Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Isaiah 2

(1-4) The future pre-eminence of Zion
(5) so, let us walk in the light of the LORD
(6-18) God has abandoned Jacob because of their idolatry, sorcery and wealth: a day is coming for all the proud and lofty [in Israel or in the world?]
(19-21) this day will be terrible and many will flee to caves to hide from the LORD

(22) stop trusting in man!

The predictions of judgement and calls to repentance continue in the same vein until the first verse of chapter 4. However, chapter 2 has a more ‘worldwide’ feel to it (excepting vv.6-8) while 3:1-4:1 focuses more on Judah and Jerusalem.

Elevation and abasement are the main spatial themes here.The great hope is the bringing in of the nations (that’s us).

1-4 is a daring vision, since Isaiah had only some Psalms and possibly Amos 9 available as precedents – and this is a more vivid passage than any of them.

Note the arrogance of the United Nations in taking a phrase from this passage (swords into ploughshares) and claiming to be bringing that about, inscribing it on a foundation stone at their HQ. The CIA plays equally fast and loose with “the truth shall set you free”.

The mountain here is the pre-eminence of the King (Jesus) and his kingdom (the church), along with the authority of the King and the honour due to him (as the church grows, so more people flock to the mountain of the LORD to honour the King). The physical mountain has been superceded; there’s no way to fit this in to a date-setting (or more circumspect) pre-millennial eschatology involving an actual lump of rock in the Middle East. We can also note that there is no mention of human mission in this vision. The law doesn’t go out in any particular way – so the emphasis is on what God accomplishes. However, verses 1 and (especially) 5 hint at the role of God’s people in this.

Verse 4 should find several fulfilments: in the immediate fellowship of the church family; in larger communities coexisting peacefully (through the efforts of Protestant Irish Republicans, for example?); perfectly, at the return of Christ.

Regarding the second one, did the medieval papacy bring this about at all? Or maybe in the pacification and conversion of the Bulgars by Byzantium in the 10th/11th century? Or the Saxons or the Irish before that…? We always need to ask the question implied in verse 3: “was it of the LORD?” So, to equate the political influence of established churches with this process is not so easy to do (of course we would say that, we’re quasi-congregationalist Protestants!) and perhaps the work of Wyclif and Hus is more like it.

The judgements of 6-22 also find their fulfilment then (destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonians), now (as the proud are humbled, die to sin and bow the knee to Christ) and in the future (at final judgement). Note the frightening image of along-suffering and patient God getting up out of his throne in 19-21...