It’s there, and it maybe makes us a little uncomfortable. Did you hear it? It’s this voice of urgency running throughout our Scripture lessons today. It’s there in our gospel lesson, “No one knows about that day or hour…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…so you also must be ready.” It’s there in Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Do this understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up…because our salvation is nearer now…” Keep watch! Wake up! Why? Because the day of the Lord is coming. So there is this urgency today in God’s Word, and it might leave us a little on edge. But then we come to Isaiah, and we find a different tone, not one of urgency, but one of calm and confident assurance. We catch a vision that brings us peace.
“This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. God shares a vision with Isaiah that at first glance might leave us scratching our heads as to what exactly we are supposed to be seeing. There’s a mountain, yeah, okay. And it’s called “The mountain of the LORD”. And this mountain towers over all other mountains. On it is a temple, but not just any temple we are told, this is the LORD’s temple – this is God’s house. What’s happening at his house? There are people, there are nations streaming to be there with him. And when is all this taking place? Did you catch it? “In the last days…” Isaiah was seeing the future.
In the future, he saw God’s house, he saw God’s temple, raised up high. This would have incredible significance for God’s people during the time of Isaiah, because they would watch God’s temple be ransacked. They would see his temple burn. They would watch it be torn down brick by brick. But here, in this vision, it stood proudly, and we see that nations, they’re streaming to it. Now, let’s be clear though, this wasn’t God saying he was going to restore his temple to its former beauty. This wasn’t him saying I’m going to bring Israel back to the glory of its heyday during the reigns of King David and Solomon, no, God was looking past all that. Again, the time stamp of the vision, “in the last days…” God’s vision was a glimpse, a look at the end. It was a vison of right now. We are in these last days. Now is the time of those “wars and rumors of wars” that Jesus spoke of. This is the time of earthquakes, famines, antichrists and apostasy. But as we watch these last days unfold what we see with our own eyes and this vision that God shares, maybe don’t match up.
Are you familiar with Bob Ross? He was an American painter who is probably best known for his 80s and 90s TV show, The Joy of Painting. I recently rediscovered Bob late one summer evening on Netflix. Seeing his show brought back a flood of childhood memories. There was nothing better than seeing him start off his show with his gentle voice and his simple confidence that you could paint what he was going to paint for you today. And what always got me as I watched Bob paint, was how he turned what I thought was just a blob of colors I can’t even name into something beautiful. I remember often saying to my brothers as he painted, “What’s this guy doing? How is he going to make that into anything? That must be a mistake! But then he’d all the sudden make his happy trees come to life and then fill my little heart with joy with his famous quote, “We don’t make mistakes here, just happy accidents.” The guy was good. And what made him so good, was not just that he had a vision, but that he could make that vision a reality.
We might look at God’s vision and wonder “How?” We might look at those nations streaming to God’s mountain and think, “Yeah, right.” We might see the energy and excitement of the people shouting to one another, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,” and just laugh – that kind of excitement for God is few and far between. Yet, God’s vision holds the answer to how this could all be possible. It shows us what is drawing all these people, what is causing excitement, and placing God above all others. Watch! Listen! “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…he will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The thing that is drawing people to the mountain, to God, is God himself and the teaching that he offers. That right there is the key to this vision. Take a moment to look away from God’s canvass and look, look at this place around us, and then ask yourself, “Why are you here?” I don’t think you are here to be entertained. We are not here because we have nothing better to do on a Sunday – I could think of a lot of things I could do instead of being here. You’re not even here necessarily to listen to me – don’t worry I’m not offended. You are here to be taught the ways of the LORD, to be shown his paths so that you can walk on them with him, with God.
But here is our very real sad reality, sometimes we don’t want him. We hear the invitation “Come, let’s go! Let’s walk these paths together, let’s be with our Lord” but we’d rather not. We like the path we are on; we prefer it. I’m comfortable here. It’s our vision. God can mind his own business and just be the loving God that he is supposed to be, and I’ll come find him when I am ready. It’s then that the urgency of the other lessons for today are needed. We need to be reminded that the wedding feast of the Lamb is all prepared, the invitations are sent out, we each got one, so let us not squat morosely in the darkness outside and enjoy the paths of our own sin and unbelief. because if we aren’t careful then we won’t be ready and God will be forced to leave us to our own vision, one that doesn’t include him. But don’t go blaming God. No one goes to hell who doesn’t want to be there. They choose that address. The doors are locked on the inside, as C. S. Lewis observed.
Yet, here again is this other vision, God’s vision, and if we want to see it, if we want to catch it, we can’t be afraid to speak the truth about ourselves, “I am a sinner.” Knowing that sets us free to see what God sent for you and me. He sent his Son, Jesus, to wrestle us away from our life of sin, by allowing our sin to win and pin him, not to the ground, but to a cross. And then to kill him and send him to hell for us. So, that now here you are, here we are, trusting in Jesus, children of God, and guess what, we then become the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. A vision made a reality as one righteous man’s death won for us what was all but impossible – our salvation. And so we find ourselves not just looking at this vision but being a part of it! We are those nations streaming to God’s mountain. We are the ones calling to one another with joy, “Come on! Let’s go! God is waiting for us!” That’s why we come back here, to this place, to this church, because here we see the vision. Here God reveals to us, not that we are perfect people who got it all right, no, but that we are a mess, sinners, who need a way out. And he shows us the way out. He paints for us a path, he teaches us his ways, that we might forever be with him in eternity.
And we can catch that vision of us being with him in some of the smallest moments and actions of our lives. It’s there when a husband or wife arrives home burned out from their time at the office and yet still sit down together hands folded and pray “Father.” It’s there when the widow who struggles with health and loneliness finds her delight in the Word of the Lord and can’t help but think, “I am blessed.” It’s there with the college student whose actions are decided by his faith rather than his friends, and with the high schooler who sets aside her pride and her pain to say, “I forgive you” to the person who hurt her. This is the vision, God’s people. God’s Church, us, you, walking, no, living, on that path which leads to the LORD in all that you do. And you being a part of this vision is no mistake. It isn’t a happy accident. It was God’s plan. God wanted you.
You know, when my first child was born, someone else was born at that same moment. A father. It was as if an entirely new person was inside me who knew that he was now a daddy to this new little person in my arms. That’s what happened when God brought each of us into this vision with him. We didn’t make him add us. We didn’t even ask. It was all grace. He brought us in. And now inside of you is something new, kept alive by God’s Word, a new self – born in Christ. So, there we stand, looking at this vision from God, and we see it. Nothing is hidden. There we are with him and he is with us. He’s with you. It’s a picture of peace, a peace we are eagerly waiting and watching for.
Then we hear our Father’s call, a voice of gentle encouragement “let us walk in the light of the Lord.” He knows that if every day you are walking with him in Bible study and prayer, if you come here and worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you will always be ready. And when his kingdom finally does come, you won’t stand there wondering where you might go. You’ve caught the vision; you’re excited. You’re ready. “Come, let’s go, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord!” Come, let’s be with Jesus. Amen.