Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Isaiah 2: 1-5

Isaiah 2

God’s Universal Reign
 1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  2 Now it will come about that in the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
3 And 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;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
 5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

With the beginning of Isaiah Chapter 2, we engage in the prophet's speaking on a solitary subject across the next four chapters. This will be obvious as we start Chapter 6, in which we read about Isaiah's call to the prophecy. My study Bible says of our verses today that these are "the first of three pictures of Zion (Jerusalem) in this discourse that depicts her future exaltation."

By "future," the commentaries I review suggest times following Isaiah's receiving of this word from God. As I read through this portion, I can clearly see how the passage refers to the millennial kingdom, to be established by Jesus Christ at His second advent and earthly reign. Though it is also true that the text can apply to a time that has already passed. The beauty of Scripture is such that it can apply across multiple time frames. Let's explore that notion today!

"Now it will come about that in the last days...."
--vs. 2

When I see "last days," I generally think end times. Referring back to a passage I explored not long ago in Hosea, "Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days." (Hosea 3:5, emphasis mine) The sons of Israel will not recognize Jesus as Messiah until He appears in the flesh in His second coming. But, the New Testament writers use "last days" to refer to the time after Christ's first advent. Consider this from Hebrews 1: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son." (Hebrews 1: 1 & 2a)

Matthew Henry continues in the vein of the New Testament writers when he suggests that our Isaiah text today refers to the establishment of Christianity:

"Now the prophet here foretels: I. The setting up of the Christian church, and the planting of the Christian religion, in the world. Christianity shall then be the mountain of the Lord’s house; where that is professed God will grant his presence, receive his people’s homage, and grant instruction and blessing, as he did of old in the temple of Mount Zion."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
When I was studying Daniel through Beth Moore's teaching, she introduced a couple of terms from Biblical commentators that, I think, apply here as well. "Dual reference" indicates a place in Scripture which can be referred to in a more present time as well as a forthcoming time, like the establishment of "the mountain of the house of the Lord." It is then possible to have a "dual fulfillment" of said prophecy, which would support Matthew Henry's viewpoint on the beginnings of Christianity while allowing for a second fulfillment of the prophecy under Christ in the time when "every knee shall bow...." (Romans 14:11) As you and I continue to digest that, let's look at some other passages more closely, tying in this concept. 
The people head to the mountain "that He may teach us...that we may walk in His paths." (vs. 3) Isaiah writes in a time when people went to the mountain to worship their created idols. Certainly, even in that time, Jerusalem had the opportunity to correct their steps. But pride and self-righteousness would keep them from listening to God (which is why He stopped listening to them--Isaiah 1:15).
"Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
--Psalm 25: 8-12

Isaiah 2:3 also speaks of "the law" (or, per other translations, the instruction) and "the word of the Lord"  coming from Zion/Jerusalem. In addition to Zion referring to Jerusalem, "the mountain of the Lord"--Mount Zion--was the location of the temple in Jerusalem, as the earlier-mentioned Henry comment says. God's word was always available to His people. Not surprisingly, the fulfillment of the law, through Christ and the "going forth" of His word would begin in Jerusalem--following His crucifixion there, His commissioning of the disciples and their receiving of the Holy Spirit:

"Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'"
--Luke 24: 44-47 (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 2:4 speaks of judgment and rendering decisions. Again, not hard for me to see this as an end-times fulfillment, with Christ bringing decisions regarding eternal judgment of all people. But, can we also see this passage as being fulfilled earlier? "Render decisions" in other translations can mean "reprove" or "rebuke." God's power in admonishing and correcting the nations can be seen throughout the course of history. Surely his words through the prophets culminating in the exile of His own people could be included as reproof.
The next line is one you have likely heard before: "And they will hammer their swords into plowshares...." Popular musicians--from Stephen Stills to Michael Jackson--have pulled this text for their song lyrics, as have politicians, including Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, used these words in their speeches. The sculpture in the picture above is entitled "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares," by Evgeniy Vuchetich, part of the United Nations Art Collection. The representation in art, speech and verse refers to a time of peace. Interestingly, when God gave these same words to the prophet Joel, they were flipped around to indicate preparation for a time of war: "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears...." (Joel 3:10)
With the Messiah, the Prince of Peace--as Isaiah would name Him in Chapter 9--coming to reign, the earth will know a time of peace, a prelude to that in the eternal Kingdom. Yet even our Lord Himself proclaimed, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." (John 14: 27a) He is our peace, and when there is no peace in our relationships and circumstances, we need to remember that He has shown us what His peace looks like. Do we not have the tools to hammer our swords into plowshares, even now?

"The design and tendency of the gospel are to make peace and to slay all enmities. It has in it the most powerful obligations and inducements to peace; so that one might reasonably have expected it should have this effect, and it would have had it if it had not been for those lusts of men from which come wars and fightings." 
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

 This has been difficult study today. I get the basics, though it is still "too lofty" for me to completely understand. This is one of the reasons why I veered away from the prophets for so long. But, I'm thankful for the teachings of others to guide me as I seek to understand where the Spirit is leading through all of this. Thankful to "walk in the light of the Lord." (vs. 5)

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
--I John 1: 5-7

No new subhead for our verses next week, but the tone and direction sound a lot like the judgments of Chapter 1. Why God abandons His people.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 2: 6-9

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).