Anticipation

What are you looking forward to right now?

Maybe a baby is coming, that’s a happy anticipation! Or a wedding, or some special honor, a happy milestone in your life, or a big trip. But maybe there is something you are dreading, such as an upcoming confrontation, a difficult phone call, bad news you do not want to deliver, a doctor’s visit you fear will deliver troubling results, getting something in the mail you know is coming such as overdue bills, or a court summons, or a rejection notice.

What do you do when you are looking forward to something?

If it is a happy anticipation, maybe you tell all your friends, you make preparations, you clean your home, you get out your best clothes. But what if you are dreading something? Do you worry? Do nothing, try to avoid it, ignore it, put it off? Or maybe you rush into it, hoping get it over with as fast as possible?

Anticipation of the future, whether you and I are looking forward to something wonderful, or something dreadful, really does have a significant impact on our lives, and that is what we are going to see in this passage.

The Word of God

Isaiah was a seer, he saw what God revealed to him. So, he began this passage by explaining that it was both a vision and a word from God. The literal Hebrew translation is that he saw a word from God. God had opened Isaiah’s eyes to see the future of Judah and Jerusalem, both the beautiful and glorious, and the dreadful and terrifying.

The writers of the Christian Testament regularly quoted passages from Isaiah’s prophecies because they recognized Isaiah had seen beyond his own era to the last days. They realized Isaiah had seen glimpses of a far distant time—to him—that began with the birth of Jesus and will culminate when Jesus returns to earth. During this Messianic age God will judge the nations and then there will be worldwide peace and joy.

During that time, according to Isaiah and other prophets both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the Christian Testament, Jerusalem will become the center of everything, the governing center of the world, the place where Jesus reigns as king. In fact, many scholars point to a text in the Book of Revelation that claims this reign will last a thousand years, what in Latin would be called a millennium.

Jerusalem | By Berthold Werner – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6429995

Spiritual: A good number of scholars take this thousand-year reign of Christ as representative of the time when Jesus has come and we begin to experience some of the benefits of knowing Him as we await for His return.

Physical: Many other theologians view this thousand-year reign, this millennium reign, as a concrete future event that really will happen, where Christ will literally reign on earth for a thousand actual years.

I see no reason to have to make a choice. Prophecy is famously written in a layered form, with near-term partial fulfilment that can happen any number of times as both proof of and pointers to the future and final fulfillment.

The Mountain of God

As mountains go, the temple mount is not the tallest, let alone in comparison to other mountains of the world, such as the Himalayas, or the Alps.

Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount (Hebrew: הַר הַבַּיִת‎, Har HaBáyit, Arabic: الحرم الشريف‎, al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf), showing, Al-Aqsa Mosque (Hebrew: הַר הַבַּיִת‎, Arabic: المسجد الأقصى المبارك‎) in the Old City of Jerusalem (Hebrew: העיר העתיקה‎, Arabic: البلدة القديمة‎). Annotated in the foreground is Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic: ٱلْمَسْجِد ٱلْأَقْصَى). Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Behind are The Dome of the Rock (Hebrew: כיפת הסלע, Arabic: مسجد قبة الصخرة‎) and to the right, The Dome of the Chain (Arabic: قبة السلسلة, Qubbat al-Silsila), constructed during the Umayyad Caliphate (c. 685 AD) and served as a model for the building of the Dome of the Rock (c. 691 AD). The Temple Mount, which is called by Muslims Al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered to be the premier holy site in Judaism as it is the place where the first and second Temples stood. | By Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30066666

But according to

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
    the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised above the hills;

Isaiah 2:1-2 (NRSV)

That mountain will be raised up, at least in a spiritual sense, and tower over all the earth. It will become the chief mountain of the world. When that happens,

all the nations shall stream to it.

Isaiah 22 (NRSV)

All nations will be eager to be in God’s house.

That is a stupendous vision!

Isaiah used the word גּוֹי | gôwy, go’-ee when he described all these people groups, a word often translated as Gentile, but with the sense of masses of people, a vision of all the world’s nations.

In Isaiah’s day the people of Judah were adopting the gods of the surrounding nations. But one day those nations would themselves abandon their gods and religions and turn to the one true and living God. The temple, the holy habitation of YHWH, built upon the summit of God’s holy hill, would become the center for the worldwide worship of Almighty God.

Even today you and I can experience something of that future glory when we study God’s word together and say with those Isaiah saw in his vision,

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 instruction,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:3 (NRSV)

The Peace of God

In this vision, Isaiah saw the Word of the Lord settling disputes between all nations with perfectly satisfying justice and mercy.

He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

Isaiah 2:5 (NRSV)
Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai. | By Unknown artist – [1][2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=489650

In fact, the Lord’s judgments will be so deeply satisfying that there will be no disagreement, no flare ups. This is not simply a moment of world peace.

This is total global disarmament!

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 any more.

Isaiah 2:4 (NRSV)

It is a famous saying because it is so stunning.

All weapons and even armies dismantled, for there will not even be the training in war anymore. Time and money and resources will be freed up instead for providing for the people.

When you and I look at the news today, that is not the world we see. But the day is coming, God declares through Isaiah, when the Lord will rule this world in righteousness, and people will desire to obey God, and their chief desire will be to be with God.

The Blessing of God

The exciting part of this news for you and me today is that we can have a foretaste of it right now. The apostle Paul talked about it in his letter to the Ephesians. Here are some glimpses,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has

1. blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

2. just as [God] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world

3. to be holy and blameless before [God] in love.

4. [God] destined us for adoption as [God’s] children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of [God’s] will,

5. to the praise of [God’s] glorious grace that [the Lord] freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

6. In [Christ] we have redemption through [Jesus’] blood,

7. the forgiveness of our trespasses,

8. according to the riches of [God’s] grace that [God] lavished on us.

9. With all wisdom and insight [Christ] has made known to us the mystery of [God’s] will, according to [God’s] good pleasure that [the Lord] set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time,

10. to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.

Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:3-10 (NRSV, brackets mine)

I counted ten (at least) incalculably beautiful blessings from God in that one small passage, with the final gift corroborating Isaiah’s vision.

Here is another.

The Spirit of God.

In [Christ] you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of [Christ’s/God’s] glory.

Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:13-14 (NRSV, brackets mine)
Luis Tristán (Toledo, 1585 – 1624), Pentecostes pt: Museu de Belas Artes, Bucareste, Romênia es: Museo de Bellas Artes. Bucarest. Rumania en: Museum of Fine Arts, Bucarest | By Luis Tristán – http://pintura.aut.org/BU04?Autnum=11.617&EmpNum=15069, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3037197

You and I experience all this now, but also not yet.

We do not have all that Isaiah described, but we can experience some of his amazing vision right now.


2 thoughts on “Isaiah 2: A Vision of God’s Word

  1. Hi Joanne,
    I like how you have taught that this is applicable to the Church and would like to point out why I believe that the one view you offer trumps the other. As I see it, this prophecy does not claim a time of “worldwide peace and joy” for every person, but rather a period of peace and joy for all people, of every nation, who go “up” to God and have their hearts and ways changed toward Him and one another. We see the fulfillment of this when people from every nation come to Christ’s Church, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2), and the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). Those who are in Christ have changed hearts and they learn to no longer war with each other. Isaiah 2 captures the idea of a time of change rather than a final outcome, for those who go to God are being taught new ways, and disputes are still being settled (Isa. 2:3-4).
    Also, the New Testament authors describe the era since Christ as the “last days” (see Acts 2:17, 2 Tim. 3). And, the book of Revelation indicates that both the righteous and unrighteous will exist alongside each other until they are both judged, as do other passages in the New Testament, rather than of a time of peace and joy for everyone on earth.
    I agree that this passage matches the 1000-year reign (Rev. 20), however, the author of Revelation indicates that he was communicating symbolically with the numbers he used. Therefore, 1000-years refers to the entire Church period as a kingdom of priests (Rev. 20:4, 1 Pet. 2:5,9). The idea of another literal 1000-year reign after or within a metaphorical 1000-year reign undermines the full extent of the message of peace and joy entirely applicable to the entire Church era. “For the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:10).
    It also undermines the idea that it is the entire Church who are the “priests of God and of Christ [who] reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:5). For the Church are those who “[sing] a new song: ‘Worthy are You . . . because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth’” (Rev. 5:9-10).
    Finally, hindsight allows us to see that terms like “swords” and “spears” were used metaphorically, for people don’t run around with spears anymore.
    The entire picture in Isaiah 2 is metaphorical, pointing to people coming to Christ and being changed by Him, while he simultaneously brings judgment on those who don’t. For He already reigns in righteousness and has been deemed “[w]orthy to take the scroll and open its seals,” (Rev. 5:9) which are judgments He brings upon the peoples of the earth, including on “the descendants of Jacob” (Isa. 2:6) who rejected Him.
    Rob Morley

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this perspective, it is certainly relevant for today, and offers a mature spiritual view of what God was accomplishing through Isaiah as well as now through those who are living by faith in Christ. Interestingly, some of these very same aims are espoused in those of other faiths, so that the same righteousness, joy, and peace Christians know flows from the throne of God is honored in many places around the globe. An observation for which I have no theology.

      I hold both views with an open hand. The divine power of God, which often breaks through in the events of earth, can unsettle our paradigms on a moment’s notice. There was a time when I felt no other view of prophecy could be held in good conscience except one that pointed to concrete future events.

      I don’t feel that way anymore.

      Instead, I think it makes sense to be open to the idea concrete future events may certainly unfold, but in the meantime, every word of God is true in its spiritual impact–which is no small thing, as you have pointed out.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s