2 This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.
(Isaiah 2: 1-5, Common English Bible)
This passage from Isaiah is a very well-known passage, often read during Advent. It is a powerful image…God’s mountain rising up above all mountains, God’s peoples streaming to it, nations seeking it out, God mediating between nations, and people learning to make war no more. The pounding of swords into plows and spears into pruning tools. This is one of the most iconic and poetic passages in the Hebrew Bible, and one that we turn to during this time of year.
I recently preached on this passage (it has been read during the last two Sundays actually). I focused on the fact that Isaiah, early in his writing, gives the vision to his battered and terrified people. He has lots to say about corruption and greed too, but he always returns to God’s deepest hopes for the world. The Hebrew prophets did this regularly. They spoke truth to power, called out exploitation and idolatry, but they stayed faithful to the purpose. This is what true prophets do. One cannot just cry out against the powers that be. One also has to have clarity of vision. People are not just motivated by what is going wrong but we are motivated by what is possible. Real change cannot happen if we can’t articulate what we see needs to happen.
Over the past several months, I have been following closely the revolution in Iran. This revolution (and it is a true revolution, not just protests) is women-led and is probably the first of its kind in the history of the world. The Iranians are speaking out against a truly authoritarian regime…one that perverts religion for the sake of power and one that doesn’t hesitate to use violence to subdue its people. It has been weeks of relentless protests and general strikes. For weeks, young people—women, men, children—have been streaming into the streets and out of the factories demanding their basic human rights. This revolution started after a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, was killed by the morality police for wearing her hijab incorrectly. Her death was the spark, and many other young people have died since then, but the fire that has been lit is sustained because the Iranian people have a vision for their country. They cry out against the inhumane treatment by the Islamic Republic, but they are also telling us what they envision. Woman, Life, Freedom. They continue to fight because they know exactly what they are fighting for. It is heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. It is God’s work.
We have been given a purpose. Isaiah beautifully articulates the image of God’s mountain where peace reigns. There is a reason this vision speaks to us so deeply, because we can taste it, feel it. We yearn for it. We know we aren’t there yet, but this passage is profound because we know, somewhere deep down, that it is indeed possible. Don’t let go of that hope, that dream, that mission. Because when we do, we will lose it forever.