The Mountain of the House of the Lord
“Lo, Your Salvation Comes” – The Messiah in Isaiah Special Series
As Isaiah penned this portion of his prophecies, it had been approximately twelve hundred years since a wonderful three part promise had been made to Abraham as a reward for his faith (Genesis 12:1-3). First, God had promised that a great nation would be brought forth out of Abraham’s descendants. That part of the promise had been fulfilled about five hundred years later when the people of Israel left Egypt as a mighty throng under the guidance of Moses.
The second part of the promise had to do with the land that God would give to this nation (see also Genesis 15:7). This part of the promise had been fulfilled under the leadership of Joshua as God had blessed Israel and given them victory over the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (Joshua 21:43). The descendants of Abraham through Isaac had continued to dwell in the land God had shown to Abraham from Joshua’s days until Isaiah’s days, a period of approximately six hundred years.
But there was a third part of the promise that pertained not just to the physical descendants of Abraham, but to all the nations of the world. God had also promised Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 12:3b). This is the part of Jehovah’s promise to Abraham on which Isaiah expounds, and is our focus at this time. Isaiah refers to the future (from his perspective) fulfillment of the promise to Abraham as the establishment of the mountain of the house of the Lord. God had not forgotten this part of His promise, but had been directing history toward its fulfillment as well. In another seven hundred years, this final part of the promise would also be fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah. From our own perspective, it has been fulfilled and we, no matter what our nationality or ethnicity, are privileged to ascend this mountain.
1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
3 And many peoples will 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 concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths."
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war. -NASU
Out of Darkness into Light
There was little to look forward to in the immediate future for the wayward nation of Judah. The prophet’s words of doom throughout the book speak of hardship and destruction for a people once so blessed but who had lost their way. The gloom is heavy and the lament is great. Neither Isaiah nor the few others still faithful to Jehovah had much reason to rejoice. Hope was gone. Almost.
But not completely. The destruction of the nation would not be permanent. In fact, out of it the final part of God’s promise to Abraham would be fulfilled. All nations would receive a blessing from God through these descendants of Abraham even as God had declared so many centuries before. Much attention is given in the Book of Isaiah to the good which God intended to bring about for all nations.
Throughout the prophecies of Isaiah there are wonderful glimpses of the Messiah and His accomplishments. Earlier Isaiah, after having pronounced the coming judgment of God on the faithless nation, had also very briefly mentioned a redemption that was to be accomplished. He had written,
"Then I will restore your judges as at the first,
And your counselors as at the beginning;
After that you will be called the city of righteousness,
A faithful city."
Zion will be redeemed with justice
And her repentant ones with righteousness.
Even as the first chapter can be viewed as a summary of God’s hand against the corrupted nation of Judah, a theme which will be greatly elaborated upon in the remainder of the book, there is also this ray of light that shines through the prophetic gloom as well. There will be crushing defeat, but there will also be a future redemption. This is what Isaiah and the other faithful few of his day could hold onto when facing such incredibly harsh circumstances. The promise will not die.
Our text in chapter two is the first of many rather elaborate pictures of a new Messianic age to come. From our perspective, and with the advantage of hindsight, it is rather easy to correlate this prophecy with events and circumstances we find in the New Testament. The fit is remarkable, and continues to be with each additional Messianic prophecy Isaiah makes throughout his prophetic years of service. It is this promise of what the future holds which becomes the basis of Isaiah’s invitation to his brethren in their times of moral and spiritual darkness; “Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:5).
The True Jerusalem and Spiritual Zion
This prophecy is about Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1). It is about “the mountain of the house of the Lord”(vs. 2) or “Zion” which was the name of the mountain where the temple had been built (vs. 3). But we would be amiss if we were to limit the fulfillment of the prophecy to physical Jerusalem and Mount Zion. In fact, a major theme running through the New Testament is that there is a better house of the Lord than Solomon’s temple, or any other such temple made with human hands. There is a loftier mountain to ascend in Jehovah’s name and a greater Jerusalem in which to dwell, superior to the old Jerusalem in every way.
Jesus talked of this when he met a Samaritan woman by a well. He said, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24).
It had always been necessary to worship God sincerely and according to His commandments. Jesus certainly was not suggesting that the hour had finally come for that! But when Jesus said “But an hour is coming, and now is” He was announcing the arrival of something new, and that new thing, He said, was worshipping God “in spirit and in truth”. From Isaiah’s perspective that time was coming. Seven centuries later, from Jesus’ perspective, that hour had arrived.
The New Testament of Jesus Christ says that the Law of Moses was being replaced by a new covenant. Jesus is mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 12:24) and this new covenant makes the old one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). In fact, the regulations of the Old Covenant served as mere copies, or shadows, of the New Covenant. Using the priesthood as an example, the Scriptures insist that those priests under the Law of Moses “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN." But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:5,6).
It is not the old Zion, nor the old Jerusalem, through which we worship God! It is the new! In Jesus, the Messiah, we can ascend the better Mount Zion, entering into God’s spiritual house in the new Jerusalem. In fact, the Hebrew writer says we have done just that when we become a part of the Lord’s church; “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel”. (Hebrews 12:22-24). It should be difficult to miss this appointed connection between Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Mount Zion and Jerusalem and the Hebrew writer’s description of our spiritual state made possible by the blood of Christ. By the grace of God, we are exactly where God’s prophet Isaiah said we would be!
Characteristics of the Mountain of the House of God
There is a mountain loftier than Everest, but the loftiness has nothing at all to do with the physical altitude of the summit, but rather, what we find there. We find God’s house. There are other, lesser mountains. In Isaiah’s day there were the high hills upon which the people had built altars dedicated to the worship of idols that they had made with their own hands. But none of them compare to the mountain of the house of God! We can well imagine that, in Isaiah’s days, many of his contemporaries thought that the way of Jehovah was obsolete and perhaps ready to vanish completely. With the exception of Hezekiah’s reign, the future did not look so good from a human perspective for Isaiah’s God. And even then, the Assyrians were insisting that Jehovah could not save Jerusalem as they taunted Hezekiah during the siege. All appearances suggested that the Assyrians might just be right about that. But, of course, they were not. From that time to this, there have been other mountains challenging the sovereignty of God. But it would be a grave mistake for us today to suppose that any of them could surpass and destroy God’s mountain. God’s holy mountain survived the onslaught of idolatry in Isaiah’s day, and will do the same today, whatever be the mountain that would challenge Jehovah. Consider some of the characteristics of Isaiah’s Spiritual Mount Zion.
The Last Days
“Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains…” (Isaiah 2:2). Isaiah was speaking of something that would occur in “the last days”. There are many ideas as to what this phrase might mean. Prophecy is intriguing, and speculations abound wherever it is found. It has already been shown above that the Hebrew writer has already assured Christians that we have “come to Mount Zion” and “the heavenly Jerusalem”. If that is so, then it seems as if the Hebrew writer, by the inspiration of God (for all Scripture is inspired by God) is declaring that “the last days” have already begun. He confirmed that we have already come to that mountain of which Isaiah had said would be established in “the last days”. It would be difficult to deny this implication.
But we do not have to depend on inference in this matter. The Hebrew writer began his book by very clearly stating that we are living in the last days. The very first sentence he wrote declared, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). So, the Hebrew writer informs us that “the last days” refers to the era in which God speaks to us through His Son. This would be the gospel age - our own days - which commenced at the beginning of the gospel when the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as an accomplished fact was preached for the first time.
Because speculations are so rampant in this matter of identifying “the last days” as the time just previous to the second coming, it is difficult for people to grasp that the term refers to the gospel age in its entirety from that best Pentecost of all until the return of the King. The rest of the New Testament concurs. It was at Jerusalem when it was first announced that the events of “the last days” were taking place. Peter announced that the very things witnessed by the multitudes at Jerusalem on that first Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus Christ were in fulfillment of prophecy. The apostle explained, “…but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND;’” (Acts 2:16-17). That Day of Pentecost was the first of “the last days” which have continued from then to the present. The events of which Joel and Isaiah spoke as occurring in “the last days” have been fulfilled. We are, today, in the last age of the earth.
The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains,
and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2). For this prophecy to be about the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, it would have to involve a blessing for all the nations. Some might counter that “all nations” could still just mean the physical descendants of Israel who had been scattered abroad to many nations by the Assyrian and then Babylonian captivities. But the description continues in verse 3 with the words, “And many peoples will come and say…” The word “peoples” refers back to “all the nations” that would stream to the chief of the mountains. This mountain would be for both Jew and Gentile seekers to ascend together. There was place in God’s house for individuals of all races and languages and nations. It had always been intended to be this way from eternity.
Yes, we are “in the last days” and have been from the time Jesus commanded His apostles to go and preach the gospel to all nations. Though Jesus’ own personal preaching focused almost exclusively on only one nation; to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6), the message was that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 10:7). The new age was about to begin, and the prophets had declared it would include all nations!
Following Jesus’ resurrection, the commission changed in its scope. No longer was it limited to Israel. In accordance with the promise to Abraham to bless all nations, as well as Isaiah’s prophecy that all the nations would stream to God’s holy mountain, the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be taken to all nations. Matthew’s gospel records this event, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’" (Matthew 28:18-20).
The apostle Paul appeals to the prophets, of which Isaiah is one, who had centuries before prophesied of these worldwide efforts of preaching the gospel. For ages men and angels had sought to discover more about the future fulfillment of these prophecies. Exactly what kind of mountain is this new Zion? What is it that will lead all these people from every nation to come and scale its height? That clarion call is the gospel itself! Paul wrote:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;” (Romans 16:25-26).
The Authority of the Messiah
“For the law will go forth from Zion….” (Isaiah 2:3). We have noted that physical Mount Zion was in Jerusalem, and that it had foreshadowed the spiritual Zion to come in Isaiah’s future. Now spiritual Zion has been established as the chief of mountains for all nations. But from which Zion, physical or spiritual, was the law of God to go forth unto all the nations?
The law went forth from both! As the previous age gave way to the new age, both Zions were brought together for that moment, the old Zion yielding to the new. It is as Jesus had said to His apostles in the great commission, “All authority has been given unto Me…”. By that authority the gospel was first preached to the visitors to Jerusalem. They had come from many nations to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Pentecost and heard for the very first time that the Messiah’s age had begun. The ancient prophecies were being fulfilled! The law, not the old law of Moses issued at Sinai, but the new law, the law of Christ, the law of liberty, was going forth from Zion (Galatians 6:2; James 1:25).
The prophets had said that the Messianic throne would be established forever. David, as a prophet, had referred to the future Messiah ruling on the spiritual throne of David. David was speaking of the resurrection of Jesus to the right hand of God (Acts 2:29-32). David’s descendant, Jesus Christ, had begun His reign on that first Pentecost. With all authority in heaven and on earth, believers were commanded to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). It was in the Messiah’s name, or by His authority, that salvation would be received. A new law was now in affect, and it was sounding forth from Zion.
The Hebrew writer, who acknowledged spiritual Zion unto which we have come, also spoke of the authority of Christ, the Son of God; “But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions.’" (Hebrews 1:8,9).
The Word of the Lord Goes Forth From Jerusalem
“…and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3). Yes, there will be a future for Jerusalem! Isaiah had much to say about the destruction to come upon the city; devastating and horrific destruction which would one day take place at the hands of the Babylonians. But there is always a future and hope. Jerusalem will figure prominently in the future blessings to come on the whole world through the descendants of Abraham as it gives way to the new, spiritual Jerusalem. The very word of Jehovah will one day proceed unto all the earth beginning in Jerusalem itself. God, neglected and betrayed by His people, has a future, but the idols adored by so many of the people do not! His word; not theirs, will proceed from that city.
It was some seven hundred years in the future that Jesus, resurrected from the grave and thus declared to be the Son of God, told His apostles that they would be the witnesses through whom the word would go forth. He gathered them together and told them not to leave the city of Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised (Acts 1:4). He said to them, “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8). The apostles were going to be equipped to reveal the word of the Lord, and it would all begin right there as Isaiah had said it would. Luke’s gospel records the following, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:45-47).
After watching Jesus ascend into the clouds, the apostles did exactly as instructed, going back into the city and waiting for the promise. Then, just ten days later, it all began to unfold.
The Jewish holiday of Pentecost arrived as the apostles waited. In Acts 2 we have the account of the apostles being given utterance by the Holy Spirit Himself and proclaiming the word of the Lord. "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." (Acts 2:39). From there, the remainder of the Book of Acts describes the events of the word going forth from Jerusalem to other parts of Judea and beyond to those who were far off in other nations. In Jesus Christ, spiritual mount Zion was now scalable, the new Jerusalem could be entered and the house of the Lord became the house of His people.
“And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:4). How anyone ever thought that spiritual conquest could be advanced by the weapons of man I do not know. It ill serves the truth to think that one has anything to do with the other. Paul explained that he was fully armed with the word of God; “…in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left…” (2 Corinthians 6:7) and that “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Millions of hearts have been touched by the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Zion’s borders are not enlarged by the earthly weapons of war. Whatever business has been accomplished in physical warfare is not the business of which Isaiah speaks here! Paul’s sword was not one of coercion and violence. Those who have missed this point in times past and resorted to violent means to advance their cause have certainly diminished from the good they could have done, and even today an angry world often uses past violence in the name of religion as an excuse to reject that wonderful blessing which came to the world in Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
We have read of a new law going forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. We have also read in our text, “And many peoples will 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 concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths." (Isaiah 2:3). These people are seeking to learn more of God; and they do so eagerly out of their hearts’ desire. There is much to learn here, but Isaiah says this instruction does not include learning how to wage physical warfare. What a precious message for those of Judea who had seen and would continue to see so much war and destruction through Assyria and Babylon and others. On God’s holy mountain, people of all nations join together in learning of God instead of fighting one another!
This is the ideal for which we strive today. So, as we would expect, much attention is given in the New Testament to the harmonious relationships of the peoples ascending spiritual mount Zion. They might be from vastly different cultures, and even formerly enemies of one another, but now they are to be fellow partakers in the gospel of peace.
For example, we read of the union of Jew and Gentile into one body; “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:13-16).
This promise to Abraham pertained not just to the physical descendants of Abraham, but to all the nations of the world; “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 12:3b). Our text in Isaiah 2:1-4 expounds on this wonderful, universal promise referring to it as the establishment of the mountain of the house of the Lord. God had not forgotten this part of His promise, but had been directing history toward its fulfillment as well. It would be another seven centuries before God’s appointed time would come, but it would come just as God had promised.
Today, we rejoice to say that with the coming and accomplishments of Jesus, the Messiah, this final part of the promise to Abraham has been fulfilled. We are privileged today, no matter what our nationality or ethnicity, to ascend the mountain of the house of the Lord with our brothers and sisters, and to learn of Him. Let us be certain, as we ought to be by now, that God keeps His promises. Eternal victory belongs to those who ascend this chief of all mountains.
Butler, Paul T., Isaiah Vol. 1; Bible Study Textbook Series. Joplin, Missouri. College Press. 1975
Hailey, Homer, A Commentary on Isaiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Baker Book House.1985
Wallace, Foy E. Jr., God’s Prophetic Word. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications. 1946. (pp. 81-88).
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 22.1; January 2015