This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple 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. 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.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” Isaiah’s invitation to ascend the mountain is an invitation to experience the presence of God. Throughout the Scripture narrative, the mountain is symbolic of the meeting place with God. Moses and Elijah, pillars of the Law and Prophets, both have mountaintop encounters where the Divine Glory is revealed. But in the miracle of the incarnation, the mountain of the Lord has come down to us. The Presence himself has made his dwelling among us, not descending in fire and cloud but in flesh and blood.
And the arrival of his presence will bring the arrival of peace. Blessed is the peacemaker, Isaiah encourages us, for he will embrace enemies and call them the children of God. He sees a coming revolution, where weapons of destruction will become tools of cultivation, from equipment designed to take lives to equipment designed to sustain and nurture life. Warriors transformed into farmers. What is hidden here is that this is a reversal of what was a common scene in the ancient world. When your home or village or nation was attacked, everyone became a warrior and everyday tools formed a makeshift arsenal. When war came to your land, the farmers became fighters, reaching for every blade and sharp edge to be used as sword or spear to defend their tribes and homes. But Isaiah foresees that when this Prince of Peace arrives among us, warriors are reversed into farmers and swords into plows. When his conquest rolls in, perfect love drives out fear and battle morphs into healing.
This is a grand vision of an ultimate and final peace. But the healing and peace starts in the immediate, here and now, first with God and then with others, all by Christ. And how far will that peace spread? To the most difficult places of all. Not only in an abstract, universal sense, but into our own broken relationships, families, and homes which often feel like the most war-torn of territories.
It’s interesting that this passage from Isaiah builds to this invitation: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” The name Jacob alone reminds us of a broken family history, not only enemies across boundary lines, but within blood lines. Retrace the line and remember that Jacob’s story begins with Abraham, the father of Isaac and Ishmael, two brothers who become enemies. Isaac has twin sons, Esau and Jacob, who become enemies. Jacob has twelve sons, with eleven turning against Joseph in betrayal. These twelve sons become the twelve tribes of Israel, who will later divide into two separate kingdoms. Jesus even tells his most memorable story by beginning with the words, “There once was a [father] who had two sons . . .” (Matt. 21:28).
Out of their division God brings peace to the world, and through Jesus the Father shows that he desires to restore the Isaacs and Ishmaels to each other and himself. From the time of Cain and Abel, sin has been turning family into enemies. But the Prince of Peace has come to turn enemies into family.
Peacemaker, bring your reign of peace to our broken places.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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