December 1, 2019

Swords into Plowshares

Preacher:

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3   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 instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

What I would like you to notice about this scripture is that Isaiah saw the word of God concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It is important to note that Isaiah did not hear the word of the Lord.

He saw it.

Why does it matter that Isaiah saw rather than heard the word of God concerning Judah and Jerusalem? What’s the big deal?

Well think of it this way.

Cast your mind back to when you were in high school.

Let’s say you are sitting in your English Literature class.

And your teacher is droning on.

She is speaking about something that is really profound concerning one of the great works of English literature.

She is eloquent.

She is knowledgeable.

She is an insightful teacher of all things concerning English Lit.

And she is sharing her knowledge and insight with you.

But what you are hearing in your teen-age mind is, “Wawa, wawa, wawa!”

In fact, you are not hearing her at all.

You are preoccupied with the stuff of your high school life: Who’s party am I going to attend on Friday night? I wonder if Janice will go with me if I can borrow my Dad’s car…?

Mrs. Brighouse is talking and you are hearing, in that the sound waves from her words are bouncing off your ear drums.

But you are not actually listening.

Then she starts painting word pictures.

Or more precisely, she starts reciting a poem written by a genius poet.

At last you get what she has been droning on about.

You see what she has been trying to teach you since September.

That is precisely the difference between hearing something and seeing it.

When Mrs. B. spoke about literature: it was uninteresting, it was boring, it was not inspiring.

But when she read a brilliant piece of literature, the word pictures it created in your mind, changed your entire being.

Isaiah, working under God’s inspiration, uses word pictures so that we can see the words that he saw when the Lord visited him with this prophecy.

Isaiah invites us to see and to be awakened to the vision, the promise, that God holds in store for Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah invites us to see the vision that God has for the whole world. God’s vision that is portrayed in the beautiful word pictures drawn for us here.

So, let’s do that.

Let’s open our minds to seeing, through the word pictures from the Lord that Isaiah saw, which is the word of the Lord for us today.

2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.

What do you see in your minds eye as you reflect on these words?

Do you see a mountain with God’s temple gleaming on its top? Shining with divine light in the brilliant sun of a Middle-Eastern day?

Do you see a mountain that is higher than those surrounding it? A mountain with a beacon of God’s light shining out from it?

And do you see a host of people? People from all different places and nations, streaming up this hill? Seeking only to be in God’s glorious presence that shines so brightly from this blessed mount?

I do.

That is exactly the picture that Isaiah draws for us to gaze upon. That is precisely the vision that God blesses each of us with on this first Sunday in Advent in the year 2019.

So let’s keep looking at God’s word pictures drawn for us.

3   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 instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

In this verse from Isaiah we zoom in on the peoples who are streaming up the mountain of God.

Let your minds eye zoom in on the crowd below.

Let the ears of your imagination perk up.

Hear the words of these pilgrims, words spoken in great joy, “Come on people, let’s get ourselves up this mountain, let’s get to the very top of this hill. Let’s get to that place where we will meet our God face-to-face. Can you imagine what that will be like? Hearing what our Lord has to say? Hearing his words from his very own mouth? Learning from these words how to walk in his ways.”

“And can you imagine the effect these words will have on our lives? These words of life will most assuredly enliven us, inspire us to take the Lord’s word and let it shine through us into the whole world!”

Can you imagine the joy? Can you see the joy?

I can.

I can see it on Sundays when we gather.

I can see it and hear it in the joyful chatter before services begin.

I can see it on the faces of the people when we share food and fellowship after our worship service.

And what else can we see, when we see the word of the Lord that Isaiah saw that day thousands of years ago?

4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

The vision that bursts upon our eyes, inspired by seeing these words, is the sight of the Lord himself sitting on his throne of light speaking words of peace, words of healing, words of reconciliation; speaking these life-giving words out over all the nations of the earth.

Speaking words which, when we finally see them, draw all peoples together in God’s divine love.

And we respond, beating our swords into plow blades. Turning weapons of death and destruction into tools for giving life to this earth.

In this vision of justice, which we now see along with Isaiah, as we gaze with our mind’s eye upon the words of the Lord.

We see folks working at forges, hammering their death dealing spears into life giving tools for trimming and pruning pleasant orchards.

We see glades of fruit trees full of scent and laden with fruit.

We see luscious vines, heavy laden with sweet grapes.

We see people relieved from the fear of their enemies.

Able to devote their time and energy to learning the life-giving arts of farming and animal husbandry.

Rather than being consumed by the fear that forces them to produce, and then pay for, weapons whose only purpose is to bring death to those not like us.

Such is the vision laid out for us to see if we apply our mind’s eye to allowing the Spirit of God to open our hearts to seeing the whole point of these words of the Lord that Isaiah first saw.

During this Advent season as we await the coming of the day when we will celebrate the birth of our Lord, let us pray that our God will open our eyes to the beauty and the majesty of this time.

Let us pray that we may be blessed with the holy vision to see the true meaning of this time.

May we see in and through the vision that God’s word shows us, the truth of the first coming, the Advent, of the One, who is The Lord is our righteousness.

May we see God’s word and in that seeing may we fully appreciate this time that we live in today.

This time of waiting for the return of the One who through his obedience, who through his suffering and death, who through his resurrection and ascension to the Father, gives us the vision to see each day that we live as a new opportunity to live in God’s glorious hope and promise.

The glorious hope, and the blessed promise, of God’s word and peace, flowing out from Judah and Jerusalem opening the eyes of all peoples.

Lord our God, please open our eyes that we may see in this Advent season the hope and promise which you hold in store for all nations, for all peoples.

Make it so Lord Jesus.

Amen.