************ Sermon on Isaiah 2:1-5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 22, 2014
"A Mountain, Many Peoples, and the Judge"
"This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem" (Is 2:1). "Saw" NOT "heard." How can a word from God be seen by Isaiah? Even the technology minded realize this cannot be a reference to texting or tweeting or emailing. So, what does Isaiah have in mind?
The Hebrew word for "see" means "to envision." We are to understand that God has given Isaiah a vision. Maybe in a dream. Maybe in a trance. However it was given, it is a word from the Lord.
According to William Glasser we learn 10% of what we READ, 20% of what we HEAR, 30% of what we SEE, 50% of what we SEE and HEAR. What God says to Isaiah is important stuff and needs to be remembered. Jesus knew this same principle; that is why His sermons were laced with imagery and filled with examples; that is why He pointed to the temple and put children on His lap. Like Isaiah, we need to see and hear and live the Word of God. It is important and needs to be remembered.
What Isaiah saw was "concerning Judah and Jerusalem" (Is 2:1). We need to understand the historical setting. Our passage from the Book of Isaiah comes from around 740 BC. At that time Assyria was threatening to overrun Syria and Palestine. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had formed a coalition with neighboring nations in order to repel Assyria. They had asked the Southern Kingdom of Judah to join them. Isaiah had warned against such military coalitions, and instead called on the people to trust in God. He called the people to look to Mount Zion and the temple as symbols of their salvation.
What Isaiah saw was not for his days or the near future. Rather, Isaiah's vision concerned "the last days" (Is 2:2). Let me tell you again that "the last days" is a technical expression in the Bible. It stands for the Messianic age. It stands for the whole time between the two comings of Christ. In other words, what Isaiah saw concerns Christ and today. What Isaiah saw was an advent message that includes you and me and Diane and the times that we live in.
I The Mountain of the Lord
A So what does the prophet see? The first thing the prophet sees is the mountain of the Lord:
(Isa 2:2) In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills ...
There are those who look at this verse and say this means that someday a physical temple will be rebuilt in the earthly Jerusalem. In fact, they say, it needs to be rebuilt before the Messiah can return. Based upon this same verse I have been told for years to pray for Jerusalem and the nation and people of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple.
When we look at the words of Jesus we know this can't be the right interpretation. Do you remember what Jesus said after He cleared the temple? The leaders of the Jews were very upset and Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (Jn 2:19). Jesus is talking about His body and His resurrection. He is the new temple; in Him God tabernacles with us (Jn 1:14). With the presence of Jesus, the physical temple is no longer necessary. I think also of Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan woman reminded Jesus that the Samaritans worshiped on Mt. Gerizim while the Jews claimed that the place for worship is in Jerusalem. Jesus said to her,
(Jn 4:23-24) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (24) God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.Did you hear that? Once the Spirit of the resurrected Lord has been poured out, it doesn't matter where we worship – whether Gerizim, Jerusalem, Visalia, Paris, or Beijing.
B If Isaiah is NOT talking about a literal temple on a literal mountain, what is He talking about? What is His advent message for you and me and Diane and everyone who believes in Jesus?
We need to backup for a moment and be reminded of the place and function of mountains in the history of redemption.
First of all, the mountain is a place of salvation. Noah's ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat after the flood. It was there, on the mountain, that God made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy the earth with a flood (Gen 9). The mountain is a place of salvation.
At the command of God, Abraham was about to plunge down the knife and offer up Isaac at Mt. Moriah. But God stopped him and provided a ram to offer up in Isaac's place (Gen 22). The mountain is a place of salvation.
It was at Mt. Horeb and its burning bush that Moses was commissioned to go to Egypt to lead God's people out of bondage (Ex 3). The mountain is a place of salvation.
It was on Mt. Sinai that God revealed His Law and His ways to His people (Ex 20). Obedience to this Law meant life whereas disobedience meant death. The mountain is a place of salvation.
The temple was built on Mt. Zion – the same mountain on which Abraham offered up Isaac. The mountain is a place of salvation.
Jesus, of course, was crucified on Golgotha. All other mountains point to this mountain. It is in Christ and because of Christ that the mountain is a place of salvation.
We all know that the mountain that Isaiah sees is the only place of salvation. As the Catechism puts it,
Salvation cannot be found in anyone else; it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere; those who in true faith accept this Savior have in Him all they need for their salvation.
(Q & A 29,30)
Do I need to remind you, congregation, that we all need salvation? Isaiah looks at his people, the people of Judah, and he catalogs their sin:
(Isa 1:2-5) "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (3) The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." (4) Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.What is true for the people of Judah is also true for you and me and Diane and everyone who lives. We are sinners who need salvation.
C Second, the mountain is also a place of governance. Do you remember Nebuchadnezzar's vision of a rock that struck and smashed an enormous statue (Dan 2)? The rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. It was Daniel who told the king what the vision meant: the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It will crush all other kingdoms but it will itself endure forever.
Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom may seem so stable and so secure but they are not a permanent part of the landscape; they will not last forever. In fact, no earthly power or kingdom will last forever. There will come a day when every kingdom and nation of men will fall and all that will be left is the Kingdom of God and His Christ. The kingdoms of this world, the powers of this world, the mighty of this world, will someday be overwhelmed by our God and His Christ!
The stone did not come along simply to destroy everything in its path; it came to make room for Christ. And, when the stone grows and grows and grows until it becomes a mountain that fills the entire earth, it leaves room only for Christ.
This is the message we have to bring to our world in this season of advent. People are so busy with their lives, with their hopes and dreams and plans for Christmas. We need to say to them, "Leave room for Christ! Make room for Christ!" We must tell our unbelieving neighbors that either they are part of the Kingdom of Christ or they are part of the kingdoms of this world that someday will be crushed. We must tell our neighbors that there is no room for anything but the Kingdom of Christ. As we sang before the sermon, Christ is the King of the nations. So they, with us and Diane, have to give Christ their lives, their hearts, their all.
D Put the two points together. What is Isaiah telling us in this season of advent? He is talking about the Messiah. And, He is telling us that the Messiah is Savior and Lord. I like how Dr. Luke puts this:
(Lk 2:11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.Isaiah is telling us the Christmas story.
(Acts 2:36) "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
"In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills ..." (Isa 2:2). This is the first thing Isaiah sees.
II Streaming Nations
A The second thing Isaiah sees concerns nations and peoples. Isaiah says:
(Isa 2:2-3) ... all nations will stream to it. (3) Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob."
"All nations will stream to it" (Is 3:2). Isaiah uses the well-known Hebrew word "goyim" for the nations. The goyim are the non-Israelite peoples, the Gentiles, the enemies of Israel. The goyim include the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Arameans, Canaanites, and countless smaller groups who have warred and struggled against the people of God.
"Many peoples will come ..." (Is 2:3). That is, vast numbers will come from all the world's nations. They are all coming to the mountain of the Lord. They are streaming to the mountain of the Lord.
In the past they came to Israel to conquer because Israel stood at the crossroads of Africa and Asia and Europe. Israel occupied a key place in the trade routes of the ancient world and all the goyim wanted to control those routes.
B But notice why the nations come now. This is how Isaiah puts it for these last days:
(Isa 2:3) Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.To use the last verse of our Scripture reading, they have seen "the light of the Lord" (Is 2:5). They have seen what is at stake. They have come to meet Jesus because they realize Jesus is Savior and Lord.
Notice, "the mountain of the Lord" is further described as "the house of the God of Jacob" (Is 2:3). We've been studying Jacob for months now as we have been going through the book of Genesis. What have we learned about him and his God?
The God of Jacob is the God of election. Jacob supplies us with the clearest and most unmistakable illustration of God’s choosing that we see in all the Bible. Jacob was selected before he was born or had done anything good or bad (cf Rom 9:11-13).
The God of Jacob is the God of all grace. According to the flesh there was nothing attractive about Jacob. Selfish, scheming, deceitful, treacherous, untruthful, he was a most unlovely character. What was there in him to attract the love of God? Absolutely nothing! Humanly speaking, Esau was a better person to receive God’s favors. But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways.
The God of Jacob is the God of infinite patience. A careful study of the whole life of Jacob as it is recorded in Genesis more than proves this fact. Jacob was a most despicable character; as a believer he lived a most God-dishonoring life. Yet, again and again God showed patience with this wayward child.
The God of Jacob is the God of transforming power. The final years of Jacob's life reveals the triumph of God's mighty grace. In the closing scenes of his life we see the Spirit victorious over the flesh and we see the marvelous transforming effects of God's power.
The God of Jacob is the God Who loves us in Christ. In other words, the goyim come to meet Jesus Who is Savior and Lord.
C Who are these goyim streaming to the mountain of the Lord in the last days? They are the wisemen from the east (Mt 2). They are a centurion who believes (Lk 7). They are a Samaritan who gives thanks (Lk 17). They are sinners like Zacchaeus (Lk 19). They are a Samaritan woman at a well (Jn 4). They are the people of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). They are a multitude than no one can count from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7). They are you and me and Diane and everyone who believes in Jesus the Messiah and sees the light of the Lord.
III God the Judge
A As the goyim approach the Lord's mountain, God appears as judge. This is the third thing that Isaiah sees because of the coming of the Messiah:
(Isa 2:4) He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
The grammar of the sentence is very important. The second part of the sentence is the result of the first part of the sentence. The result of the Messiah's work as judge is that nation will not take up sword against nation. When the goyim meet the Messiah, when they realize Jesus is Savior and Lord, when they walk in His light, they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Before the cross of Jesus, enemies become brothers and walls of hostility are broken down.
B What does this mean for us in this season of Advent? Let me remind you, my brothers and sisters, that we are in the last days. The Messiah has already come and already He is doing His work of judgment.
We see from Isaiah that there is only one basis for judgment. He does not judge you by how much wealth and money you have managed to accumulate. He does not judge you by the success of your kids and grandkids. He does not judge you by how good a life you have lived. He does not judge you by the number of people you have helped. He does not judge you according to your ability on the football field or volleyball court. He does not judge you by the number of your friends. The only basis for judgment is your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Is He your only Savior from sin and the Lord of your life? Nothing else counts. Nothing else matters.
"Brothers, what shall we do?" That was the cry of God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven when they heard Peter tell them Jesus was both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:37).
"Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Or, as Jesus Himself put it, "Repent and believe the good news!" (Mk 1:15).
That is what we should do in these last days as the mountain of the Lord's temple is being established as chief among the mountains. That is what we should do as we meet the God of Jacob.
So let me end by asking you, are you one of the crowd going with Diane to the mountain of the Lord? Are you one of those coming to Jesus as Savior and Lord?
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