Summary: There remains reasons to hope in the Lord's activity for the people of God. There will come a day of fellowship and peace for the people of God.
Bound for Mt. Zion
As evidenced on the day notoriously known to us as Black Friday, crowds can be dangerous. Impatience leads to jockeying for position, invasion of personal space, and as perennially demonstrated by sad nightly news video proof, knock-down, drag-out fights and stampedes can ensue. Crowds can be dangerous.
Caught up in the flow and unnavigable movement of an intense crowd, one might well lose his or her sense of direction or, even worse, one might well lose his or her sense of identity. It’s one thing to be swept up in the tide only to find your footing in a strange land. It’s another thing altogether to exist, unsure of your name or your purpose. Crowds can be dangerous.
The Biblical narrative tells of a people who succumbed to the trappings of the crowd. The record tells of a people whose cyclical journey into and back out of God’s favor is matched only by our own cyclical journey. Upon examination of the evidence, the cynic is at first justified in thinking that nothing will ever change – that hope born is hope wasted.
But, Isaiah saw something different. Isaiah saw a day when the crowded field vying for the time, attention, and resources of God’s people would have to stand down. In that day, God’s activity takes center stage, standing above the crowd and claiming our full attention.
The Lord arrested Isaiah’s attention by directing him to a place that was already in view – a place easily overlooked because of its nearness to Jerusalem, because of its familiarity. Of that place, God said, “this is the one.” Zion, “the mountain of the house of the Lord” (v.2), will be established above all others. At Zion, confusion would give way to clarity, half-truths would be overshadowed by revelation, misdirection would succumb to guidance, and veiled motivations would be exposed by the truth of God’s Word.
The way God chose an unimposing and unimpressive mountain for God’s self, is the same way God chose us. Like Moses, we haven’t always spoken clearly. Like David, sometimes we give in to self-indulgence. Like Gideon and Thomas, sometimes we want more proof before we forge ahead. The only uniqueness some of us possess is the way we spell our name. But, like God chose Zion, God chose us.
Short on characteristics that many in our day would deem necessary to draw a crowd, Zion is the place for what matters – God’s presence and God’s Word. On the strength of God’s presence and God’s Word, Isaiah saw a time when all nations would flow to this mountain. The excitement of this proposition is the embrace of God’s inclusionary intention. To join with God in Zion is to join with and to welcome all who bear God’s image, even when their unique image does not match ours.
This flow of nations toward Zion is not monolithic. In fact, its discernible mark is that it is full of folks who look and sound different; some will sing anthems, some will rap; some are from California’s Silicon Valley, others from out of Haiti’s poverty; some make and execute laws, others can’t escape the effects of those same laws; some grew up at the foot of the altar, and still others await our invitation to join us on our march to Zion. If ever we look around and see only a crowd of similarities, we might need to examine our flow.
Zion compels us to go against the crowd’s hustle and flow and dare to be as God created; to affirm God’s call to consciously embrace peculiarity; to depart the comfort of ease for a journey filled with questions. While the force of nature’s gravity pulls the flow of rivers downward, the force of God’s presence on earth beckons the heart to meet God upon the mountain where God dwells. But let’s be clear, this elevated terrain can be tricky.
There are loose rocks along the path – some shifted under the weight of those who traveled ahead of us; some we shook loose ourselves. Some of the rocks which cause concern are only reminders that we are not alone on the upward climb. Some of the rocks are meant to encourage us to keep going, aware that just as someone else was able to climb, so too may we serve as beacons of hope for the discouraged.
Isaiah’s vision foretells that those who are discouraged will discover that Zion is the place where life-enablement occurs. Crowds tend to bind one to the whims of the masses. You go as they go, and risk trampling if you dare to buck the disorganized flow. Alternatively, the march toward Zion liberates the traveler to enjoy needful, timely instruction. Having been lost in the crowd, the liberated heart finds excitement about the possibility to “go up to the mountain of the Lord” (vs.3), and the potential of what happens upon arrival.