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Peace on Earth?
Isaiah 2:1-5


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
First Sunday in Advent—November 28, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is today’s Old Testament reading from the second chapter of Isaiah as printed in your bulletin.  You are encouraged to follow along with the reading as we look at it verse by verse.

Verse 1: “This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:”

The prophet Isaiah lived about 700 years before the birth of Christ.  In this prophecy Isaiah is looking forward to the spiritual peace that the Savior’s birth will bring.

“Judah and Jerusalem” are symbolic for the Christian Church.  Isaiah is predicting the spiritual peace that will come about in and through the Christian Church.

Verse 2: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

When exactly will the “last days” which Isaiah prophesies come to pass?  In the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. . . he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”  St. Peter says, “Christ . . . was revealed in these last times for your sake.”  And in about 90 A.D. St. John wrote, “Beloved, this is the last hour.”  So the “last days” Isaiah prophesies are not yet to come; the “last days” began with the birth of Christ and will end with the return of Christ; the “last days” began with Christ’s first coming and will end with his second coming.  Consider the entire history of the world from “the beginning;” out of that entire span of time, the last 2,000 years since the birth of Christ are called in Scripture the “last days,” the “end times.”  We are in the “last days,” the “end times,” right now, and we have been ever since the birth of Christ.  That is why St. John could write 1,900 years ago, “Beloved, this is the last hour.”

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills.”  Throughout the ancient world, pagan worship almost always took place on the tops of mountains and hills.  And if there was no natural mountain or hill available, an artificial mountain was built, in the form of a pyramid or ziggurat.  The power of a nation was measured by how big and impressive the mountain was on which that nation’s god was worshipped. 

The true God and Lord was also worshipped on a mountain, on Mount Zion at Jerusalem.  But, Mount Zion is just a little hill, nothing compared to the lofty mountains on which Baal was worshipped in Lebanon or the fantastic ziggurats on which Marduk was worshipped at Babylon.  This was always a source of embarrassment to the ancient Hebrews, that the God which they claimed to be the Lord of heaven and earth should be worshipped on such a puny little hill as Mount Zion.  When Isaiah says that “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains,” he means that in the New Testament era the Christian Church will be established as the one true religion.

“It will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”  Jesus said to his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  Our faith is truly a universal, world-wide religion.  Our own Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has thriving partner churches in Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, England, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Togo, Venezuela, and many other nations.

Verse 3: “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” 

This verse is not prophesying a physical pilgrimage of believers to Mount Zion.  The “mountain of the Lord” and the “house of the God of Jacob” are both symbolic for the Christian Church.  All who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior spiritually “go up to the mountain of the Lord.”  As the Book of Hebrews says of Christian believers, “You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Such faith in Christ as our Savior will lead to changes in our way of life: “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  As St. Paul says in Ephesians, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the heathen do . . .”  And in Colossians, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these . . .”  And in Philippians, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

Such faith in Christ as our Savior will also motivate us to spread the Good News: “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”  “Law” in this verse means the entire word of the Lord, especially the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ.  We in the Christian Church are not doing our job if we keep this Good News to ourselves.  Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled by the spreading of this Gospel to the world, as Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”

Verse 4: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

At the United Nations building in New York City is a large sculpture inscribed with these words from Isaiah: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  The sculpture interprets these words as being fulfilled by the formation of the United Nations.  But the words from this verse do not in any way predict an era of earthly peace between the nations.  Jesus told us to expect the exact opposite, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . .  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”  The words of this verse also do not refer to some future peace in the so-called millennium.  It is a false doctrine to teach that Christ will fulfill this prophecy of peace on earth by establishing an earthly kingdom.  Christ himself made that very clear when he said to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” 

In fact, we are already in the era of peace described in this verse.  An era of spiritual peace that began with the glad tidings of the angels the night of our Savior’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”  The peace Isaiah describes in this verse will not be brought about by any government or organization, nor will it come in the so-called millennium, in some supposed earthly kingdom of Christ.  The peace Isaiah describes in this verse is an inner peace brought about by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a spiritual peace that comes from faith in him as your Savior, who paid for all your sins. 

As Isaiah also prophesies about our Savior’s suffering for our salvation, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows; we observed him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him . . . “  And as St. Paul says in Colossians, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  That is a description of the inner, spiritual peace that is yours right now through faith in Jesus Christ.  And because you are at peace with God, you will also seek to be at peace with your fellow man, as the Book of Hebrews says, “ Make every effort to live in peace with all men,” and as St. Paul says in Galatians, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . “

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  This prophecy of peace on earth already stands fulfilled, fulfilled in an inner, spiritual peace brought about through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will come not in any earthly kingdom but in the perfect, eternal peace of our Lord’s heavenly kingdom.

Verse 5: “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  And he also says to us, his followers, “You are the light of the world. . . let your light so shine before men that they see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we are to reflect the light of Jesus Christ in our lives, and with our good deeds bring praise and glory unto our Father in heaven.

“This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

“Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

“Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Amen.

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