Server Outage Notice: TheSeed.info is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

Statistics
2076 sermons as of May 16, 2022.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Isaiah Foretells Zion’s Future Glory
Text:Isaiah 2:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-02-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 67:1,2                                                                                

Ps 102:1

Reading – Isaiah 2; Hebrews 12:18-24

Ps 102:6,7,8

Sermon – Isaiah 2:1-4

Ps 87:1,2,5

Hy 46:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, the Old Testament can be hard to read. A big difficulty is that we don’t always know how it relates to today. How much of this message from Isaiah or Leviticus or Judges actually applies to us, here in the 21st century?

There are many connections from then to now which we can explore together. This is just one: whenever Isaiah refers to Zion or to Jerusalem (like in our text), we should think in terms of the church. Not that we simply put an equals-sign between Zion and the church, but we should think of them as closely linked. For like Zion, the church has become the dwelling place of God on earth, the key outpost of his kingdom. So much of what God says about Zion and Jerusalem, God says about the church.

Keep this in mind as we listen to part of Isaiah 2. For now he zooms in on Jerusalem, Zion, God’s holy city. Already in chapter 1 he spoke about Zion, and the picture was pretty grim. Look at 1:31, “How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers.”

In Isaiah’s time, Jerusalem was an impressive city: nestled amidst the hills, surrounded by stone walls, with noble gates, well-built homes, and great buildings like Solomon’s palace—and of course, the LORD’s holy temple. On the surface, it all looked good. But look closer, and you saw the truth. The ‘faithful city’ was filled with ugly things like injustice and corruption. And lurking in that beautiful temple was the hypocrisy of empty worship.

So Isaiah speaks of what will happen to this city. Enemies will besiege her, and fire will purge her evil. In chapter 1, he said that Jerusalem would be like “a booth in a vineyard” (1:8), just a crumbling shelter, hardly a city.

After judgment on sin, the future didn’t look bright. But Isaiah is here to say that there is hope. Jerusalem will rise again in glory and peace and righteousness. And that is a message for today too: God will use the church for his greater glory. This is our theme from Isaiah 2:1-4,

Isaiah foretells Zion’s future glory:

  1. its exaltation
  2. its attraction
  3. its domination
  4. its reconciliation

 

1) its exaltation: Whenever God sent prophets, their words were often embedded in the present; the prophets addressed what was going on today. This is what Isaiah will do too: he will speak to trending topics like Assyrian aggression and Judah’s idolatry. But now and again he’ll also give a ‘long-range forecast.’ He’ll tell his audience about things that none of them, or their children or grandchildren will see take place. A glimpse of the future…

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days” (2:2). Our life on earth is made up of many days: today, tomorrow, the day after, stretching into the future. But God will start to draw these days to a close, when we enter the latter days. In the Bible that phrase usually refers to the beginning of new age, a time unlike anything before.

Did Isaiah’s audience really care about the distant future? A lot of people in Jerusalem preferred to hear about more immediate and pressing things, like money and success and next month’s big party. But Isaiah also speaks to the faithful in Judah. He gives a word to sustain those still walking with the LORD. It might’ve been a long way off, but this was their hope!

So what’s going to happen ‘in the latter days’? God is going to do something incredible: “It shall come to pass…that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established” (v 2). When they heard these words, the people probably let their gaze wander up to that looming temple, built on top of Zion’s mount. This was their pride and joy. The temple symbolized how the living God dwelled among his people: ‘his holy house.’

In the future, Isaiah says, this mountain will be ‘established.’ It was already pretty firm, but even mountains quake and crumble. So God will make Zion permanent, build it up into an eternal home for himself. In times to come, it “shall be established on the top of the mountains” (v 2). We said that Jerusalem was on a hill, but it wasn’t the highest hill in the area—even the nearby Mount of Olives was higher. But one day God’s hill is going to surpass all others. His dwelling will rise up above every surrounding mountain.

This prophecy isn’t about a sudden change in elevation, the plates of the earth shifting below and pushing Jerusalem up. It’s about God’s city entering a time of total supremacy, above all her competitors. Because in ancient times, mountains were often holy places. They were considered sacred points, where heaven and earth came close. Just think of how the many pagan gods had sacred mountains as home to shrines and temples: Baal was said to live on a mountain up in Syria, the Greek god Zeus dwelled on Mount Olympus. And for a long time, Israel had gone up to the high places, seeking other gods.

But one day Zion will be exalted far above all hills. No longer in a contest with false gods and their pathetic mountains, but ‘on top.’ She will be the Mount Everest of holiness, the pinnacle of beauty. One day, Isaiah says, the house of the LORD—the church of Christ—will be the one and only home of true worship. Psalm 48 gives a picture of this when it says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth” (vv 1-2).

At times, this would’ve seemed like a vain hope. Jerusalem was about to be brought very low. In the next chapter, we hear about it: “The Lord, the LORD of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stock and the store, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water” (3:1). She’d be emptied out by famine, then demolished, and her people exiled.

For God had to do this to deal with her sin. But then God will deliver, forgive, and rebuild. Later in Isaiah, we hear God say, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem” (65:19). After punishment and pain, God will again delight in his forgiven people, exalt in the church He has redeemed.

This is always God’s way in bringing about our salvation. First, deal with sin: make atonement. Nothing can happen until our guilt is covered in the sight of God. But once it is, God can rebuild, and He’ll rejoice over his people.   

Keep in mind that when Jerusalem’s people were brought into exile, they bore only a fraction of God’s curse—just the smallest measure. The full weight was saved up for the promised Christ. By his death, Jesus made it possible for the LORD to forgive completely. By his work, the church has a firm foundation.

This is what Isaiah sees when he looks ahead: he sees Christ, he sees the church. And Isaiah looks even further into the future, to ‘the latter days’ when God’s city is lifted up over all. The church will never be a centre of earthly power, but it’ll be the place of God’s enduring presence—even God’s own dwelling forever. It’s what the book of Revelation calls the New Jerusalem, or what the writer to the Hebrews calls “Mount Zion…the city of the living God…the general assembly of the church” (12:22).

Like for those in Judah, this vision of the latter days is a struggle for us too. We struggle with the kind of things that will happen in the end, like the second coming of Christ, the judgment of all people, and the perfection of the church. We want quick results, and we’re impatient to see how it all works out now. What if Jesus’s second coming happens not this year but in 4054? What if the New Jerusalem isn’t established for another two or three thousand years? That’s a long time to wait.

But God’s timing is perfect, and his promises are sure. We will most certainly reach the heavenly Jerusalem. Sin has been paid for, and God can live with us again, and we with him. And God has a plan to establish his kingdom over all.

 

2) its attraction: As Isaiah looks into the distant future, he sees that God’s city will attract people from everywhere: “In the latter days…all nations shall flow to it” (vv 1-2). Normally, it was bad news if the nations were flowing into Zion, because they came to pillage and burn. But this time it’s very different.

What attracts the nations to God’s exalted mountain? In the future, “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths’” (v 3). They’re looking for God, not for gold. They’re bent on learning, not looting.

In God’s plan, his holy Zion—the church—will become a centre of pilgrimage for peoples from the entire world. And one day everyone will recognize that God alone is the true God, that his Son is the only Saviour. One day all people will acknowledge God as the source of true wisdom, that in Zion are all the riches of salvation!

And the nations are even united in seeking God. Listen to what they say, “Come and let us go up.” They will go together! It’s a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel: instead of being scattered in confusion, the nations will join as one, drawn by the magnetism of Zion, God’s house. People from every tribe and tongue will want to hear the true gospel.

This is one of those really striking Old Testament prophecies about who is going to be saved. We hear it elsewhere in Isaiah, and more and more as the time of Christ’s coming gets closer. It’s the surprising message that God’s grace won’t be restricted anymore to the people of Israel, but God will embrace many tribes and nations. Listen to how Zechariah speaks of this in chapter 8, “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD” (v 22).

For long centuries, God’s truth was kept secure in Israel—‘hidden’ behind its borders. But in the latter days it will be shared freely. Many will come from east and west, north and south, to enter the kingdom of God. This is just what the LORD promised so long ago to Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

Imagine all these nations seeking to be taught in ‘the ways’ of the LORD (Isa 2:3). They are yearning for true religion, to know the only God. And such knowledge doesn’t stop at the doors of the church building, as if it’s only about finding the right god to burn incense to on the holy days. The nations will learn ‘the ways’ of God, that is, the style of life that pleases him, the things God requires of us in the ordinary days of life. No longer will the Gentiles follow the wickedness of their idols but will seek the obedience that comes from faith. They will commit themselves to this before the LORD: “We shall walk in his paths” (v 3).

Once again, this was so far from the present reality it probably seemed ridiculous to the people of Judah. Can you imagine the brutal Assyrians wanting to sit down for a lesson in the law of Moses? Can you imagine a pagan Egyptian wanting to present a pleasing sacrifice to the LORD? It was beyond belief, that God’s covenant people should be an international people, a collection of many cultures! God’s plan startles us. God’s promises stretch our ideas of what is reasonable. Then we remember that this is God’s revelation. God has spoken it. And if God has spoken, we know it’ll come to pass.

Reading Isaiah 2, we know what happened after his time. We know how the gospel of Jesus Christ was broadcast to all the nations, how already on that first day of Pentecost the message leaped beyond borders and barriers, as it would continue to do throughout the age of the apostles. Since then, many millions have sought the LORD in faith.

And when we think about it, we realize how gracious God has been toward us. He has included us, who are Gentiles by birth. We didn’t belong. We had no claim. By rights, we were outside the covenant. But in his great mercy, God invited us and He worked in us the response of faith. Don’t ever forget that you are among the nations who are streaming to Zion! You are among that most unlikely crowd going up to the mountain of the Lord.

We can picture how this prophecy has been fulfilled. But it’s still being fulfilled. There are still so many who haven’t come to God in faith. Many still refuse to walk in the ways of the LORD. And some will always refuse. It’s like Isaiah says a bit further, how every man has his own idol of silver and gold, “which they made, each for himself to worship” (2:20). People will cling to their idols, even to their dying day.

It’s a reminder that we’re not there yet. But Isaiah says that we shouldn’t give up on the unbelievers in our country, the non-religious on our street, or the Gentiles among the nations. We, of all people, should believe in the miraculous magnetism of the gospel! We believe that the gospel of Christ is the only true hope in our time, and so we should pray that many more will stream to Zion.

In that work of gathering, God gives us a role. The one great need of the world is for the true preaching of the gospel. And it is through the church—it is through us—that the gospel goes out to the nations. The LORD calls us to glorify him among all the peoples, whether among our neighbors or those who are living in distant lands.

And it’s only when people see the glory of the LORD that they will come to him. We can try to convince people with our good arguments and careful logic. But what really attracts people is the simple message of the gospel, when we speak about who God is in all his majesty and holiness, when we tell about Christ and his ways. Christ has made his church a city on a hill, to reflect the glories of his great name.

 

3) its domination: In the days of Isaiah, who held onto power? It certainly wasn’t any of the kings of Judah. Ask someone in Jerusalem, and they’d say the Assyrians held power. Ask someone today, and maybe they’ll say the Americans still cling to world power.

But there’s a different picture ‘in the latter days.’ Isaiah says, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (v 3). Jerusalem—and not Assyria, and not Washington—will be the headquarters of world dominion.

We said the nations would come to Zion to be taught in God’s ways. That vision is expanded now, for God will not only be the teacher of the willing, the instructor of those who seek him. There will come a time when God is going to rule over all, in justice and truth. One day, the LORD God will rule, and it will be a good rule: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people” (v 4). For God will be the faithful King and Judge.

This was what God had always planned for his world. He wanted everything to be in full submission to Him. He wanted his will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. And one day, Isaiah says, it will be. No, not everyone will bow the knee before the Lord. There will always be people who resist, always people who harass God’s church. But even these will finally submit. On that day, “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day” (v 11).

What a great comfort this would have been for the people of Judah, as they watched the gathering storm of Assyrian invasions. To know that God rules from Zion, to know that his Word prevails, to know that the nations are as nothing before him.

It’s a comfort for us too. Whatever happens, whatever the uncertainty, we have the promise of final victory, his promise that “if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12). For Christ our Saviour is King! When we stand with the LORD, we know we’re standing on the right side. For soon Christ will rule over all and will soon bring his age of everlasting peace.

 

4) its reconciliation: When Judah faced her enemies, she sometimes sought peace by paying expensive tributes: pay enough money, and maybe the Assyrians won’t attack. Today too, there can be a human-made peace, one brokered by the United Nations. But only one peace endures, and that is God’s peace in Christ. No matter what treaty is signed, the heart of man is bent on violence, until our hearts are softened by the LORD.

‘In the latter days,’ says Isaiah, such a thing will happen. He unveils a picture of radical change: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (v 4). By God’s grace, there is going to be total disarmament, instruments of war becoming tools of peace! Nations won’t even think of going to battle, but they’ll just get back to developing creation. Swords and spears turned into plowshares and pruning hooks. Rifles and missiles turned into tractors and combines.

Could this ever be? Would Assyria really throw down her weapons? Or will the Americans really retire their nuclear submarines? It is through the gospel of Christ that the Lord brings true peace. By making total forgiveness possible, God takes away all reason to fight and to attack. Through forgiveness, sin loses its power and revenge is no longer an option.

This would certainly be true among the nations. Imagine what would happen if the president of Russia came to true faith in Christ, or how the gospel could transform China. You would see a different situation on the world stage, without question. The gospel brings reconciliation wherever it goes.

It’s true on a smaller scale too, when God heals conflicts between people. He can create peace between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between brothers in the church who have hated each other for years. Christ can bring peace whenever there’s a genuine acceptance of his forgiveness. For if I have been forgiven everything through the amazing grace of God, then it will be my desire and inclination and goal to forgive other people. No more revenge, no more bitterness.

When people submit to Christ, they taste the joy of reconciliation. And they want the sweetness of reconciliation to spread everywhere, to every relationship. When people truly know Christ, they want to turn weapons of war and destruction into instruments of peace and productivity: turning swords into plowshares, turning insults into blessings, and grudges into lasting kindness. Is that the kind of peace that you are building? Is that the reconciliation that you seek in all your relationships?

We can have a beginning of his peace now. But the peace of ‘the latter days’ will be perfect. So while we wait for that future, we walk in ways pleasing to God. As the prophet says in the next verse, “O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light on the LORD” (v 5). If others will ever want to hear about God from us, then we must know God and walk in his ways. If others will ever be drawn to the church, then the church must put into practice the words of the Lord, when we seek peace and pursue it.

So with eyes on Christ, keep traveling toward “Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22). Christ has gone ahead and opened the gates. Follow Christ, and one day you’ll surely get there.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner