GOD’S CALL TO BECOME A MOUNTAIN CLIMBER
I. Introduction. The passage we study today is a magnificent song of praise and thanksgiving to God. Chapter 25, rather unexpectedly, changes the tone set in chapter 24 and is continued in chapter 26. These chapters which surround Isaiah’s song of praise are examples of what is called “apocalyptic” writing, from a Greek word meaning to “unveil” or “reveal.” The NT book of Revelation is a familiar example of this type of writing. Jewish writing from 400 BC to the time of Jesus is largely this type of writing. During a time of total domination by oppressive foreign powers, apocalyptic writing was rather like a code book which only the initiated could understand. Thus, God’s people would be free from prosecution by the dominant powers because they could not interpret what they were writing.
This type of cryptic writing was filled with fantastic elements like the darkening of the sun, bizarre beings with ten heads, angels, shaking mountains, falling stars from heaven, and other strange happenings. The message was for the people of God, the faithful, those who endured the difficulties of their culture. It was for their encouragement and comfort because the message is, God breaks into time and history and shows (reveals) himself as sovereign over all creation, and he is the victor!
These messages are for every passing generation and should not be taken simply as predictions of events at the end of history. When we read them, including the last book of the NT, we should come away with greater understanding of God, not head-knowledge concerning the future. Further, the message of this type of writing is that God breaks into history with corrective power, not to punish, but to lead to restoration. He is the good father, not the warden of a prison.
II. 25:1-5. The Song of the Faithful Through the Ages. Verse1: Those who belong to him of every generation sing the song, “You are our God; we are your people.” He said to the Jews, fresh out of Egypt, “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Ex 6:7). The NT tells us that this same God came to us clothed in the flesh of Jesus to teach us, and to heal us, and to save us (John1:1-14). Because he is our God, we will honor and praise him. He laid his plans for our redemption when Adam and Eve were still in the garden, “plans you formed long ago” (note Gen 3:15, the first promise of the Messiah). He has, he is, and he will accomplish his plans! He is “faithful.” He will never let us down.
God’s power and, therefore, his ability to keep his promises is described in v. 2-5. He destroys fortified cities and rebuilds them, and he cares for and shelters the “poor and needy” (those who suffer the onslaught of the barbarians in v.5). Herein lies our hope in our day. Evil has indeed destroyed cities, and the faithful have often suffered at the hands of the violent. (Remember the twenty Coptic Christians who had their throats cut in the shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea?) Isaiah describes God’s care with metaphors from nature. He is a “refuge from storms and shade from heat, v. 4.” How has he done these things for you?
III. 25:6-8. The Mountain of God. The mountain mentioned here is Mount Zion, Jerusalem. As mountains go, it isn’t much. It is only 2800 feet above sea level at its highest point. But God often chooses average things to do his amazing miracles. (That is why he chose you and me.) These verses use terms that are mentioned in the NT to describe heaven. “He will destroy death forever,” he will “wipe away tears from every face,” and he “will prepare a (wedding) banquet” are examples.
But I think we miss much of the meaning of these promises (both here and in the NT) if we limit them to the afterlife. These were promises to God’s people in this life. Of course, they will only be perfectly fulfilled in heaven. But they begin today. We can be delivered from the fear of death. We can weep in our sorrow and grief and feel the comfort of God’s presence despite our tears. And we can enjoy the sumptuous spiritual feast that comes with our eternal joining with Jesus.
We can have these things, if we wish. But the sad truth is that many Christians choose not to. They turn away to find false pleasure and miss entirely these precious gifts God longs to give. They live in the muddy valley rather than on the mountaintop.
IV. 25:9-10a. Every Day with Jesus. Isaiah’s words “on that day” likely refers to any day. Any day we choose, we can say, “Look, this is our God; we waited for him and he has saved us.” I think of the children’s hymn that begins: “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” We teach our children that song but often forget it as adults. Verse 9 also says, “Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” The salvation referred to here is not limited to “going to heaven.” It is God’s cleansing and healing work in broken lives and marriages in this world today. Verse 10a reads, “The Lord’s power will rest on this mountain.” On any day and on every day, if we wish, we can enjoy the feast God has prepared for us. We can meet him on the mountain.
Jesus promised, “Anyone who is thirsty, let him come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink. For the scriptures declare, ‘rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (John 7:37-38). The quote from the scriptures comes from Isaiah 58:11. If you examine this passage carefully, you will find that it promises, in addition to water, that God will guide us and give us strength. Verse 12 adds that we will “rebuild cities” and be “known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” If nowhere else, we can do that in our own lives and marriages.
V. Conclusion. Jerusalem sits atop Mount Moriah, the highest point in the Judean Mountains. Jews, therefore, always say, “Let us go up to Jerusalem.” But that term refers to more than distance above sea level. It is a symbolic term that reminds us that our walk with God is like climbing a mountain Sometimes the terrain is tough and rugged and demands both strength of faith and courage of will. But the vista as we ascend that mountain always increases in beauty, and our heart beats with both greater joy and excitement. The irony is that as we climb up that mountain, we go down into a deeper experience of God. Paradoxically, the mountain God calls us to climb is both upward and downward at the same time. Would you accept his invitation? The only rational answer is, Yes.
- Lesson provided by Jim Kitchens