The Lord’s mountain
2 This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.
Thoughts on the passage:
There is an ancient Chinese proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” We all know of those times in our lives where we have felt like we are in darkness. Maybe it was a time we were struggling with an illness or a time that things were stressful at work. Whatever that point was, we know that it is easy to get overwhelmed with the challenges that we are faced with. It is easy to sit around and curse the darkness that exists in our lives, in our communities, or our world.
What we need is hope. Hope is that light shining in the darkness. Even if we are far from the light we can see it and we know that there is something good that is out there ahead of us. Having that light can help us to move forward and make progress rather than being trapped by our fears, doubts, or troubles. We need that hope.
In Isaiah, we get a hopeful picture of the future. That picture talks about a day of peace and reconciliation. Nations will turn to God and stop fighting, doesn’t that sound hopeful? Swords and weapons will be turned into tools, not of death but of life. War will cease and peace will reign. It all sounds good and hopeful to me. This is what God promises to Israel.
There is a catch to God’s promise. It sounds good, but this hopeful future that is foretold is not about to take place. The book of Isaiah starts with this promising vision, but what follows is a time of great turmoil and conflict. The unimaginable occurs and Israel is conquered. The people are dragged into exile in Babylon. This hope hangs out there for the people of Israel but it is across a dark chasm of suffering.
The people needed hope to get through what lay ahead for them. Without hope it is hard to imagine how they would have kept their faith during that time of darkness when it seemed like God had left them. These visions of a return to God and a time of peace are what sustained them in the midst of war and adversity. The people needed hope.
We need hope in our lives too. Maybe it is just to get through the craziness of the holidays or maybe it is because we face much greater challenges. The reality is, whoever we are, we need that hope. Without it I think we lack the vision and the direction to navigate adversity. Without hope all we are left with is darkness and that is not good.
When I was in high school, several sports teams would train using Frisbees. They found that playing Frisbee improved not only conditioning but also speed and acceleration. Think about how a Frisbee travels through the air. First it zooms out and then it hangs, tantalizingly before finally falling to the ground. That hang time offers hope to someone who wants to catch it. That floating disc gives people something to run towards and chase after, inspiring them to run faster and harder. It helps them get better.
Hope does the same thing for us. It gives us something to strive towards and to push for. When we believe that things can be better, that hope can drive us to push. If we believe there is nothing that can be done, it is easy to become overwhelmed and do nothing. We need that hope to move us forward.
Advent is a time we remember the hope that is promised in the birth of Christ. We live in a world of struggles and challenges, of sin and death. What we need is a vision of how things can be better. Christ offers us that. Through his birth we are given the hope that things can become better for us and for the world. We need that hope. The world needs hope.
Questions to Ponder:
What darkness or challenges do you face in your life right now?
Where do you need to look for hope?
When is a time you have been sustained by hope?
God, be with us in this Advent season. Help us to have faith in the hope that is offered with Christ’s birth. Help us to believe that through him, the darkness in our lives will brighten and your love will shine through. Amen