In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2 verse 2, N.I.V. translation)
Last week, the President of the USA, Donal Trump, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Many Christians in America think this is God’s plan. Their view has influenced American foreign policy and international relations. Many believe that it is a religious duty to help the state of Israel to fulfil God’s promise – that includes establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the other side, from the Muslim view, it seems like Christians have attacked them to support Jerusalem. It seems that seeking God’s promise may even bring conflict and war. Is this a step towards God keeping his promise? Should we rejoice?
What should we think? It is no good laughing off these views as fanaticism – when you laugh at people they often just dig their heels in. There is a better answer than laughing it off. That is to read the Bible carefully.
As followers of Christ, we want to read the Old Testament the way he read it. His teaching should be our guide. Jesus and his apostles who wrote the New Testament show that God often keeps his promises in an unexpected way. What does that mean for the promises about Jerusalem?
Isaiah’s language is picture language. In Isaiah’s time, people believed that mountains were the place that you meet with your God. That was where heaven and earth meets – it is a good place for altars and temples. God showed Isaiah that amongst all the mountains, all the different religions, one mountain will stand supreme – all other mountains will be insignificant. It will be unique – there are not many ways to God, there is only ONE mountain. That means it is exclusive – this way and no other. But it is also inclusive – it is for everyone who will come. Isaiah says in the next verses, all nations will learn to go that way.
To expect that the city of Jerusalem will somehow end up higher than any other point on earth is not what Isaiah was promising. That is misunderstanding. He was not teaching international relations but about the way to life with God.
Jesus said that he is the answer to the promise. When a woman asked him which is the mountain to worship God on, Jesus said, “Now I am here, God wants those who worship in truth, in the Spirit I will. give” (read his exact words in John 4:21- 24). He did not say, “Isaiah was right, you have to go to the Mountain of Jerusalem”. (Nor did he say, “All mountains lead to God, there are many ways to truth”), It is not by going to Jerusalem that we find God, but by going to Jesus. Jesus is the exclusive way to God. He said, “No-one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). But Jesus is inclusive, whoever – whatever nationality – whoever believes in the Son, has life with God (John 3:36). In a surprising way, God keeps his promise through Jesus.
So Isaiah’s message is not an excuse for war or political claims. How tragic that it is used for that. When we read it like that, we miss the real message – the promise of God to make a way for all nations to know him. Let’s pray for Christians who influence political policy in America and elsewhere, to understand this real message.
As Christians, we must take care to follow Christ’s way of understanding the Old Testament promises – not ignoring the Old Testament; but seeing how the Father keeps his promises, through the work of Jesus, in surprising ways