The Light of the Lord.

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 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. – Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV

In the opening chapter of the book of Isaiah, we have God’s stinging indictment against His people, particularly, the southern kingdom of Judah. He has pulled no punches in describing their sinful state and outlining the degree of their guilt. And from the loftiest leader to the poorest peasant, all were equally culpable for His divine wrath. They had forsaken Him, the one true God, and given their time, attention, and trust to a plethora of false gods.

But that’s not what God had intended. He had chosen them to be His own possession. He had set apart the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, to be His own. Not because they had earned or deserved it, but because of His grace, love and mercy. God had made that point perfectly clear to them through His servant, Moses.

“The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 7:7-8 NLT

And here, in the book of Isaiah, God will remind His people how things should have been. His choice of them had been accompanied by great plans for them. The opening verses of chapter 2 are prophetic in nature, describing an as-yet-future reality for Israel. The events described in these verses have not yet taken place. But they are evidence of God’s preferred future for His people. This is what He has always intended for them. Look closely at what it says.

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
– vs 2

This is clearly a reference to Mount Zion, the mountain on which the city of Jerusalem is located. This is an indication of Jerusalem’s future global significance, not its topographical elevation. It has to do with status, not height.  Because the day was coming when Jerusalem would become a spiritual mecca, attracting people from all over the world.

…all the nations shall flow to it,
   and many peoples shall come… – vs 3

And these pilgrims will make their way to the capital city of Judah in order to seek the God of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Non-Jews from all over the world will make their way to the city of David so they might learn the ways of Yahweh.

“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.” – vs 3

It’s quite clear that this is a picture of some future day in time, because this has not yet happened. Yes, we can see a partial fulfillment of it in 1 Kings, where we are told that “people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34 ESV). But they were there to hear the wisdom of Solomon, not to learn the ways of Yahweh. What we have here in Isaiah is a picture of God’s preferred future for His people. It is what He desires for them, and what He intends to do on behalf of them.

The New English Translation renders the last part of verse 3 this way:

For Zion will be the center for moral instruction;
the Lord will issue edicts from Jerusalem… – vs 3

The nations will flock to Judah and Jerusalem in order to learn what God expects and demands. There they will find Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world, sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem. He will be the long-awaited king who will rule in righteousness over the whole earth for a period of 1,000 years. And every decree He issues will be right. Every decision He renders will be just. And Satan, the great deceiver, will be imprisoned throughout this 1,000 year period, eliminating his influence over the people of the world (Revelation 20:1-3). Righteousness will reign, both literally and figuratively. And as the King and Judge over the world, Jesus “shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4 ESV).

And the world will enjoy a time of unprecedented peace for the very first time in its long and bloody history.

…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. – vs 4

It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to recognize that this has not yet happened. We live in a time marked by civil unrest and constant war. The announcement of global conflicts are a ubiquitous part of the daily news cycle. Peace is constantly discussed, but rarely achieved. But God lets the people of Judah know that the day is coming when He will restore peace to the world.

But at the point at which Isaiah was penning these words, this was all wishful thinking. It was far from the daily reality of life in the Judah. But it reveals the heart of God for the people of God. It is what He intends to do for them so, it is what He desires for them. Which is why verse 5 states:

O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord.

It is a call to repentance. It’s a divine invitation to return to God and to once again walk in the light of His will as revealed in His Word. But the apostle John paints a vivid and starkly realistic picture of the state of the world, both then and now.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:19-21 ESV

Thousands of years later, long after the book of Isaiah had been written, God sent His Son into the world to expose the sins of the world. He was a light shining in the darkness.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness… – John 1:4 ESV

But the people of God, the Israelites, refused to accept the light of God.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:9-11 ESV

They preferred the darkness over the light. They chose disobedience to God over acceptance of the Son of God. Even centuries after Isaiah penned his book, the people of God were still refusing the light of God. The long-anticipated Messiah had finally showed up on the scene and they had rejected Him.

In fact, it’s interesting to note one of the indictments God leveled against the nation of Judah.

Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves. – Isaiah 1:22

Fast-forward to the trial of Jesus before Pilate. When the Roman governor gave the Jews the choice between having Jesus released or a convicted thief, they had shouted, “Give us Barabas!” And when Pilate asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus, they had demanded, “Crucify him!” Time had not improved Israel’s attitude toward God and the light. They were still predisposed to prefer the darkness. And the rest of the book of Isaiah will feature the persistent and mercy-filled call of God for them to repent. He longed to forgive and restore them. He would have preferred not to have to punish them. But they would prove to be stubborn lot. His call would fall on deaf ears. His offer of restoration would encounter stiff opposition.

But in spite of them, God has a preferred future in store for them. He will one day do for them what they don’t deserve. And they will walk in the light of the Lord.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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