Summary: The hope we anticipate at Advent should energize us even in the midst of sinful humanity.
Awaiting the Eternal Kingdom
The Book of Isaiah contains many rapturous songs of joy and hope. Its promises have sustained His people for thousands of years. We have this morning’s passage. We also have the Emmanuel prophecy which prophesied the virgin birth of Jesus, whose name means: “Indeed, God is with us.” We have this promise of the divine birth in Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us a child is born.” One’s mind is lifted by the majesty of Handel’s Messiah, which incorporates many of Isaiah’s text. Chapter 12 tells us that with joy, His people will draw water out of the wells of salvation. Isaiah 65 tells about a new heaven and a new earth. Time here just does not permit me to show you all of these passages.
But we must also realize that Isaiah is equally full of judgment. In fact, the book begins with it. It describes a stubborn and rebellious Jerusalem. They were stubborn, ignorant and rebellious of the rule of Yahweh. Even oxen and donkeys were easier to control. Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6 is framed in Isaiah being given a message to these stiff-necked people who would hear his words without understanding. So the book of Isaiah is a mixture of joy and judgment. There was going to be restoration, but first judgment for the sins of his people. Catastrophe would come to both Israel and Judah. They would suffer captivity and humiliation. Other nations would be judged as well for their sin. But after this would come restoration. The high point comes in Isaiah 53 where we hear of the obedient servant who is punished for our sins. Jesus becomes the means by which hope can be born from the ashes of judgment.
So now let us examine this morning’s text from the second chapter of Isaiah. From the judgment pronounced in chapter 1 springs forth the joyous aftermath of restoration. Jerusalem and Judah were a far cry from being a city on a hill. It was on a hill, all right, but it was broadcasting the wrong message. There was nothing to be joyful about in that city. People should take pride in their city, their history and culture. We have cities which had glorious foundations which have now become the harbor of uncleanness, vice and decay. We can be sure that the local tourism bureaus want to show picture of their glistening alabaster cities rather than pictures of homeless camps, rats, drug needles, and worse. Jerusalem was not the glorious city God had exalted it for, the place of His abode. We can think of the words of the psalm: “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God. The words of this psalm were paraphrased by John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace and put to the heart-warming tune by Haydn. This became one of the songs of the church. But Hitler borrowed the tune to this hymn and made it the tune of the German national anthem: “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles” to proclaim Germany’s dominance, and not Yahweh’s over the earth.
But God is not going to let rebellious sinners have the final say over His city. He instead proclaims through Isaiah the prophet that things were going to change. God could rightly have destroyed Jerusalem for its transgressions. Instead, Jerusalem, having been properly purged, was going to fulfill His expectations for it. It shone brightly; it became dim; but in the end, Jerusalem would shine brighter than ever. The City of the Great King will not disappoint.
Jerusalem is going to be transformed into a place that everyone wanted to come. People will come from all over the earth from every nation. It isn’t just ethnic descendants of Jacob who will come. The glory of the King would draw them. The word of mouth, which is the best advertising, would go out. They will say: “Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob!” They will come to learn of Him. The days of ignorance will be over. Instead of rebelliousness and obstinacy, there will be obedience and righteousness. He will sort out the disputes of nations. The things which plague humanity will be forever gone. Isn’t is our great hope that our weapons of war become farming implements. Do we not look forward to a day when the arts of war are no longer taught? There shall be nothing but peace. The need for armies and police gone forever. It is only this hope that makes the six o’clock news bearable. The misery we see now will be gone forever.
The problem with humanity, of course, is that they want this millennial blessing apart fro
m the rule of Yahweh. These are like the Children of Israel in the wilderness who tried to storm the Promised Land on their own. Because they had failed to believe the LORD’s promise and instead accepted the majority report which implied that the enemy was too strong, and they would be killed. They did not think that the LORD would fulfill His promise. When rebuked and told God would not go up with them, they rebelled and said that they would do it on their own. The result was a disastrous defeat. These people would never inter into this rest.