What should be the target and strategy for the church?
Advent the season of hope pointing to Jesus – following his ways.
It is a few days until we can start opening advent calendars but today marks the fourth Sunday before Christmas and so is known as the first Sunday in advent, the official start of the church season of advent.
Advent counts us down to the start of Christmas on the 25th December. Advent also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the first Christmas when Jesus came into the world as God with us to then bring us hope through his death and resurrection. We also, in the advent season, look ahead to Jesus returning. To bring to completion all that God has promised.
Our verse for today from our Isaiah reading says ‘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’
We are going to explore that in more detail but this passage is a passage of hope, that our future is secure if we walk in the light of the Lord, following his ways, his path, following in his footsteps.
Situation for Judah
This passage was for the Kingdom of Judah. The Jewish people came from the twelve tribes of Israel and under David all the tribes came together under his rule. But after the death of David’s son Solomon, the kingdoms became divided into the southern kingdom which was made up of the people from the tribe of Judah and the northern kingdom containing all the other tribes. Isaiah was prophesying to the southern kingdom.
Through the prophet Isaiah God speaks to his people warning them what will happen if they don’t turn back to God and follow his ways. The verses either side of Isaiah 2:1-5 (1:21-31; 2:6-22) are verses of judgement but these five verses themselves are verses of hope. A target that can be reached and then within these verses are also a strategy of how to reach it.
It is a target that goes beyond the hopeless situation they are in facing God’s judgement and leads them to a future of hope of restoration.
Target and strategy
I’m reaching the halfway stage of my curacy and there are several targets that I am supposed to be reaching. It’s coming up to the halfway assessment and Paul and I have to complete this form to evidence achievement of these targets and to put in place for the next half of my placement how I will achieve them. To strategize.
Target and strategy can seem quite cold words but actually really it’s about achieving the goal, the dream, the purpose that God has for me and in these verses in Isaiah.
Isaiah sees a word from God. He sees a vision of a future, a target to be reached, or really they’re a dream of what could be. We read
- in v2 that Isaiah sees that ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains.’ Mountains were often places where altars and shrines were put up for a variety of gods. In saying God’s house will be the highest, it is saying that God’s kingdom will be established as the kingdom.
- This kingdom is a place that people from all nations will stream to.
- There will be a restored faith in v3 where people will return to the house of the Lord – the temple – so that he may teach us his way and that we may walk in his paths
- There will be Peace from conflict. V4 states 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. Violence and wars were a common feature in that time. Nations would rise up against nation. These words are written into that time showing a future where that will no longer be the norm. One commentator writes, ‘In the midst of war and devastation, the people of Israel are called to thinking beyond what surrounds them and believe that there is hope for change in God’s kingdom.’
So if this is the vision of what Gods kingdom could be, the target, the dream, what is the strategy? How is this dream to be achieved?
The strategy can be gained from v3 and v5, to follow the God of Jacobs paths, and walk in His light
- For the people of Judah walking in his paths, being taught his ways was focussed around the Ten Commandments and the scrolls of scripture that they had – the Torah. A relationship with God focussed on temple worship and learning about their God through the reading and teaching of scripture . (This actually happened later on during King Hezekiahs reign – but was short lived)
- Despite warning after warning Gods people could not remain faithful to God. They did not follow his paths and eventually Israel was captured first firstly by the Babylonian’s and then Judah was invaded by the Assyrian’s and Gods people were scattered. Yet through other prophets a message of hope was still proclaimed, the same hope Isaiah saw, this future hope had been promised and God would fulfil it
- And so in the New Testament Jesus came to fulfill that vision to be the example and the means by which we can walk in the light and participate in this image of hope. Where Gods kingdom is the kingdom, open to all nations, where relationship with God is restored and is a kingdom of peace and hope.
- Jesus taught his disciples the way of this kingdom in all that he taught them and he summed up the commandments from the Old Testament as this – they’re said here most weeks – Love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul all your mind all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself on these two things hang all the law and the prophets. It is by following these commands that Jesus followers can be walking in the light. Pointing others to Gods kingdom of hope and peace by their love for God and their love for others.
Our situation today.
How can we receive and give that peace and hope today?
I was at a curacy weekend away recently and a lot of people were showing real concern about our current world situation and were reporting that for many there is a sense of Hopelessness around. Worry and concern for the future. I wonder if that’s your experience too. Are you tempted to turn off the news.
How about in our own lives. There are many people that we are regularly praying for as churches in central Ramsgate that are seriously unwell. There are people with Ongoing financial concerns.
And yet this passage in Isaiah can speak to us in those seemingly hopeless situations.
Our Target is the same as in Isaiah – there is a future vision a future hope of Gods eternal kingdom – a kingdom of peace. Even in the current circumstances we can trust in the certainty of Gods eternal kingdom.
And we can be certain and reach that dream by walking the light of the Lord. By knowing his faithfulness, following his ways and being his hope in the world.
The bible contains many passages that instruct us how knowing Jesus changes the way we think and behave and Gods spirit in us helps us to follow these things through, by not giving into sin and temptations which do not promote his kingdom of love peace and hope.
Conclusion – So in this season of advent As we walk in the light of the Lord may we know His hope and bring that hope to others. May we spend time reflecting on how we can walk more fully in the light, our strategy may involve putting down unhelpful habits and picking up new ones that help demonstrate Gods eternal kingdom by being his people of love hope and peace, worshipping God until he comes again and establishes his kingdom for ever. His kingdom of hope. So this advent season, as Isaiah said in v5, come let us walk in the light of the Lord.