Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the ancient and contemporary desire for peace.
Longing in the last days
We are Longing: a hopeful invitation for us to walk in the light of the Lord
Daily Reading Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
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 instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
We live in the last days.
These words aren’t intended to freak you out, as though some weird doomsday prepper has suddenly slipped into your advent readings! Rather, these words express a hopeful invitation for us to walk in the light of the Lord; the light that dawned with the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s hope is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s temple has truly been re-established in the fusion of heaven and earth which we see in Jesus. We take part in this union by his Spirit. The Christmas story is the beginning of God’s renewal of all things and his invitation to walk in his paths.
John’s Gospel is an under-rated part of the Bible at advent, and yet it is in John’s Gospel that we see how the events of the incarnation fulfil this prophecy from Isaiah. John reports the birth of Jesus — the divine word taking on human flesh — as an event where God ‘tabernacles’ with his people again (John 1:14). The light and life and love of God enters the world to give light and life and love. Jesus then describes his body as “the temple” (John 2:21-22). The “last days” Israel had been waiting for, where the Temple would be restored and God’s ways taught, arrives in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As Jesus begins teaching Israel what it truly looks like to follow God’s laws and to understand the Scriptures, he teaches the ways of God and invites us to walk his path. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that not only is living water found in him, but that true worship does not happen on a mountain top in a physical temple, but in those who worship God in “Spirit and in truth” led by the Messiah (John 4:21-26). He claims that the Old Testament scriptures that Israel’s leaders so diligently search for answers — including Isaiah — “testify about him” (John 5:39-40).
Isaiah’s vision of a new Temple, and a new way of life are not ‘pie in the sky when we die’ prophecies or only about the return of Jesus on the last day we long for: they anticipate the death and resurrection of Jesus and the pouring out of the Spirit. They anticipate God dwelling in us, turning us into temples of the Living God; those who feast on living bread, and drink living water, and have eternal life with God, in Christ our king, and as his kingdom. Much of what Israel longed for we have received in Jesus. Isaiah’s prophecy anticipates a coming of a kingdom of people who hear Jesus say “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and so come to the father through him (John 14:6). The law has gone out from Jerusalem — Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34); to walk in his ways.
This is what a life of longing in the last days looks like; testifying to our king and anticipating the New Creation where all is made new. Reflecting the vision of God’s kingdom that has so enlivened us and becomes our eternal reality. Until that time, because Jesus has come in the flesh and in the Spirit, we’re invited to walk in the light with him in these last days. The future of peace and justice Isaiah longs for begins with us, the church. Come Lord Jesus.
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