The Mountain of the Lord Isaiah 2

God likes mountains! In the NIV the Bible mentions mountains 308 times and hills 237 times and that doesn’t include specific mountains such as 22 mentions of Mount Zion or 21 of Mount Sinai. God likes mountains. We really miss out in Essex because we don’t have any hills, never mind mountains. Some parts of the Lake District and Snowdonia and the Cairngorms are pretty impressive. But they pale into insignificance compared to the Alps and the Himalayas. The mountains of Israel and Palestine may not be so high but they are still very impressive. And in Bible times they didn’t have the mechanised transportation we have today, so it’s no surprise that mountains influenced their thinking.

Mountains give us a glimpse of the greatness of God’s might and majesty and glory. Bible writers thought of mountains as the earliest created things, ancient and eternal, symbolising stability and security. Mountains let you see all around and far, far away. So in a conflict they give you “the higher ground” which is easy to defend because it is inaccessible. So mountains are places of safety and refuge.

Sometimes covered in snow, often covered in cloud, mountains are places of mystery and places of revelation – places where people would encounter the Living God. As Christians we can look back on Jesus teaching the Sermon on the Mount, and his Transfiguration on the mountaintop. The Israelites in the Old Testament looked back to Mount Sinai, where God chose to reveal Himself to Moses and to give his chosen people the Law and the covenant which created their nation.

Exodus 19 16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
20 The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the LORD said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish.
Mount Sinai was the birthplace of God’s chosen people Israel. But from the time of great King David onwards another mountain became even more prominent and important. That is Mount Zion. Mount Zion was the name given at first to that part of the Mountains of Judah where David built his city. But the focus moved when Solomon built his first Temple to the Lord on the hill next door and then that hill became known as Mount Zion instead.

The Old Testament speaks of Zion 261 times, starting from the day David captured it. Sometimes that name refers to the mountain, sometimes to the City of David, although the city is more usually given the name of Jerusalem. Zion was at the heart of the nation of Israel. It was not only the capital city, the political and economic and military centre. More importantly, it was the site of God’s Temple. More than anywhere else on earth, it was the place where God was present in the midst of His people. It was the place where the sacrifices were offered which maintained God’s relationship with his people. It was the place where pilgrims would go to meet with their God.
We cannot overestimate the importance and significance which Mount Zion has had for the Israelites for thousands of years. Zion is extolled in the Psalms which the Israelites sang as they worshipped God. We all know the chorus with the words of Psalm 48
1 Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
2 It is beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth.
Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King.
3 God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress.
Time and again the Psalms reinforce the idea that God lives in Zion or on Mount Zion. People can go to the Mountain of the Lord to meet with God.
Psalm 76 1 In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. 2His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
Psalm 24 3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
Psalm 50 2 From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 9 11 Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. God lives in Zion. His blessings rest there and flow out from there over all the earth.
Psalm 132 13 For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling:
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it— 15 I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.

Psalm 68 15 The mountains of Bashan are majestic mountains; rugged are the mountains of Bashan. 16 Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the LORD himself will dwell forever?
Psalm 87 1 He has set his foundation on the holy mountain;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you, O city of God:

And so for God’s people, the mountain of the Lord Mount Zion is a place of security and refuge and peace
Psalm 125 1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
Psalm 20 1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
So the Mountain of the Lord has great significance for the Israelites. Mount Zion is the hill on which their Capital city Jerusalem, God’s holy city is built. And it is where the Temple is built, the place where the Living God dwells among His people.

So it is no surprise in Isaiah’s troubled times that the Mountain of the Lord is the focus of hope for the future of Israel. It is more than coincidence that we find very similar words to Isaiah 2 in chapter 4 of the prophet Micah. We don’t need to concern ourselves about who said them first. They are so important that God said the same thing to Israel twice through different prophets. This is what he said.
Isaiah 2:1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Although the peace of Jerusalem and indeed the future of the nation was at threat, God still had a purpose for the Mountain of the Lord. One day it would be exalted above all other nations.
God will exalt His Holy city. But more than that. In time to come God’s blessings will not be restricted to the Israelites. People from other nations will also come there to find God for themselves.

Isaiah 2 2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Last week inn Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18 we read the wonderful promise of forgiveness.
Though your sins are like scarlet they will be white as snow. Though they are crimson they will be as wool.

In chapter 1 these promises were just for the Israelites. And elsewhere in Isaiah the promise is that God’s people scattered all over the earth would return to Zion and worship God there again.

Isaiah 27 13 And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
Salvation in Zion for the Israelites, even those in exile. But here in chapter 2 we find promises that God’s blessings will be shared among other nations as well. Many nations will seek God in Zion. And this glorious hope appears in many places in Isaiah.

Isaiah 56 4 For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

God’s promises will not just be for the Israelites – but for all nations. And there is one more promise about the Mountain of the Lord which is so wonderful that we give it a whole sermon in a few weeks time.

Isaiah 25 6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.

The promise of the feast of rich food for all peoples – salvation for all at the Messiah’s banquet.

Here is the promise that in the last days, God’s blessing will spread beyond hs chosen people Israel to other nations as well. God’s peace will spread over all the earth.

Isaiah 2 4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war any more.

We find these wonderful promises of peace in other places in Isaiah as well. We often read the promises about the Messiah from chapter 11 at Christmas.

Isaiah 11 6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Here in Isaiah 2 we find God’s promise for the future.
2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Since God was going to bless all the nations through His Holy Mountain, what should his chosen people be doing now?

Isaiah 2: 5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

God’s chosen people should be walking in the light, not in the darkness. They should be living in ways which are pleasing to God. A challenge for all of us who are spiritual descendants of Jacob – Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Here are God’s promises of a future and a hope. For the Israelite’s in the time of Isaiah they are all focussed on God’s Holy city, His Temple, the Mountain of the Lord. Most of these promises have yet to be fulfilled. And at the end of days they all WILL BE gloriously fulfilled in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Hebrews 12:22 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

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