The First Sunday in Advent
November 27, 2022
Come, Lord Jesus— as King!
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 chief among the mountains; it will be raised 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 house 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, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Advent. What comes to mind when you hear the word Advent? Do you think of the fact that the Season of Advent begins a brand-new year in the Christian church? Do you think of the fact that the Season of Advent is when our church is once again decorated with our Christmas tree and all the beautiful Christmas decorations? All of that easily comes to mind when we hear the word “Advent.”
The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus— which means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent is designed to be the time of the year when we prepare our hearts and our lives for Jesus “arrival,” for His “coming.” Advent is designed to help us prepare for both Jesus’ first Advent into this world (Christmas) as well as His second Advent into this world (Judgment Day).
As we enter into the Season of Advent this year we are going to be following a sermon series that is specifically designed for this time of the year. The overall theme of this series is: Come, Lord Jesus! On each of the four Sundays in Advent we’ll focus on a particular aspect of Jesus’ “coming.” Today let’s see how the prophet Isaiah leads us to say: Come, Lord Jesus— as King!
The words of our text for this morning are a sharp contrast to the message which God the Holy Spirit led the prophet Isaiah to proclaim to God’s people in chapter one of this letter. Chapter one focuses on a very powerful message of Law. The God of Israel is charging His people with “rebellion” (1:2), with “guilt and corruption” and with “turning their backs” on the Lord! (1:2-4) Because of their rebellion and sin God considered the offerings and the religious celebrations of His people as “meaningless” and “burdensome” (1:12ff).
After commanding Isaiah to proclaim His powerful Law to His rebellious people, God the Holy Spirit now leads the prophet Isaiah to proclaim the sweet comforting message of the Gospel by focusing God’s people on the Promised Messiah. Isaiah assures God’s people what the Messiah would do for them when He comes into this world. We see this focus on the future work of the Messiah when Isaiah writes, “In the last days….” The “last days” is the technical term that the Bible uses to describe what you and I call the “New Testament era.” The “last days” began with Jesus’ first Advent into this world and they will conclude with Jesus’ second Advent into this world. (See Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Acts 2:17ff) No matter whether we are focusing on Jesus’ first Advent or whether we are focusing on Jesus’ second Advent we are always able to confidently say, Come, Lord Jesus— as King!
What are we expecting our King to do when He comes into this world? Isaiah gives us a number of answers to that question. The first answer is found in verses two and three of our text. Isaiah writes, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many people will come and say, ‘Come, let us go to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The key to understanding these words correctly is to have a correct understanding of the term, “the mountain of the LORD’s temple.” In the days of Isaiah this was a clear reference to Mt. Zion. This mountain was the most important and the most sacred site in all of Israel. This is where the magnificent Temple designed by great King David and built by wise King Solomon stood for approximately 400 years. The Temple was the spiritual center of God’s people. The Temple was the place where the Lord God Himself graciously dwelt among His people as the “Glory of the LORD” appeared above the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The Temple was the place where thousands upon thousands of animals were sacrificed to atone for the sins of God’s people. The Temple was where God’s people brought their offerings to their Lord.
How does the importance of the “mountain of the LORD’s temple” help us to understand what we are expecting when we say, “Come, Lord Jesus— as King!”? The answer to that question is found in what our King has promised to do “in the last days”! First, our King promises that He will “establish” His mountain as “chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills.” Does this mean that our King will physically elevate Mount Zion — which has a natural elevation of about 2,100 feet— so that it is higher than all the other mountains on earth? No, it does not. What it does mean is that “in the last days” our King will elevate— has elevated— Mt. Zion so that it is the “chief,” the “most important” of all the “mountains”! Since the physical Temple on the physical mountain called Zion was completely destroyed by the Romans how are we to understand these words of Isaiah?
It all becomes clear, my friends, when we realize that the Old Testament Temple that once stood on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem has been replaced by an even greater and more magnificent Temple. It is the Temple that God Himself is building out of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). It is the Temple which our King is building “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). It is the Temple we call the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.
The Christian Church is “chief” among all other churches because the Christian Church proclaims the message that is preeminent over all other messages. Think about it. The Christian Church is now the spiritual center of all of God’s children. The Christian Church is where God Himself dwells among His people through His holy Word and His holy Sacraments. The Christian Church is the place where we are assured that the ultimate, perfect, once-for-all sacrifice was made to completely pay for all of our sins. (Pointing to the cross) The Christian Church is where God’s people regularly gather to worship their King, to praise their King, and to bring their offerings to their King.
Equating the New Testament Christian Church with the Temple that once stood on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem makes it very easy for us to understand Isaiah when he says, “all nations will stream to it,” 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. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’”
The Christian Church has the unique position of being the only source of the true knowledge of salvation. As the Church carries out its mission of faithfully proclaiming the powerful message of God’s Law, as the Church carries out its mission of faithfully proclaiming the sweet simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as the Church continues to carry out its mission of faithfully administering the Sacraments our God has given to us, our King will see to it that “all nations will stream” to His Church! The fulfillment of these words can be seen in the fact that most members of the Christian Church today— including us!— come from nations other than Israel.
As the Church carries out her God-given mission using her God-given tools our King “teaches us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.” Through His Word our King not only teaches us how we are saved, but through His Word our King also teaches us how the saved are to live. That’s one of the reasons why we come to church on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why we read and study our Bible on a regular basis. Every time we gather together here in God’s house and every time we open our Bible we are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus— as King!” Come as my King and give me an even deeper understanding of your holy Scriptures. Come as my King and teach me how to live my life in a way that glorifies you. This is a very clear reminder to us, my friends, that if we are not “walking in the light” perhaps we need to take a very close look at how often we sit at the feet of our King and listen to Him as He uses His Word to “teach us his ways,” and how often we sit down with our Bible at home and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus— as my King!”
As we turn to verse four of our text we see another answer to the question, “What will our King do when He comes?” Isaiah tells us, “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.”
The ultimate fulfillment of these words will take place at Jesus’ second Advent when He returns to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead. Since this is the focus of next Sunday’s sermon we do not want to discuss this in detail today. Does that mean, however, that there is no application of these words to our lives now? Of course not!
When the great company of heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve, what did they proclaim? They proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). The purpose of Jesus’ first Advent into this world was to establish peace between us and God by taking away all of our sins. (Pointing to the cross) With the barrier of sin between God and us broken down by the work of our King, the barriers of hostility that once separated us from one another have also been broken down. In short, the fact that we are at peace with God means that we are to be at peace with others— especially our brothers and sisters in the faith.
What does this mean? It means that we need to get rid of the “swords” and the “spears” that our old sinful nature loves to use against others. You know what I’m referring to. I’m referring to the sword of a grudge that we hold over someone, refusing to free them with forgiveness. I’m referring to the spear of the words that we hurl at others— sometimes even our fellow Christians!— the spears that do more damage and cause more hurt than any sharpened steel. I’m referring to the weapon of deafening silence, closing our ears to the pleas for help and understanding. Such callous indifference cuts others down and shreds them into tiny, unimportant pieces as surely as any sword or spear might do. We have wielded such weapons with skill, but that skill hardly fits our status as saints.
Just as the season of Advent assures us that God will not “beat” us down because of our sins— we know that our King endured that “beating” for us— so also, the season of Advent leads us to do the same. Advent reminds us that now is the time for us to beat that grudge-sword into the plowshare of forgiveness so that we can plant the seeds of love and reconciliation in both our heart and in the hearts of others. Advent reminds us that now is the time to beat those spears of hurtful words into pruning hooks that we can use to cultivate harmony and growth with the people around us.
Come, Lord Jesus— as King! As we enter into a brand new Church year with that thought on our hearts, as we prepare our hearts and our lives for both the first and the second Advent of our King, may God grant that we will adopt the closing verse of our text as our guide, “Come, O House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.”
To God be the glory!