#0032 Isaiah Two: 2-4—the coming of the Kingdom iii
2In 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.
3Many 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.
4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2: 2-4 (NIV)
- Isaiah is foretelling the coming of the Kingdom in the last days (the time we’re living in). Jesus said it like this: “Thy Kingdom come…”
- Focus on Verse 4
- Contrast this against the conservative Christian rapture myth. Can both of these narratives be describing the same period?
- Maybe Christian evangelicals better rethink the whole Donald Trump ploy.
- Is it time to start promoting a new Isaiah/Jesus kind of end of the world narrative? Yes it is.
In this post it may serve us to begin with a bit of recapping in order to get our bearings.
- Last time we were drawing parallels between the Lord’s Prayer and Chapter 2 verses 2-4 in Isaiah. Both of them are descriptions of a socio-political system or government.
- The Lord’s Prayer, in fact, is a kind of blueprint for this socio-political model—we’ve been calling it the Kingdom of God.
- Both the Isaiah verses and the Lord’s Prayer are more political in nature than religious or churchy.
- In the news we see events taking place nearly every day that carry corollaries germane to the manifesting of this Kingdom model.
- In both Isaiah and the Lord’s Prayer we get a definite sense of openness and inclusiveness which seem to breaks free of the barriers that doctrines and conditions have formed. (It reminds me of a similar quality or spirit that Jesus carried with Him and which today our own Pope Francis seems to carry with him.
- In Isaiah, specifically—verses 2 & 3 he talks about a Mountain that rises above all the other mountains and hills and to it many peoples will stream.
Today our main focus will be on verse 4. Before we do this we need to establish the one ground rule in interpreting these kinds of scriptures and that is: you need to interpret them in either a figurative or a literal way. You can’t approach them both ways, jumping back and forth between literal and figurative as it seems to best fit into the particular point you are trying to make. This is a common tactic of Christian theologians and preachers, especially when they are dealing with prophecies in Revelations, Daniel, Isaiah and some of the other prophets. They also do it when they try to explain the parables of Jesus. The two scriptures we are presenting—the Lord’s Prayer and Chapter 2 of Isaiah are figurative and we will be more successful the more we keep on a figurative track. Let’s consider verse 4 a line at a time.
4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
This is the foundational line and once we get a feel for it the rest of the verse should fall into place. First of all, He is referring to God the Father and it says that He is going to judge between the nations. The Christian take on this is the yardstick God will use to judge these nations will be simply which of them is the Christian nation, (e.g. The United States of America) and which is the heathen or non-Christian one (e.g. Iran or Syria). From this Christian-typical mindset the judgment will divide them into one group as winner (or saved) and the other as loser (or damned). That’s not what this says though, is it?! It says that He will settle their disputes making it a win-win, rather than the typical Christian win-lose scenario. This indicates that God cares about and has a design in mind for restoring good, positive and healthy relations between these disputing nations. What’s more, the word nation, in a figurative sense, must represent something more than the literal idea of nation. It represents any individuals or groups of people who see things differently from each other, whose perspectives on things are polar opposites: conservatives v. liberals; Christians v. non-Christians; Catholics v. Protestants; Republicans v. Democrats; Rinos v. Tea-baggers; etc. And, quite frankly, this win-win concept is foreign to the traditional Christian narrative of salvation which leaves all non-Christians with a one-way ticket to hell. So, evidently this scripture in Isaiah is painting a different picture from that; but the question is left hanging out there like a dangling participle, “How is He going to accomplish this?”
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Shortly after I was ordained a priest in the RLDS Church in 1993 I was given a preaching assignment; it was only my 1st or 2nd time behind the big desk and because I was a novice, they gave me a Sunday evening slot because not too many people showed up for those. I remember the scripture I was given to work with was Matt: 10:34 = Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (KJV). I was scared sh**less, and my delivery was less than ideal, but the crux of the message was that what Jesus was sending was a sword beat into a plowshare. With this sword-turned-plowshare Jesus was intending to till the (symbolic) hard packed soil of tradition and convention that He encountered in the religious culture of His day. The hard packed tradition of the Mosaic Law was being promoted by the Pharisees of His day; today that hard-pack tradition or culture is conservatism: religious and political and we know who’s promoting that!
What this 2nd line in Verse 4 is describing isn’t an event, it’s a process. Conservatism such as seen in the Evangelical Christian perspective promotes doctrines proclaiming quick and painless events which will judge and punish all who are God’s enemies. This line is indicating something different. There is a multi-phased process inferred here that deals with both 1) a beating and reshaping phase and 2) a phase wherein these new implements will be used to perform a new task for which they were designed: plowing and pruning. These two tasks have to do with planting seeds and tending the plants or trees that will grow out of these seeds that they might bear good fruit. Remember we are still speaking symbolically. We are going to talk more about this idea of using the plowshare to break up the sod of tradition in order to plant seeds into it; but that is where we will pick it up next time. To close with today, I wish to point out one more thing about this vision: it’s an R-Directed procedure; all those being judged are active participants in the process; this is no passive judgment scene like in a courtroom wherein sentences are simply meted to the guilty.