Isaiah 2:1-5 (1st Sunday in Advent—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 28, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 2:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 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, and 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.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Seven-hundred years before Christ seems like a whole world removed from the Year of Our Lord 2010. There were obviously no cell phones, computers, televisions, radios, electricity, cars, trains, planes, plastic, or cardboard. It was a world of primarily agriculture. There really wasn’t what we would today understand as industry and manufacturing. People didn’t commute into the office for a 9-5 job. With all the differences between then and now, it might be difficult to understand where God’s prophet Isaiah is coming from. He comes out of a culture and time that is lost to history. He uses Old Testament language to describe future events, which presents a little challenge in unpacking what is going on. But what is really incredible is that there is a link between Isaiah’s “then” and our “today”. And that’s what we want to discover as we engage God’s Word this morning.
At the time of Isaiah, only a very, very small part of humanity knew and worshipped the one, true God, the God of Jacob, who revealed Himself to Moses as Yahweh, “I AM.” He is the one, triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pretty much the only people who knew Him were the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel were the people chosen by God through whom He would keep His promise to save the world from Satan, sin, and death. God had set apart the Children of Israel, made them holy, made them His possession to accomplish His saving purpose. But for the rest of the world—Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia—there was no worship of the God of Jacob. Yahweh was unknown.
What about today? How many people in our world worship the one, true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? According the most recent figures I could find, there are about 6.9 billion people in the world. Only 2.1 billion, or about 30%, claim to be Christians, those who worship the one, true God through faith in Jesus Christ. In this respect, our world is very much like Isaiah’s world. We live in a time where only a small portion of people believe in and worship the one, true God, the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But listen to what our text from God’s Word says, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of Yahweh 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, and many peoples shall come, and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, that He may teach us His ways that we may walk in His paths.’” Such a strange picture—the peoples of the world are compared to rivers flowing up to a mountain! By means of this picture Isaiah wishes to teach the truth that the worship of Yahweh, the one Triune God, will triumph over all other religions and forms of worship. No longer will one nation (Israel) know the Lord God, but all nations will know Him. All peoples will know that He alone is God and Lord and Savior.
What brings “then” and “today” together in this text? It is the first advent, the first coming of the Messiah. What brings nations and people to know the one, true God? The advent of the Messiah! What kicks off the beginning of God’s Word going out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth? The coming of the Savior! What begins the time of spiritual peace with God? You guessed it, the advent of the Messiah-Savior, Jesus Christ, the one who comes in the name of the Lord, in the name of Yahweh.
It is the first coming of Christ among people at His incarnation, at His birth in Bethlehem, which ushers in “the latter days.” Isaiah does not direct the Israelites to the present but to the time when the Messiah will have come and the breach which sin had introduced between people and God will be healed. It is Jesus Christ who brought about the spiritual peace that Isaiah described with Old Testament words, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; … neither shall they learn war anymore.”
What had caused God to look upon people in wrath and judgment was people’s sin. With Christ’s birth, perfect life, death, and resurrection, this sin has now been removed, and so God regards people with favor. Because of the death of Jesus, the Messiah, on the cross, we are born again from the dead through the forgiveness of our sins. The Lord approaches people with the gracious offer of salvation and brings people to Himself, giving each person a new heart and declaring that that individual stands in a right relationship with God.
The Messiah-Savior Jesus came to make peace between us and the one, true God. The fulfillment of this prophecy began with the angels’ “peace on earth” over the fields of Bethlehem. With that peace accomplished by Jesus’ death and resurrection, God desires the opportunity to teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths. God does this by sending out His Word of truth, life, and light. The reason why the nations stream to the presence of God in Christ is because they have heard the Gospel of the Savior and have been called by that Gospel to a life of faith and worship of the true God. They have new hearts that crave to learn from God, to learn of God.
You and I have those hearts—new hearts of faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord, new hearts that crave the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ. How did we get those hearts? From the Word of God in the Gospel which God Himself sent out to all people. The Word of Yahweh went out from Jerusalem carried by the first disciples who went throughout the world proclaiming true salvation. Jesus said in Acts 2, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We are the receivers of that Word of witness about Jesus—the very Gospel of our salvation. And now we too are witnesses, disciples. In fact, we play a vital role in the continued fulfillment of God’s prophecy here in Isaiah!
Today, the prophecy is fulfilled as more and more nations hear the Word and walk in its path as people just like you and me in the Church share the Gospel. Yes, the Church, believers in Jesus, those who worship the one, true God, makes up only a small percent of the world. But it’s not just the Children of Israel anymore. People around the world, you and me for one, worship Jesus. Pick a continent, and people attend Sunday services to listen to God’s Word. Worship and Bible classes are carried out in hundreds of languages, and people want to follow God’s Word and do what is right. And the Lord calls you to fulfill this prophecy by continuing to share the Word with your family, friends, and neighbors.
You see, it’s not over yet. The Lord kicked things off with His first coming among us as our Savior. But He is coming again as our victorious Lord. At the Last Day, at Christ’s Second Advent, the prophecy will be completed in its fullness. On the day Jesus returns in all glory and power, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.
But we’re not there yet. There is still work to be done in the Kingdom in Jesus’ name. God’s Word must continue to go out from His Church. More and more people must hear of the peace of God which Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings between sinners and the Lord. More and more people must hear that because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that they are forgiven, that they have a right standing before the one, true God who loves them and wants them to worship Him alone.
That’s what God told Isaiah to proclaim in our text this morning. He called His Old Testament people of faith to look forward to what the Lord was going to accomplish in saving the whole world from sin and death. God, through Isaiah, called His Old Testament people of faith to imitate what the nations would do in the latter days, to hear the Word and walk in the light of the Lord. And now, because Christ did come and win forgiveness and salvation from sin and death for Israel and all nations, the same God and Lord calls you and me, the members of His “new Israel,” the Church, to hear His Word, to walk in the light of His truth in the face of Christ, and to share that Word of grace and love with the nations—with people everywhere.
The link between Isaiah’s “then” and our “today” is Jesus Christ. He’s the one who brings our text to fulfillment, starting with His first coming as the God-Man. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the Word of truth that we now share as members of Christ’s Church until His second coming in power and glory at the Last Day. In this holy Season of Advent, in these “latter days,” share the Word of the Lord. Tell people what Christmas is really all about—God’s gift of love in Jesus, His Son, born to die on a cross so that all people might live forever. Amen.