The Mountain of the Lord

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 2.1-2
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. 
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.

Matthew 17.1-2
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 

Music:Mountains” — Interstellar, by Hans Zimmer
Reflection: The Mountain of the Lord
By John Tillman

Mountains were believed to be places where heaven and earth overlapped or touched. Every religion in the ancient near east put temples on hills. Even if the “temple” was just a hasty shrine under a spreading tree. (2 Kings 17.10; Deuteronomy 12.2) Peter wanted to set one up for Jesus after the Transfiguration. 

If there weren’t grand enough mountains, people built them. Towers, pyramids, and ziggurats reached toward not just the stars but the heavens.

Today, we don’t believe mountains touch heaven. Not exactly. But we do call our towers “skyscrapers” and we come close to worshiping those who dwell or work there. We are not so different from the ancients as we think.

Isaiah foresaw the mountain of God’s temple exalted and “established as the highest of the mountains.” 

Jerusalem is already situated on a high point. Mount Zion’s elevation is 2500 feet. Geographically, however, it is not the highest mountain in the region. It’s neighbor, The Mount of Olives, from which Jesus wept over the city, tops it by 200 feet. 

Is Isaiah speaking of a cataclysmic geological event, raising Zion higher than Everest?

Isaiah is speaking theologically, not geologically, but that does not mean there has not been a cataclysmic event. The cataclysm that overthrew the powers of this world was the cross. (Colossians 2.15) On the cross, Jesus descended to the lowest place and was raised to the highest. Jesus is the mountain, the Temple, that is exalted over all other gods, rulers, and authorities. (Ephesians 1.20–22)

We have only a foretaste of Isaiah’s promises. Jesus is exalted, yet we still languish. Humans glorify and enrich themselves through oppression. Powers rule over us. However, Isaiah’s promises will come to fullness. Every human leader holding themselves up for worship will have their legs cut from beneath them. Every oppressor will be thrown down. Every spiritual power will be crushed by the heel of our God.

In many images of the City of God, a river is depicted flowing from the city. In Isaiah we see a stream flowing uphill instead of down. It is a stream of people, from all nations, who are being drawn, against the gravity of this world, to Jesus.

Let our gravity be changed. Let every other “mountain” in our lives, by faith, be cast into the sea as we are drawn up.

“Come. Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9.11

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 2 (Listen – 3:00)
Matthew 17 (Listen – 3:46)

Read more about The Sin Which Fells Nations
From Isaiah we can learn that what looks like a great and powerful nation may actually be a spiritual wasteland of pride and greed.

Read more about Way of the Cross
How uncomfortable does the suffering servant make you?
Everyone rejected the suffering Christ—even the closest of his disciples.

The Sin Which Fells Nations

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 2.4-5
4 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. 

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

Isaiah 2.17-20
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low 
and human pride humbled; 
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, 
18 and the idols will totally disappear.
19 People will flee to caves in the rocks 
and to holes in the ground 
from the fearful presence of the Lord 
and the splendor of his majesty, 
when he rises to shake the earth. 
20 In that day people will throw away 
to the moles and bats 
their idols of silver and idols of gold, 
which they made to worship. 

Reflection: The Sin Which Fells Nations
By John Tillman

Isaiah is filled with incredible contrasts. 

Isaiah holds beautiful descriptions of the future God has for his people. Many of the most hopeful and uplifting promises of God can be found in the prophet’s words. 

Isaiah also shows unflinching portraits of wrath. His pen does not shrink from descriptions of grim destruction that will eventually come to Judah and the terror that will strike the powerful when God destroys injustice.

We must remember both.

One might assume that these were bad times in Judah. Far from it. By most external indicators, it was the best of times. The land overflowed with gold, goods, horses, and chariots. (Isaiah 2.7) Isaiah served as prophet to four kings and only Ahaz is described as being overtly evil. Yet there was something rotten at the core of worship in this prosperous and powerful kingdom. 

So if the kings are (mostly) good, why is Isaiah’s message so serious and so often bleak? A hint may be found in the downfall of two of those righteous kings. Hezekiah and Uzziah (Also called Amaziah) are among the great kings of Judah but each was felled by the axe of pride.

Hezekiah died knowing that his prideful display before the Babylonians would cause slavery and death for the generations following him. Uzziah’s prideful sin was greater and his fall was worse. He died alone, a leper, outcast even from being buried among the kings of Judah. These kings ended their reigns bearing the ignominy of consequences brought on by pride.

Even under good kings, sin (especially pride) brings ruin to nations. How much more so, under evil kings? How much more so beyond that, under evil kings who think themselves to be good?

From Isaiah we can learn that what looks like a great and powerful nation may actually be a spiritual wasteland of pride and greed and what looks like God’s faithful worshipers may actually be rebels entering the Temple with blood on their hands from the injustice they either ignore, support, or use to fuel their prosperity, which is their true god and idol.

May we flee pride and prideful leaders. May kings of the earth be of little consequence to us compared to the king of Heaven. May our worship be marked by humility, confession, contrition, and repentance. May the indicators that most matter to us be ones of spiritual import not financial or political. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. — Psalm 51.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Isaiah 2 (Listen – 3:00) 
Hebrews 10 (Listen 5:33)

Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness
The remarkable life of Hezekiah ends in pride and shortsightedness.

Read more about Pride and Cowardice
The separation of cowardice and pride is a false one, for these two are really one and the same.