Tuesday of Advent 1 – Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and 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 the law,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord.

Not long ago, my daughter, who works at a local grocery store, was trying to help someone with a concern about the bottle return machine. Oregon has a deposit on beverage bottles and cans which can be redeemed at the store and this machine is part of that process. It wasn’t working. She was trying to help him, but the machine was not working. This man erupted in a series of threats directed at my daughter, including a threat to stab and kill her. Think about that. It was because the machine which would dispense all of ten cents per bottle returned was not functioning. He was willing to threaten her life. I thank God for security guards and friends who work with her.

It is likely this man had a substance abuse problem. I am also pretty sure he had some mental health problems. I am quite certain that his ambient culture of violence and vengeance shaped him to imagine that violence was the most efficient way to solve problems. I really do not think that there is any politician, any law, any exercise of state power which will change him. We can put him in jail to protect people. We can insist on rehabilitation for his drug addiction. We can immerse him in another way of thinking, but I am not sure he will be that much different. That change will take another action, an action over which I have no control. It will take God completely rebuilding him from the ground up, death and resurrection.

We need the left-hand kingdom of God to curtail the abusive and violent behavior of people. Police, security guards, mental health facilities, and rehabilitation centers are just part of that picture. But the left-hand kingdom is powerless to do so much. There is no legislation, policy, or program which can change what we are. Only God can do that through His right-hand kingdom of love and the Gospel. Isaiah sees a day when people are changed, and violence is no longer seen as the solution to our problems.

We wait for the arrival of Jesus on that last day when we will live in the world which Isaiah describes. But even now, as the redeemed and regenerated people of God, we bear witness to this new reality by living lives which do not turn to violence, canceling, shouting down, or any of the world’s sort of behaviors. We forgive as we have been forgiven. We bear with one another and seek to resolve disagreements with kindness, gentleness, and by putting the best construction on everything. “Come,” says Isaiah to us. “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

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