Summary: Year A. 1st Sunday of Advent December 2, 2001 Isaiah 2: 1-5 Title: “God’s role for His People.”
Year A. 1st Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2001
Isaiah 2: 1-5
Title: “God’s role for His People.”
The Book of Isaiah looks back on three centuries of Jewish history from about 750 to 435BC and portrays God’s interpretation, his view of that history. Three general periods- pre-exile chapters one to thirty-nine, exile, chapters forty to fifty-five, and post-exile chapters fifty-six to sixty-six, can easily be discerned. However, there is no evidence that any part of this work was published prior to or is independent of the final redaction we now call the Book of Isaiah. The entire work is best interpreted as encompassing the one Vision of God and his people’s refusal to accept that vision. Basically, the Vision is saying that God has a role for his people to play in world history, but it is not the “ruler,” role as some had thought and hoped. Many people held up David, his conquests of the land, expansion of territory, and successful rule as the ideal God intended Israel to emulate and accomplish. The Book of Isaiah says no. Israel’s role is one of servant of Yahweh. She is to “rule,” have dominion, be influential in the world through her service, witness and mission to all the nations, bringing all to a knowledge of God and willing acceptance of his ways. She is to leave politics to, first, the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians and whatever other empires follow them. She is not to strive for worldly position or exercise of power in a political sense. Her mission is the proper worship of the one God. By her example she will attract others of their own free will to God. A look back from the vantage point of 435BC into the prior three centuries of Israel’s history, a history of Israel’s resistance to the “servant” role, reveals God’s involvement with them as a “straight line,” everything has led to the present state. While it certainly did not appear that way to human eyes, God was writing straight with what they thought were crooked lines. Presumably, the present time is also a straight line, if looked at through God’s eternal perspective. The people are to abandon their self-styled hope of a “return,” an exaggeration in itself, to the “good old days,” when David and Israel “ruled.”
Indeed, there is a role for Israel and Jerusalem, but it is a religious and spiritual one. In the New Testament Jesus quotes Isaiah when he wants to explain why people are not accepting his “kingdom.” He says they are deaf, dumb, and blind. They hear the words clearly enough, but fail, refuse really, to grasp the “Word,” they reveal and accept God on his terms. Jesus translated the “kingship” theology into “servant,” “suffering servant,” theology and showed how he intended to accomplish “world dominion.” For those of Old Testament faith or no faith at all, Jesus was no king. Some could quote the Old Testament itself to demonstrate how off the mark they believed him to be. The Book of Isaiah shows what can happen to individuals and an entire people when they refuse to accept God on his terms and try to get him to fit into their plans.
In verse one, this is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In verses two to five, contained an old prophecy. It also appears in Micah 4: 1-3. Before getting to the oracles of judgment against idolaters, Judah and Jerusalem, the author’s in 435BC looks back and says that the historical Isaiah, 750- 700BC, had the same vision long ago as they now have. Their interpretation of history is the same as his. It is eternally true and valid. The circumstances and historical details might change, but the eternal truth contained in any message from God, through a prophet, never changes. What the historical Isaiah saw three centuries ago is true today in 435BC.
In verse two, in days to come; what the historical Isaiah saw in the eighth century is still “future,” in the fifth. There were factions and parties claiming that God’s promises will be fulfilled in new forms of nationalism. Some were Zionists chapters sixty to sixty-two; others Israelites chapters sixty three to sixty four. Both were wrong.
The mountain of the Lord’s house. The focus is not on the palace, nor even on the Temple, but on the mountain. Mt. Zion was one of two mountains on which Jerusalem was built. The city was surrounded by a ring of hills that are, in fact, considerably higher than Mt. Zion. The Lord’s house was built by Solomon, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, rebuilt in the days of Haggai and Zechariah, and finally destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. But the mountain, the physical symbol of God’s dwelling among humans, would remain.