Seeking to be Peacemakers
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 forth 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 ploughshares,
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. (Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV)
We always want peace at the beginning. We want and work towards harmony, unity – not necessarily uniformity, completeness, stability, fairness precisely so that peace ensues. Now living in the real world means we’re aware of difference but difference doesn’t have to lead to conflict and conflict doesn’t have to lead to fighting and war. So when we embark on anything – a relationship, a reign of a monarch, the beginning of a new parliament or congress, a new job, a new year at school or work, living in a new home – we want there to be peace and we’re usually prepared to work for it.
At the beginning of this new church year, we come to the beginning of Isaiah – chapter 2 from 66 chapters – in which Isaiah addresses the region of Judah and the city of Jerusalem and announces things about the ‘latter days’! We can’t precisely date stamp each chapter but what we are able to deduce is that the kings, people, region and city are in conflict and turmoil having got caught up with everyday living – particularly politics which at that time meant trying to work out which kingdom – Assyria or Egypt – would be better for them – and getting it wrong. The kings were usually short sighted and self serving – the people generally had forgotten much of their religious heritage and living any faith in the God of the Exodus seemed to be on their terms, wishes, and current views of religiosity as influenced by other religions. The people were in control of their world and shaped God to their wishes.
So God sent prophets – Isaiah in this case – who would call the people back to him – back to obedience to the Ten Words given at Mount Sinai and all the other words recorded in the Torah about how to live daily and cultically as God’s people who have God in their midst. We look back at history and see that the people didn’t listen really to much of any of the 66 chapters of Isaiah or of Jeremiah for the northern tribes were obliterated by the Assyrians in 722BC and Judah and Jerusalem was destroyed roughly 150 years later by the Babylonians.
Yet at this beginning – despite the rebelliousness, idolatry, injustice, and lack of compassion – the Lord sends Isaiah to the south – to Judah and Jerusalem (whose name obviously has shalom associated with it – peace, wholeness, completeness – which might flow as water or be pointed out through instruction or teaching) with a message that in the latter days – later – the mountain of the Lord – which could be literally the landscape of Jerusalem or the temple in Jerusalem – will be the place to which everyone comes – all nations – to meet with God who blesses his people with his presence and speaks – thus life might involve politics, economics, family living – but the most important thing is God, his Word, and obedience – walking is a synonym for obedience – precisely because with this God there is peace when he judges and discerns our behaviour towards others (individually or nationally) and we no longer are consumed with being right and getting as much as we can at every opportunity for ourselves. Isaiah’s message to Jerusalem – and definitely her king and leaders – was to stop seeing their future and hope in political scheming and getting the most they could at every moment – but to follow God – by listening to his prophets.
Obedience to God brings blessings and that is the best witness that draws the nations to you. Sure they might come to plunder and take but God was his people’s defender as he demonstrated on numerous occasions – and that is why, in time, swords can be forged into ploughshares and war no longer a preferred option because God’s Word shows us how we can live together in peace. This idea coalesced around God’s anointed one to come – the Messiah – and it was often translated into the establishment of an earthly kingdom to come. Judaism while still waiting for the Messiah regards these words – and others – about Jerusalem as coming to a fulfilment since 1947.
Christians, those who follow Jesus as both Messiah or Christ and Lord, see in these words from Isaiah not a geographical fulfilment but a spiritual fulfilment every time they go to worship. Coming into God’s presence – the people of God – from all nations – are going up the mountain, going to the house of the Lord, hearing his Word, learning his ways, learning to be obedient, and then going out into the world and if there is one task they are equipped for through the absolution, through Holy Communion, through receiving the blessing of God is to be peacemakers. The problem today and for a lot of the 2,000 years of Church history is that Christians would prefer to turn God’s kingdom into geography – into their country, their politics, their way of doing things – and they forget that the disciples of Jesus follow Jesus where they live while remaining obedient to the world authorities of their time and place for as long they don’t cause them to sin – especially against the 1st Commandment. This is the attitude that no government or boss of a company or head teacher or general ever wants to hear – that we live in this world seeking its peace, that we want to serve our neighbour, that we acknowledge world authority but finally that we follow Jesus as Lord.
The writer to the Hebrews in proclaiming Jesus as the founder and perfecter of our faith encourages Christians not to grow weary in this world – it can be tough at times to be faithful – and to remember that God’s kingdom cannot be shaken – to which we would add that God’s name is always holy and we want it so among us and God’s will is always done and we want that to be so among us. The writer to the Hebrews says: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV)
We begin this new church year, this season of Advent wanting peace in our world and working for it but doing so because Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus – whose birth we celebrate soon as the Prince of Peace – whose peace we have received in the absolution and will receive at Holy Communion – who blesses us as we live to go back to our lives – and the task is never easy wherever we are for we go out into all sorts of circumstances – home, work, school, recreational time, country – seeking to be peace makers.
- Isaiah 2:1 - 5