signs and effects of sin, all forgiven of course, bandaged and supported by God’s grace, sin still hampering and weighing down our progress? Is it worth it? Oh, yes it is, and oh, yes we shall! For on this first Sunday of telling the whole story of God and His world again we continue to be drawn to a light like none other. Especially in a day when it seems the world is increasingly antagonistic toward God’s people—the increased ancient attacks of Islam, the political correctness of many who would rather eliminate anything, any word, any mention of God from the public square—especially in a day when the Christian Church seems to be becoming weaker and smaller and poorer in the unbelieving darkness around us, the prophet Isaiah shines a light, a hopeful light of the great reversal of things waiting for the last day when (believe it or not) all nations shall be attracted to God and shall flow into His dwelling like a river. Sound too good to be true? Then, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
It is doubtful that the first four verses of the second chapter of Isaiah really originated with Isaiah. The exact same words appear in the book of Micah chapter four. It seems that these words were a sort of proverb repeated through the years, a proverb of the promise of God, the promise of the ultimate victory of God’s plan of salvation for the world, a proverb to be remembered, to be repeated, to be believed.
The word begins, saying, “It shall come to pass in the latter days.” This phrase, “latter days,” does not appear anywhere else in Isaiah. Literally meaning “the end of the days,” it always means the very last days of this world and the coming of the new heavens and earth of God’s salvation and creation; eternal life in the resurrection of the righteous. The word is never used to speak of various steps or so-called “dispensations” of history, but The New Testament eon beginning with and never ending in Christ. Of Jesus Christ and these times St. Peter wrote, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21).
The proverb continues, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” The place where God dwells for us and for our salvation is often called “the mountain of the house of the Lord.” Its importance is designated by its height over any other mountains. At times just like today, the enemy does not look up but looks down with contempt on the Church as it says in Psalm 64, “Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the Lord will dwell forever?” (Psalm 68:16). The prophet is speaking of the New Jerusalem of the new earth as in the Revelation, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev 21:10).
The amazing thing, says Isaiah, is that when once as at Babel the stream of nations poured out, away from God into all the world being separated and estranged from God and from one another, the new, heavenly Jerusalem will become the place into which the stream of nations will empty itself, and all will be united once again. In other words, as someone once said of the Christian faith and hope, “I’ve read the end of the story and…We Win!” This is ultimately a joyous, victorious story we are telling.
Of that day the proverb predicts “many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” The ways and paths of God and the hope of the nations is the desire for salvation. That many are attracted almost magnetically to this hope is shown when, instead of using the more popular name for God’s people, “Israel,” it uses the choicer name of affection, “the God of Jacob.” And what are the ways of God’s salvation?
That is what we begin again today to contemplate for ourselves and to proclaim to the world, namely, the Gospel of God, the good news of how all of God’s promises throughout the Old Testament scriptures came to fruition and perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ—His incarnation and birth of the virgin of the house and lineage of David; His holy life and preaching, teaching and healing; His holy, sacrificial death and mighty resurrection; then His ascension to the right hand of God’s power and the sending of His Holy and life-giving Spirit. All of this is what has brought the light of eternal life, the salvation of God to be available to all who are drawn to Him with the desire for salvation.
The result of God’s righteous judgment, that is, the forgiveness of all sin in view of Christ’s atonement, is peace. As we prayed in Psalm 122 today, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…. May there be peace within your walls and security within you citadels. For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you’” (Ps 122:6-8 NIV). That’s what the proverb means by beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. As one commentary put it, “There is peace, not an armed peace, but a full, true, God-given and blessed peace. What even [the German philosopher Immanuel] Kant regarded as possible is now realized, and that not by the so-called Christian powers, but by the power of God…and the world’s history will keep Sabbath,” eternal peace (Keil-Delitzsch, vol. 7, p. 116).
So now, having reminded his hearers of this solid and well-known proverb, Isaiah now holds it up like a mirror so that we may be reflected into this eternal vision of salvation saying, “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” That is what we are setting about to do today, again at the beginning of a new liturgical year. And what is this “light”? The light of Yahweh is the knowledge of Himself as furnished to us through His Word and His manifest love. To see and believe in God is to know Him as He reveals Himself. Isaiah calls us today saying it is high time for us, not just to think about, contemplate or merely gawk at, but to walk…to walk in the light of the Lord, that is to turn the knowledge of Him into life, to reverse our old failures to now love the Lord your God with your whole heart and love our neighbors as ourselves. As they say today, it is intended both to talk the talk and walk the walk.
The spotlight of God’s Word is on Jesus Christ. To walk in that light is to believe in Him and His salvation; to receive the forgiveness of all your sin, to receive the gift of faith, faith that alone can see the Divine Light, can know it and can walk, however hobbling or limping in this life, that is, live according to it. Come on along this year then, let us walk in the light of the Lord.