Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Psalm 96
Sermon Title: The Lord’s Mountain
Memory Verse: Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 96:10)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
The introduction to the book of Isaiah spans five chapters and is comprised of three units. Chapter one is the first unit.
Isaiah begins by declaring the guilt of the people of Judah. They are exceedingly sinful and deserving of the same punishment as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. God hates their hypocritical religion. Their government is filled with rulers who only care about personal gain. Idol worship takes place in oak groves and gardens. The people God chose to be His children have forsaken the Holy One of Israel.
God uses the prophet Isaiah to call out to the people of Judah. God offers forgiveness of sins to those who are willing to repent and obey God’s call to obedience. Sins of scarlet will be made as white as snow. God promises sanctification and restoration to His chosen people.
A warning is issued along with the call to repentance. The warning is against those who will not obey God, but instead choose to continue in their rebellion and refuse God’s reasonable offer. God promises that He will destroy the rebellious by the sword and cast them into the unquenchable fire of hell.
The conclusion of the first unit of the introduction is that the people of Judah are guilty of turning their back on God and sinning against their heavenly Father. They are undeserving of His favor. God glorifies Himself through punishment of the rebellious and by offering mercy, forgiveness, and restoration to those willing to repent and obey.
The God of Judah is our God. We receive the same offer of salvation. We are guilty and deserve eternal damnation. Yet, God, in His grace, offers salvation to those who repent. God promises to sanctify and restore us to conform to the image of Christ. He who begins the work will complete the work.
Chapter two starts the second unit of Isaiah’s introduction. This unit is the tale of two cities; Old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem. In this unit, Isaiah describes the current state of Jerusalem; the Old Jerusalem before God starts His work of sanctification. And, Isaiah prophesies of the New Jerusalem; who Jerusalem becomes because of God’s mercy and grace.
The picture Isaiah paints reveals the depravity of Jerusalem’s sin and the beauty of God’s sanctifying work. Having a picture of the old and the new helps us to see the glories of God’s work. God deserves all the glory for His work of sanctification.
We will begin the second major unit of the introduction by looking at verses 1-4 of chapter two. In this section, Isaiah speaks of the vision he sees of the New Jerusalem.
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will 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 concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. (Is. 2:1-4)
Understand the Passage
Let’s first understand the passage before we begin applying this to our lives. Understand so we may understand as the New Testament writers understood Isaiah (don’t zone out while waiting for the application). Seven observations from which we help us make application.
When is the last days Isaiah speaks of? If we know when the last days occur, we know when Jerusalem is made new. Knowing when the last days occur is not as simple as it sounds. Because, the Bible uses the phrase, “last days” to mean different times. For example:
- Peter told the people gathered in Jerusalem that the prophet Jeremiah wrote that in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit upon people. Peter understood Jeremiah to be speaking of the church age. (Acts 2:17)
- The writer of Hebrews says, “in these last days (God) has spoken to us in His Son.” In the context, the last days are meant to be understood as being in the days of the first century. (Heb. 1:1)
- Paul and Peter write that, in the last days, difficult times will come; referring to the days before the second coming of Jesus (2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3).
We have a clue in the passage which helps us know when the last days will occur. The last sentence says nations will not war again nor will they learn war. We have not entered the last days because there is plenty of war going on around us.
Also, Jesus said that before He returns, the sign before His coming will be that nations will rise against nations (Mt. 24:7). There will be wars and rumors of wars before Jesus’ return. War continues until the day of Christ’s return. Therefore, Isaiah is not speaking of the church age nor the last days before the second coming of Jesus.
Isaiah is speaking about the time after Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom on the earth. We refer to this time as the millennium. The Hebrew word for “last” may also be may also be translated as “end”. In the end, when history plays itself out, we may look for the New Jerusalem.
2-Understand What Mountain
The people of Judah will need no explanation regarding Isaiah’s reference to one mountain being the chief of all mountains. The phrase invokes a symbolic and a literal understanding.
The symbolism of one mountain being raised above other mountains is that mountains are a high-place of worship. Isaiah is saying that in the end, the place to worship God triumphs over the places where other gods are worshipped. He is saying symbolically, in the end, God is worshipped above all other gods. God chooses the mountain of worship, not man.
Not only is the mountain of God symbolic of worship, but it is also to be understood as a literal mountain. Mount Zion in Jerusalem is the place God chooses to be worshipped. Great celebration takes place in Israel when David places the Ark of the Covenant upon Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The prophets, psalms, and the book of Revelation refer to Mount Zion as God’s holy mountain. We will travel one day to Jerusalem to worship God at the chief of mountains, Mount Zion.
In the New Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the mount chosen by God, is chief of all the mountains.
3-Understand the significance of all the nations and people
Isaiah’s prophecy that all nations will stream to Mount Zion is very important. God is showing the fulfillment of the covenant. God promises Abraham that through his seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed (Ge. 17:1-14; 18:18; Ps. 105:6; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:16). Isaiah prophecies of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
People from all the nations will stream to the New Jerusalem to worship God. The Canaanites, Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians and all the rest of the nations will desire to obey the God of Jacob and walk in His path (Is. 2:2-3a).
4-Understand the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant brings hope
We are titling this study in Isaiah, Judgment, and Hope. We have heard about the judgment. Isaiah is giving them hope in this picture he is painting. They know they are deserving of punishment. If it were not for this picture of hope, when the difficult times come, the people of Judah might think God is finished with them.
This beautiful picture of the nations streaming to the chief mountain will strengthen them for the coming days of great trial and tribulation. They will be able to look at their circumstance and know it will someday come to an end. As they suffer from starvation and the loss of their possessions, the people of God will still have a future hope. Their hope will give the people of Judah assurance and strength to persevere under the most difficult of circumstance.
5-Understand that His Ways and His Paths is referring to the Messiah
In the New Jerusalem, the Messiah is worshipped. Here in chapter two, Isaiah refers to the Messiah using pronouns. Later in the book, Isaiah will paint this same picture with greater detail. In this passage, Isaiah says that He, the Messiah, will judge between the nations and will render decisions for many peoples (Is. 2:4). We may know Isaiah refers to the Messiah from future pictures.
Turn to Isaiah 11 and see how these themes of the mountain of the Lord and the reign of the Messiah is further spoken about by the prophet.
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:1-10)
Jesus is the root of Jesse because He is a descendant of David. God promises David that his throne will be an everlasting kingdom. The New Testament says that every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. All the promises of God find their fulfillment in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
In the New Jerusalem, the Messiah judges the nations with equity.
6-Understand the catalyst for the establishment of the Messiah begins in Jerusalem.
For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Is. 2:3b)
Nations will stream to Mount Zion for (because) the word of the Lord goes forth from Jerusalem.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told His disciples
"… all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." … "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Lk. 24:44-48)
Verse 2 is a messianic prophecy about the gospel of Christ. The reign of the Messiah begins with the word of His Kingdom going forth from Jerusalem. Jesus commands His church to proclaim His Kingdom and that all people of every nation, tongue, and tribe are to know that all authority is given to Him. The disciples of Christ are to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He commands (Mt. 24:19-20).
7-Understand the Messiah brings Peace
The word of the Lord coming from the New Jerusalem brings peace to the world. The worship of the Messiah causes all striving to cease. People hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will stop warring and will never again will learn war (Is. 2:4b).
Isaiah is prophesying to all of God’s people that there is a time coming when all the nations will worship God in the kingdom He is establishing upon Mount Zion. God will fulfill His promise to Abraham and David and will establish an eternal kingdom with Christ as the Lord. The word of His kingdom will go forth beginning in Jerusalem and will spread to all the earth. The Messiah brings the promise of peace to all people.
Application for us today
Near and Far Prophesy
Many of Isaiah’s prophecies contain a near and far element. The word of the Lord is gone out from Jerusalem. We are almost to the point where people of every nation have followers of Christ and His ways. Obviously, nations have not stopped learning to war with one another. However, those who worship Christ do stop striving and fighting, and they turn their cheek. Part of this prophecy is taking place. Part is yet to be fulfilled.
We share the same hope as the people of Judah. If it were not for our hope, when difficult times come, we might think God is finished with us. But, because we have hope, we may face circumstances of life in a new way.
When the Babylonians capture the people of Judah, this paragraph gives them hope that one day, the people of Babylon will stream to worship God alongside the Israelites in the New Jerusalem.
No matter what circumstances come our way, we always have hope. We may turn to Revelation 19-22 and read about the New Jerusalem where God wipes the tears from our eyes, and there is no sorrow, pain or death. We have hope to be reunited with our loved ones who have died. We have hope when we have cancer. We have hope when we face persecution and trials. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is proof of our future resurrection.
Allow hope to be an anchor in the storm.
The return to the purpose of God
One day, all people will return to become gardeners. We will no longer carry swords and spears, but our tools will be plowshares and pruning hooks. We will live as people living as God intends, tending the garden of paradise. We will find joy in serving God, living according to His ways, and walking in the path of Christ.
The end of all striving
When we read the news and see wars and rumors of wars, we may know that one day, war will cease. Wars are unjust because, in the end, it is not the righteous who wins, but the strongest. War steals from one people so another people may gain.
The nations have not stopped striving against one another, but we have. Go to Mount Zion and learn the ways of Christ and walk in His path as peacemakers. Jesus teaches us that those who are humble and who turn their cheek are the ones who demonstrate true strength.
We may have great confidence in the proclamation of the gospel. The declaration of God’s word, which began spreading in Jerusalem and is now going throughout the world, is the ushering in of the Kingdom of the Messiah. What a joy to know our church, with our missionaries, is involved in bringing the word of the Lord to nine people groups. We will see people at Mount Zion from our missionary partnerships.
How exciting to know that whenever we share the gospel, we are fulfilling a prophecy given by Isaiah!
We may have confidence knowing the news of the Messiah is a message for all nations, not just one race or tribe. The gospel is intended for every person we encounter. Not all people will consent and obey, but those who do will find purpose and meaning in life.
The angel announcing the birth of Christ proclaims peace on earth. The gospel is good news and tidings of peace for all people. When people around us read the news about war, we may proclaim that one day, all war will cease.
We may have confidence in knowing the gospel is exclusive. It is only upon Mount Zion where God is worshipped. There is only one source of good news. Worship of Christ upon Mount Zion is the worship of God’s choosing, not man. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; there is no other god to worship. No other promises to bring eternal peace, joy, and satisfaction.
Finally, let’s set our minds upon Jesus Christ. To think one Man’s life of obedience and sacrifice brings an end to all fighting of men. It is a beautiful, astounding, remarkable thought.
His life of obedience and sacrifice overcomes all rebellion. His gentle humility wins over every prideful being. He overcomes war and striving by turning His cheek and resisting the urge to stand up for His rights. There is invincible strength in humility. His death on the cross is completely sufficient. He is a magnificent Savior who overcomes evil with righteousness. Jesus proves that His way of holiness is the only way which we may find everlasting joy.
Jesus redeems us from our sin and rebellion, sets His Spirit within us and tells us to go and tell others this good news. Tell others how the news began in Jerusalem and is now reaching their ears. Let them know about how He rescues us from the kingdom of death and darkness and brings us to His kingdom of life and light. Only Jesus offers us the joy, satisfaction, and peace we all seek. Worship at His holy mountain.