Isaiah 2:1-5 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple 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. 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. 5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
At the North Garden of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, there is a bronze sculpture entitled, “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares.” The sculpture depicts a man holding a hammer aloft in his right hand and a sword pointed toward the ground in his left hand. He is beating his sword into a plowshare. Instead of fighting, he will be farming. He is no longer going to war, and so he is turning his weapons of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of mankind.
The imagery for this sculpture comes directly from Isaiah 2:4: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Having this sculpture in front of the U.N. building is a nice sentiment. The U.N. was established in 1945, after World War II, to foster world peace, encourage respect for human rights, and to promote disarmament. Yet, what has the world seen since 1945? Let’s just mention a few events in world history: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq. Despite the efforts of the United Nations, it seems the last century was the bloodiest in the history of the world … and it’s only getting bloodier.
If you are looking for a truly peaceful “united nations,” you’re not going to find it here in this sinful world. Isaiah describes for us a peace that the world cannot give or find or produce Isaiah promises a peace that only comes from God.
Isaiah prophecies that there is coming a final meltdown of all weapons when Jesus returns to judge this world. Then there will be a complete and lasting peace for those who walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:5). It will be a time when weapons will be turned into garden tools.
People in Isaiah’s time of the 7th century BC, dreamed of a world like that. But reality was exactly the opposite. In Isaiah’s day, people were making weapons out of anything they could find. They had to be ready for war at any moment. That’s because at that time, there were two superpowers – Egypt to Israel’s southwest and Assyria to Israel’s northeast. Israel was not so conveniently located in between them. And in a short time, Assyria would come south to destroy the Kingdom of Israel and knock on the door of Jerusalem itself.
In Isaiah’s time, war was everywhere; it was constant; and there was no relief in sight.
In our time, it probably feels like war is everywhere, too. These wars are not just overseas. They are in our nation’s streets. In the last few weeks we have witnessed rioting in the streets over the presidential election. We have experienced traffic jams as Black Lives Matter mobs have walked in front of oncoming traffic. We have seen Millennials retreating to safe spaces on their college campuses.
But the war hasn’t stayed on the streets. It has also invaded our homes. Divorce has hit Christian homes at the same alarming rate as non-Christians. Our young Christian adults are almost as promiscuous as non-Christian young adults. Addictions to alcohol, prescription drugs, and pornography have ruined marriages and destroyed Christian families. Habits of anger, impatience, exhaustion, and irritability have created wedges between spouses and built up walls between parents and children.
We are living in often confusing, frequently troubling, sometimes downright frightening times. Men are no longer considered men and women are no considered women. Abortion and euthanasia are increasingly an accepted part of our reality. Disagreement is called racism. Morality is called hatred. The cross is considered repulsive. Our culture is swiftly moving away from Christian ideals and ethics. Our Christian worldview is no longer the dominant worldview.
The diseases that plague the nations also plague our own lives. All of us know people struggling through chemotherapy, coping with dementia, or agonizing through rehab.
It feels as if there is no peace.
Yet, Isaiah’s words are precise and accurate. That peace begins not in a United Nations plaza but on a mountain. “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2).
“The last days,” Isaiah mentions are the days we are living in right now (Hebrews 1:2). These last days began with Jesus’ first Advent when He came into the world as a baby at Bethlehem. With His coming, Jesus set in motion a chain of events that would completely alter the world. The last days will conclude with Jesus’ second Advent, when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Isaiah reveals a glorious future. Mt. Moriah was the site where King Solomon had built the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem. It stood for four centuries as the gleaming gathering place for God’s people. It was where the Israelites went to hear God’s Word, sing God’s praises, and bring God sacrifices. God was mysteriously and graciously present in the Most Holy Place of the temple.
Isaiah prophesies that this mountain of the Lord’s temple will be the highest of the mountains and all nations will stream to it. Except, Isaiah isn’t talking about the temple on Mt. Moriah. He is talking about the Christian Church. For wherever God’s Word is preached and God’s Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered, there is the Lord’s temple here on earth. Jesus promises that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am [mysteriously and graciously] with them” (Matthew 18:20).
Christ’s Church has the unique position of being the source of the true knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. As the Church carries out its mission of proclaiming the gospel and using the sacraments, it will be successful. It has received the promise through Isaiah that “all nations will stream to it.” Jesus promises that the Gospel will go out to every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 14:6).
In the Old Testament nations used to come to Israel for war. Now, Isaiah describes that they will be coming for peace.
We are experiencing a small stream from the nations here at Epiphany. Yesterday, Sebastian was baptized. Today, Jackson and Rilynn were baptized. They were made children of God through Water and the Word. We have eleven in my adult confirmation class who will hopefully be confirmed very soon. Lately, in our Wednesday night services, we have had more non-members than members for worship. It is a small stream, but it is a steady stream. The promise is there. God’s Word is preached. God’s Word will work. God’s Sacraments are administered. God’s Sacraments will work. The good news of a Savior from sin draws them in. The message of a Prince of peace from this world’s wars causes them to come from far and wide.
Isaiah’s prophecy continues, “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple 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” (Isaiah 2:3). Through His Word, the Lord teaches us how we are saved and how the saved should live. Enlightened by the Word of life, we will want to walk in the paths of God. God’s Word that goes out from Zion and from Jerusalem is what draws people to this holy mountain of the Christian Church.
Success, not failure, is the mark of God’s Church. Although we are the church militant, we must not be the church pessimistic! The battle is tough, but the victory has already been won. Recognizing the lateness of the hour gives the church purpose. God’s Word is the message. That Word produces faith. That faith enjoys and expresses itself in 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. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:4-5). Jesus prophesied that in these last days, “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:7). Yet Isaiah prophecies the effect that God’s Word will have on the inhabitants of these nations and the peoples of these kingdoms. God’s Word judges between these nations and settles disputes for these peoples. His Word alone is the standard of right belief and moral behavior. God’s Word will bring peace. First, peace in people’s hearts. Then peace in people’s homes. Then peace in the nations.
Jesus promises that only He can bring this peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Christ’s peace is beyond our limited understanding (Philippians 4:7).
God brought peace to the hearts of people when He kept His promise to send His one and only Son. Jesus came as an infant in Bethlehem. He came to bring peace to the earth by living and suffering and dying for a world full of sinners – sinners like you and me. Because of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death and glorious resurrection, we have peace. We have the peace of knowing that there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves because Jesus has done everything. We have the peace of knowing that we don’t need to satisfy God’s wrath against our sins because Jesus has washed them away. We have peace because Jesus has set us free – free from sin; free from death; free from the devil.
That peace is yours in Jesus! That peace is what moves you to travel to the mountain of the Lord for worship. That peace is what moves you to walk in the light of the Lord.
God’s people are characterized by peace within and without. Non-Christians do not understand this peace. They don’t get how can have physical pain, and still be at spiritual peace. They don’t understand how you can mourn, you can still be at peace knowing your Christian loved one is at home with the Lord.
With the people of Isaiah’s time, we look forward to these last days when swords will be replaced with plows and spears will have their blades bent for pruning trees. We long for the day when there will be no more soldiers training for battle. There will be no more need for them because there will be nothing to fight about. The Lord will soon be stepping in to settle every dispute and bringing His people into His temple on the mountain of the Lord.
This isn’t a peace that our police or politicians or protesters can bring. It isn’t a peace that our new American president can bring. It isn’t a peace that even the United Nations can bring. It is only a peace that comes through the love of Jesus Christ. It is a peace that the world cannot bring. But Jesus can. Amen.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Amen.