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Exploring Isaiah 2:1–5

26 November 2022

By Susan Oxley of Seattle, WA, USA

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 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 forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 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 any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:1–5

[Excerpted from Sermon and Class Helps, Year A: Old Testament, Jane M. Gardner, ed., Herald House, 2019, pp. 18–19]

Isaiah directed his poetic words to the southern kingdom of Judah when it was under the control of the powerful nation of Assyria. The future was uncertain. Isaiah 2:1–5 assured the people of Judah that God is still in control. A time would come when all nations would learn God’s ways.

An age of peace would dawn. The prophetic message tells us the “mountain of the Lord’s house [meaning the Temple Mount in Jerusalem] will be established as the highest of the mountains”—by whom? Ancient Hebrew had a verb tense called the middle voice, where the subject and object combined to create the action. Possibly the prophet is telling people that their actions must unite with God’s intent to create Zion and send forth God’s word to all nations.

The nations come, expecting to learn God’s ways. God will be the teacher. God will also be the judge. God’s judgment will resolve disputes and conflicts. After God has finished the work of judging and negotiating peace, the nations themselves will destroy the weapons of war and turn them into plowshares.

A plowshare is the blade that prepares a furrow in which to plant seeds. In ancient times, farmers did not have swords. When war threatened, the farmers had to take their plowshare blades and beat them into swords. To abandon farming and leave the fields with no plowshares and no furrows to receive seeds for the next harvest was very serious because people would go hungry.

Isaiah’s words turn that tense, mournful image upside down. A time will come when swords will be unnecessary, and farmers will beat them into plowshares for planting. Spears will become pruning hooks to aid in the harvest. It is an image of joy, plenty, and feasting. Unity and peace will prevail. “Neither shall they learn war any more” (v. 4).

The people of Judah are invited to take the first steps toward creating Zion and the reign of God: “Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5). God’s light is the knowledge of God’s ways and obedience to God’s will.

Prayer Phrase

God who is with us and ahead of us, help us feel the gentle nudge of your Spirit as we move toward the future. Guide us along the way as we seek justice and peace for your creation.

Spiritual Practice

Praying for Leadership of the Church

An important spiritual practice for disciples is praying for members of the body of Christ, especially those who carry leadership responsibilities. Ask God to guide your awareness of people who lead the community of faith in congregations, mission centers, and the World Church. Pray for God’s outpouring of grace on each servant leader who comes to mind.

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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