Longing for Peace￼
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem
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.
Many peoples will come and say, “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.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Many of our Christmas cards have pictures of a dove, symbolizing peace. We are looking forward to the arrival of the Prince of Peace. And peace is much needed. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as other places, with strife growing in the fear of rising prices, inequality, rising nationalism and sectarianism and social divisions, we need peace more than ever.
Isaiah lived in similar times, witnessing the oncoming threat of war, invasion by the Assyrian Empire, poverty, injustice, and despair. Yet Isaiah brings a message of hope, reminding the people of God’s faithfulness, and justice.
In our passage Isaiah has a vision of an end of war, a time when all peoples will walk in God’s ways, not just the people of Israel and Judah. I wonder what he means ‘in the last days’? From his point of view is he thinking of the last days of the oncoming conflict with Assyria rather than the end of time itself? I believe he is envisioning a time when God’s judgements against sinful Israel have passed, after the consequences of their sin, a time when people will start to seek to live according to God’s ways.
As a result of living according to God’s ways, weapons will be reforged into gardening tools, guns into spades, instruments of death remade into tools that help bring life into the world. It is when we walk in the light of the Lord that justice, mercy, love, care for the least, equality and shalom, peace and wholeness can flourish. The biblical concept of shalom, peace, means far more than absence of war, it encompasses wellness, healing, wholeness, the opportunity for flourishing and hope.
For a modern-day take on this idea of turning swords into ploughshares have a look at www.rawtools.org a Christians charity in America which forges guns into gardening tools, seeking to address the gun violence in America. Similarly, Tearfund reports of weapons being turned into agricultural instruments in the Democratic Republic of Congo following years of violence:
The last line of our passage says: ‘Come, people of Israel, let us walk in the light of the Lord.’ It is when we all walk in God’s ways that peace will come. As the old song says, ‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…’
So, as we prepare for Christmas and the coming of the Prince of Peace, let us consider how we, as individuals and as a fellowship, can be instruments of God’s peace and shalom in our world.