Isaiah – The Holy Mountain (Chapter 2 Commentary)

Where I live, the landscape is dominated by Mt. Rainier.  When the sun is shining, the looming mass of snow and rock can be seen from over 100 miles away.  When you drive towards it, its perspective does not change much as you enter the national forest at its base.  The thick forest trees block your view as you twist and turn for another half an hour until around one more twist in the road there is a break in the tree line and you are face to face at the base of this behemoth.

Naturally, there is a feeling of awe one gets when they are confronted with something that is so much larger than themselves and it can have an almost physical effect on you .

As you scan the panorama, all the mountains around look like mere hills in comparison.

This is the picture God paints through Isaiah in the beginning of Chapter 2.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,

and 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 the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and 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.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord.

Up until this point in history, God has revealed Himself in a muted way.  He is only available to those who choose to believe in Him and search for Him.

I recently had friends visit who had never been to the Seattle area before and they really wanted to see Mount Rainier having heard it was a site not to be missed.  Unfortunately, they flew in at typically cloudy time of year and did not get a chance to catch even a glimpse of our regions beauty before they left.

That is how it is now.  Our vision is clouded to God.  The apostle Paul says it this way.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

There will come a time in the future when God will be as obvious as Mount Rainier on a clear day. His laws and His ways will be known by all to be ‘real’. 

All other philosophies and beliefs will be as mere hills in comparison to the obviousness of how things are supposed to be on earth.  How He created them to be.  If you have any doubt you can go directly to the source.  All disputes will be settled through and by Him.  There will be true justice and peace erasing the need to fight so all of the effort and resources that are used for war will instead be funneled into producing food and human flourishing.

The prophet Habakkuk talks about this time most eloquently:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

All the nations, every color, every language, rich, poor will have access to come and learn directly from God Himself how to live right.

It seems during this time there will still be human choice, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,”  sounds like you will have the option to not go up.

Then, in verse 5, the tone and time in history switches back to the present time this was written (although still applicable today).

Verses 6 through 9 continue with the warning to Israel about turning away from God.

Since the mountain of the Lord will be established as the greatest of the mountains, God is encouraging them – why not act like it is that time now?  Why wait? Yeah, the philosophies and religions of your neighbors sound good.  Sure, they have lots of nice things and you can do business with them and get rich.

The way they live might seem better now but be warned – it is all based on avarice.  It is all futile, a chasing after the wind, a recursive, nihilistic road to perdition.

For you have rejected your people,
the house of Jacob,
because they are full of things from the east
and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,
and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.
Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.
Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.
So man is humbled,
and each one is brought low—
do not forgive them!

Verse 9 sums up the ominous warning, be humble or be humbled.

Man as a species will become intimately familiar with the perspective of how small and insignificant they are and it all sounds like it will happen in a moment, in a day.  The clock will run out, the race will end, a new age will begin and the scariest, saddest possibility is presented – God will not forgive after this point.  Whatever warrants his forgiveness up until then will cease.

At first this was hard for me to process when I read it.  Isn’t God an eternal, loving God?  How can He just refuse to forgive? This seems mean and harsh but then I thought about it – this is the same as it will be in the moment of everyone’s death.

Once you die (which no one knows the time), if there is immortality, then what you did and believed while alive will matter.  This is what all Christians believe.  Death brings all of us “low”.  It seems only fair if in the moment of the ‘Day of the Lord’ everyone on earth has the same fate.

CS Lewis expresses this quite well

It will do men little good to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up, for when the Author of the play comes on stage, the play is over

It sounds like this day will not be a very good one for a lot of people.  There will be no ignorance to hide behind, no scientific theory to camouflage yourself with.

That is the theme of what people will try and do – hide.  Hide anywhere.

I was reminded of the scene in Band of Brother’s where the soldier was digging the frozen ground with his bare bloody hands, crazed with fear.

10 Enter into the rock
and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty.
11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

12 For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,
lofty and lifted up;
and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains,
and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower,
and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish,
and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
and the holes of the ground,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.

20 In that day mankind will cast away
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
21 to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?

Anything that is worth anything on earth (cities, buildings, boats etc.) will be like nothing when compared with the reality of God. Religions and philosophies that are not congruent with this reality will be thrown away like trash.  It will be beyond obvious that they were fake.

Your heart might even be a little mad at God when you read this chapter.  Saying, “how can He be like this? How can a loving God be so dominant and aggressive.  I thought He loves everyone.”

My thought on that is to focus on the reality of God.  If He is real like Mount Rainier is real and I can be awestruck by a mountain, or the stars or anything much much larger than myself how much more overwhelming will the One who made everything be?  Also, how much better would He know how I should live and act and be – human? Take comfort in the first part of the chapter and believe in God’s goodness.  Ontologically, He is the greatest good anyone could think of – even when He is terrifying.

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