Hope - The End of All War
”He shall judge between the nations and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4 ESV) Today at International Lutheran Church, we celebrate the first Sunday in Advent by lighting the candle of hope. With these words, Isaiah declares the powerful and attractive message of that hope - the end of all war.
Throughout the next few weeks of Advent and Christmas, we will be reading about the different visions that Isaiah was privileged to see concerning the Messiah. Today’s is the image of the Mountain of the House of the Lord being lifted up which results in drawing all nations together and putting an end to our endless wars. This is primarily a message of hope that has the effect of changing the way we live our lives here and now.
Of course, the geological significance cannot be missed. Mountains are generally higher than the surrounding plains. This is what makes them mountains. One only needs to climb up to the top to see the vertical connection. We like to climb Namsan with Luna and there are some amazing views from up there! There is a certain attraction especially in health-conscious communities like Korea for going up mountains. Hiking up the mountain is good for you. It clears the mind and gives you perspective.
So, it is not surprising that the image of hope for us today would be one of a higher perspective. But this new perspective is not achieved by the individuals themselves, but rather by the “Mountain of the House of the Lord.” Isaiah sees how Zion - the temple mount - is lifted up above the highest mountains and in doing so draws all peoples (not just Israel) to Him. Yes, the mountain is a person, someone that we can learn from and who Isaiah says – will “judge” and “decide disputes.” This image is a messianic image – where God’s own teaching, His instruction, comes from “the Mountain of the Lord” made flesh and bone. Our hope of the end of war is not the result of our action, but rather the result of God’s act to save. This, even, is the meaning of Isaiah’s own name: “the Lord saves.”
I don’t know if you have had much experience in sorting out issues between “warring” parties or people that didn’t see eye-to-eye. It usually doesn’t go so well for the person in the middle. In many cases, they end up being despised by all involved. Imagine trying to solve the disputes between Ukraine and Russia, China and Taiwan, North Korea and South Korea? A middle position can be seen as treasonous by both sides. Yet this is exactly what Isaiah saw. The Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, would indeed suffer the consequences of speaking on our behalf. He is the one who brings peace, peace with God and peace with one another. As Jesus is lifted up upon the cross, we are drawn to Him. He is the Temple of God. He is the Mountain of the House of the Lord. His teaching, His instruction, is what draws us as it shows us His grace. As He “decides” our disputes with His own blood shed for all, He invites us to put our hope in Him.
As we celebrate Christ’s first coming, we live in eager expectation of His second coming and what it will mean for all. Come let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord!