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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Isaiah 2: The Mountain Of The LORD

Isaiah 2: The Mountain Of The LORD

Isaiah describes a vision given him by God concerning Jerusalem, capital city of the Israelite tribe of Judah. He describes the city as a mountain of justice and peace, drawing together all nations in earth. Yet Isaiah feels that God has rejected the people of Israel because of their affluent idolatry. He warns the people of God's imminent terror, bringing low the haughty and raising high the LORD.

THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD (Verses 1-4)

God gave Isaiah a vision of the LORD as the highest of mountains, a source of judgement, justice and peace for all the nations.

Isaiah 2:3 (ESV) And many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

What do you think?

In how many different ways is a mountain a fitting description of God?

A desert may be described as something conspicuous, something clearly visible, something compelling in its appearance. Similarly, a pillar or a mountain demands attention.

An ancient stronghold in the mideast called "Tsijon" existed years before Israel's defeating the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Canaan (2 Samuel 5). The stronghold protected the old city of Jerusalem. David took the stronghold, renaming it the "City of David".

According to Smith's Bible Dictionary, Jerusalem was situated on the edge of one of the highest table-lands of the country. From the south the approach to the city is nearly level. But from any other side the ascent is intimidating. To a traveler approaching the city from the east or west it must always have appeared as a mountain city, "breathing mountain air". It was on a ridge, "the broadest and most strongly-marked ridge of the backbone of the complicated hills which extend through the whole country." (Smith's Bible Dictionary)

“At right (on the east side of the valley) is the "eastern hill" on which David had his original city. Across the valley (at left) is Silwan village on the southern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

“Here we look south along the lower Kidron valley with the slope of the "eastern hill" (the "City of David") on the right and the southern section of the mount of Olives across the valley at left. This section of the mount of Olives, a less affluent Palestinian area of Jerusalem, is known as Silwan Village. The cramped houses cling to the steep slopes of the ridge, stacked one on top of the other, much as the houses would have clung to the eastern hill's slopes in the time of Hezekiah. The eastern hill was the location of the bronze-age fortified town which was captured and occupied by Israelites during the Iron Age, probably in the 10th century BCE. Since this sequence corresponds with the biblical account of David's conquest, the eastern hill was most likely the site of David's capital and the centre of the later kingdom of Judah. Excavations along this eastern slope of the hill have uncovered 10th-century monumental buildings which may be David's palace or administrative offices. There are no new fortifications from the 10th century, so David and Solomon's capital likely continued to rely on the strong Canaanite (bronze-age) city wall that ran around the hill about half-way up its slope. The gihon spring, Jerusalem's main water source, also comes out near the foot of this slope.”

The psamist echoes Isaiah's description of God's Mountain:

Psalm 48:1-3 (ESV) Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress.

What do you think?

Given God's promise of establishing a world-wide center of justice and peace in Jerusalem, what is your opinion today regarding mideast political conflicts?

GIVEN UP TO IDOLATRY (5-8)

Isaiah 2:8 (ESV) Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.

Isaiah urges the people of Israel to love and depend upon the LORD, warning them that God has rejected them for their idolatry and affluent pride in themselves.

Isaiah realizes that God has rejected and forsaken the people of Israel because of their sin. This Hebrew word translated as "rejection" implies violent pushing away, well-described previously by Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:7 (ESV) Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

What do you think?

What has been your experience with suffering trouble and knowing that you've been disobeying God in a specific area of your life? How did you find relief?

HAUGHTINESS BROUGHT LOW (9-22)

Isaiah 2:11 (ESV) The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

Isaiah warns the proud, rebellious people that they will soon be brought low by the terrible wrath and majesty of the LORD. They will be reduced to hiding in caves, discarding their idols of silver and gold.

The meaning of this word suggests intimidation and danger. The LORD's words to Isaiah indicated that the people's only option in the face of his terror and majesty would be to "enter into the rock" and hide. The implication is that those who fail to hide will be destroyed. Those that hide will certainly be humbled and brought low, but they will escape destruction.

The word for "rock" is the same spoken to Moses:

Exodus 33:19-22 (ESV) And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, The LORD. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, he said, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

What do you think?

Was there ever a time in your life when you regarded God as threatening or dangerous? How did he change from being a terror to being tender?

This section repeatedly describes God as high and lifted up, majestic and lofty, above all other peoples and idols. Verses 12 through 17 use metaphors and images to describe the haughtiness of humans who refuse to accord God the honor due him. Leaders of nations are called cedars, oaks, mountains, hills, towers, walls and ships...things tall and imposing to earth-dwellers, but miniscule in comparison to God.

What do you think?

Were Isaiah to be describing our modern world, what earthly things seem tall or powerful, nearly invincible yet small and puny when set beside God?

What "big" things in your life has God had to humble or bring low in order to set your heart right with him?

Isaiah indicates the people's gods were made of gold and silver, obviously expensive and beautiful. Yet in God's estimation they were worth nothing.

Habakkuk railed against the vanity of idols as well:

Habakkuk 2:18-19 (ESV) What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.

These worthless gold and silver gods will be thrown on the rubbish heap when the LORD rises to his throne.

What do you think?

What things have you dealt with in your life that were expensive and valuable in earthly terms, but worthless in your relationship with God?

Isaiah 2:22 (ESV) Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?

Although one of the meanings of this word implies maliciousness, the word is used in the Bible many times in reference to skill, planning or assessment of value. The LORD gave "of what account" concerning Abraham's faith (Genesis 15:6). The tabernacle of worship was to be made "of what account", meaning cunning or skillful work.

What do you think?

What earthly, human-made things in this psalm could be regarded as valuable or skillful work? Why would God tell Isaiah to "stop regarding" those things?

What things in your life has God asked you to not regard, those things that have little "account"?

Trust and Obey

What unchanging, universal truths about God are revealed in this passage? What will you do, or keep on doing, to obey these truths?

The LORD will reign as King over all nations, bringing justice and peace, drawing many peoples to Himself. He will bring low the haughty and exalt Himself alone above all gods and idols.

Knowing God's power, holiness, justice and righteousness, and His desire to be exalted in people's eyes as Highest Almighty King, I will humble myself now and seek His mercy, praise His greatness, and obey His words.

Image by Ian Scott, Creative Commons