Rehearsing the Song of God’s Future – An Advent Homily on Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it will be in the days after the mountain of the house of YHWH will be securely set at the head of the mountains and be lifted from the hills and all the nations will stream towards it. Many peo ple will go and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and let us go in his paths.” For from Zion will go out teaching, and a word from YHWH from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and he will adjudicate for many people; and they will crush their swords to plowshares and their spears to pruning hooks; a nation will not carry a sword against a nation; and no longer will they learn war. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH.

The word of the Lord.

The year 2014 is nearly behind us as we approach Christmas and then the new year. Perhaps some of us have had good years; celebrated milestones, new relationships, reconciliation or accomplishments. Some of us may have had bad years; losing a loved one, economic hardship, the end of a relationship, personal failures. However we would sum up 2014 in our individual journeys, I think we would be hard pressed to celebrate this year on a national or global level. 2014 was the year of ISIS, Ebola, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and growing tensions and a faster growing death toll between Israel and Palestine. In the last month, we witnessed the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the acquittal of the police officers who took their lives, showcasing the wild racial injustices still present in our legal system. And just days ago, the CIA released the Torture Report that revealed in gruesome detail the ways the U.S. has interrogated prisoners through torture in the name of safety. This was a dark year, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that more will happen in the weeks before 2015 begins that will make us yearn for a clean slate.

And he will judge between the nations, and he will adjudicate for many people; and they will crush their swords to plowshares and their spears to pruning hooks; a nation will not carry a sword against a nation; and no longer will they learn war. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH. The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

The word of God concerning 2014.

Isaiah spoke into a dark world. As happy and promising as this text sounds, it comes from a context of darkness as well. Assyria, a terrifying global superpower intent on expanding its empire through force, grew more powerful by the day. Our text begins in Isaiah 2, but Isaiah 1 was a lot of bad news. The people of God are being accused of having become a sinful nation, full of injustice, lacking in righteousness. As soon as our passage ends, the rest of chapter 2 isn’t any more encouraging. Verse 6 begins by saying that the Lord has abandoned his people.

The book of Isaiah will later go on to detail the types of injustices for which they are being condemned. The rich take advantage of the poor. They increase their wealth at the expense of the needy. They overwork their laborers for their own profits. Isaiah looks at his world and sees injustice and darkness, and tells them that they will reap the consequences of that injustice. I think we can relate.

This year we tortured in the hope that it will keep us safe. We have applied the laws of justice unequally based on the color of someone’s skin. Young black teenagers have gone to prison for minor crimes and rich white CEO’s crash world markets have gone freely home to their mansions. Ebola threatened our entire planet as early as February, and we only raised an eyebrow when it crossed our border, and forgot it just as soon. In our own churches, pastors were accused of abuse and bullying, and some of even worse. Our churches often felt as dark as our world. Things will likely get worse before they get better.

But yet:

It will be in the days after the mountain of the house of YHWH will be securely set at the head of the mountains and be lifted from the hills and all the nations will stream towards it. Many people will go and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and let us go in his paths.” For from Zion will go out teaching, and a word from YHWH from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and he will adjudicate for many people; and they will crush their swords to plowshares and their spears to pruning hooks; a nation will not carry a sword against a nation; and no longer will they learn war.

This song of hope and justice and light and peace was sung by the prophets. These verses occur almost identically in Micah 4. Rarely do we see the same exact words of God on the lips of multiple prophets. Many wonder who got this word first: Isaiah, Micah, or a forerunner of them both? Did this word from God all upon them at once? No matter when or how this word from God came, the prophets sang it in unison, and we ought to join their song.

And it will be in the days after the mountain of the house of YHWH will be securely set at the head of the mountains and be lifted from the hills and all the nations will stream to:wards it. Many people will go and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and let us go in his paths.”

One day, the whole world will see the wisdom of the Lord and learn from it. As Christians we believe that we have borne witness to the Word of the Lord incarnate in Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our Lord and our neighbor and our enemy more than even ourselves. And yet this love does not flow perfectly from God to the world. It goes through the church, it goes through us, and we often betray it. The ways, paths, light and love of God meet us and we in our feebleness attempt to share them with the world as God has desired, and we succeed and we fail and we do great justice and we do great harm, and we lift the name of the Lord high and we use that name in vain. In the power of the spirit and in the fragility of our brokenness, we communicate but a distorted picture of the greatness of God that we have seen and felt and experienced. But one day, we will all together seek the Lord humbly, directly, and we will walk up the mountain to seek and back down to live in God’s wisdom.

For from Zion will go out teaching, and a word from YHWH from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and he will adjudicate for many people;

One day, every nation and every people will seek the Lord, and the wisdom of love and the Lord will be the judge of all our conflict. One day the Lord will adjudicate between Israel and Palestine. One day the Lord will be the Grand Jury overseeing racial injustice.

One day the nations will look to the Lord when crisis strikes and we seek refuge. All thenations, and all the people, like a river will flow up the mountain to seek the Lord, while teachings and words flow down like a flood. One day, the teachings of the Lord, the words and life of Jesus will reclaim the earth for YHWH and justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

And they will crush their swords to plowshares and their spears to pruning hooks; a nation will not carry a sword against a nation; and no longer will they learn war.

There will be no cries for war, no propaganda, no draft, no terror alert level, no terror.

Veterans will not come home to poverty because they will never leave home in the first place. Uncle Sam will no longer want you for the U.S. Army, but Yahweh will want you for the coalition of peace. There will be no military school or just war theory, for war will no longer be in the curriculum. When once it was patriotic to conserve and recycle metal so that it could be used for weaponry, one day we will see all of our weaponry stripped for parts and built instead into playgrounds and medical equipment and art pieces and homes. One day, an officer will have no weapon to fire and Michael Brown will have no need to steal, and Israel and Palestine will not carry a sword or a rifle or a missile against one another, and we will not torture our enemies because the Lord has spoken.

We will rip up our textbooks of warfare and disarm our bombs together.

House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH.

The Lord will bring this day, but this day must begin with us. Those of us who carry on the teaching of the Old Testament into the New and into today, those of us who have been reared in that teaching must begin to walk in this new light. God’s glorious future of peace and justice is a light that breaks through in our world for us to search for and walk in. This is not a future to “ooh” and “ah” at, but a song to sing early and often and loudly in our world today until it becomes the chorus of the universe. We will not create this future but we can surely miss out on it, and it often feels like we’re trying. This is not a possibility, or an option for the future of the world but a promise, a guarantee, a sworn oath by the only One in the universe who can keep every promise ever made every time.

This is a trajectory, a final destination, a telos, the final stop. It is the ending of the story that is currently being written.

House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH.

The end of the story has already been written, and we know the direction the arrow is pointing. Do we live our lives to the same trajectory? Do we write our laws in the direction of God’s justice? Do our stories read with the same ending as the story of God’s great plan for the world?

House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH.

Church, come, let us walk in the light of YHWH. Let us sing the song of the prophets and of Christ. Let us sing the song of justice and peace for all. This Christmas, we sing that song together.

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah saw a word. This would be strange language if we didn’t know it already. On Christmas, we celebrate the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. At Christmas, we celebrate a Word that became seen, and that Word lived in justice and peace and showed us how to do the same.

As Christmas comes and goes, as 2014 becomes 2015, may we learn to begin walking in the light of YHWH. May we begin to rehearse the song that will be sung forever. May we begin to seek God for justice instead of ourselves. May we begin repurposing weapons of evil for instruments of good. May we develop propaganda for peace. And may we learn to walk humbly with our neighbor and our enemy to receive teaching and a fresh word from the endless storehouse of wisdom from God.

Amen.

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One thought on “Rehearsing the Song of God’s Future – An Advent Homily on Isaiah 2:1-5

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