December 1, 2019

The Hope of Ages

Passage: Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44

Perhaps it is hard to believe but people of this world have been encountering the God we know for longer than most of us can even imagine. And even though the experiences that people have had with God have differed over the centuries, there are common elements to those experiences that encourage us to know that we are encountering the same God of history – even the same God of creation.

In the writings of the prophet we know as Isaiah, he describes for us a people who have lost their way. They are wandering in a spiritual desert. In the chapter just before this, God calls upon the people to turn away from a life that has brought them no peace or joy. The people have committed atrocities major and minor against one another and have brought great suffering upon themselves and others in their community. Through the prophet, God calls on them to cease doing evil and learn to do good. God encourages them to seek justice and correct oppression, to defend the fatherless and to plead for the widow. The way of God is to be the way of the people. They are to take care of the helpless, of the dispossessed and the poor. They are to be supportive and caring for those within their community unable to care for themselves.

Only in this way can they overcome the evil that has found its way into their hearts and minds; only in this way can they experience the blessings that God desires to give them. God has ever been willing to not only forgive but remove all our errors and make us like the pure wool of a lamb or the newly fallen snow – having nothing to blemish our lives. And that same hope of the people of Isaiah’s day is still the hope of people today. But I would like us all to note that this invitation of God to the people is one that requires each of us to use our free will to accept. Perhaps you may feel that the church or other Christians have told you that you have no choice but to follow God, but that conclusion can only be arrived at once you have determined that the only path to true peace and hope for you lies with this God.

The people to whom Isaiah was speaking faced similar situations and struggles as we do today. They experienced war and suffering; they experienced inequities between rich and poor; they faced persecution and ridicule; they experienced losses. But they – like us – had a choice in life.

Isaiah invites the people to climb the mountain of the Lord – a mountain that was to become the highest in the land. If you have ever climbed a mountain or a high hill that felt like a mountain, you know the peace that can come when you step away from the world and find yourself in a place where you can hear your heart beat and plumb the depths of your being. You can reflect on who you are, how you have changed and what you would like to do differently. Retreats – like mountain top experiences – are opportunities for reflection and renewal. And that is what Isaiah is calling the people to do. Coming to the mountain of God is a symbolic way of calling them to step away from the chaos, from the decisions and actions that have caused them or others distress that they might once again discover the ways of God and make the conscious free decision to walk in God’s paths through life.

Then they can let God be the judge between nations; they can let God decide for the peoples. They can take everything that they would have used to harm others and turn them to purposes that will bring life and peace.

The people have been walking in a fog, in darkness. Their eyes have been clouded. At the end of this passage from Isaiah, the prophet calls upon the people to walk in the light of the Lord. His call is to look for the light in life that comes from God and for the people to see again what life is like in that light.

If the events of the time that Isaiah lived and the people that he lived with were cast in our day we would probably believe that he was a prophet of today speaking to us in our time. It is a fact that so much of what we read as ancient history still resonates with us today. The hope of people in this time is the hope that has been with every generation. And while each generation continues to hope for that perfect end envisaged by Isaiah, each generation must also come to that place for themselves where with freedom of will and heart, they make the decision to place their hope in God but also determine to learn the ways of God and so walk in the light of the Lord.

We may not have that perfect peace throughout the world, but we can never give up on the hope.

Let us thank God that the offer of forgiveness is still available and let us thank God that we can choose the path we will walk.

Hear the invitation of Isaiah: Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord and so find for ourselves the hope of ages.