Isaiah 2:1-5:  God’s Hope for Judah

Four preaching tracks

New Jerusalem

With all of the clamoring of military plans and their projected outcomes, God (through the prophet Isaiah) interjects God’s hope for the future.  Just like a parent, who has hopes and dreams for a wayward child, God shares a grand vision for God’s people.  It stands in great contrast to King Ahaz and his military generals.  God’s future story for Judah has three parts in our lectionary text today.  1.  Super-sized Jerusalem (easily recognizable)  2.) teachable people no matter the ethnicity 3.) peace among all humans.  What a grand plan!

TRACK #1 This text tells us something about God.  God hopes in a very human way – finitely.  God has specific ideas about God’s people in this space and time.  Made in the image of our creator, we hope…or do we?  Opening up this box called “hope” and exploring it in a sermon can invite parishioners to think about hope by offering some precious time of self examination.  Do I have hope in my life and what does it look like?  Where are my passions?  What gives me energy?  A second striving in this sermon is to ask how God’s finite hope for this community at this time would inform our own hope for ourselves.  Does God’s hope impact our future story, our opinion of ourselves, our journey?  What would it be like to hope with God?  This sermon also gives the preacher opportunity to enlighten the congregation about how God thinks of God’s people.  God always has a future story, a hope, a dream that involves a relationship with God and peace.

This text is rich because we are on holy ground – inside the desires of God!  Therefore, take your time defining hope.  This Sunday may not be the time to unpack all of Andrew Lester’s wisdom, but one angle and one good story about that angle of hope can really set the worship mood for the whole season.  Advent is anything but Christmas sentimentality.

TRACK #2  The Isaiah text outlines God’s finite hopes for the world.  The season of Advent makes us curious as to how God will accomplish this goal.  With the congregation already pointing toward the manger, why not bring that into the picture.  If finite hope is setting a goal and accomplishing it, then line out for the congregation how God accomplishes Isaiah 2 through the manager, the resurrection and Pentecost.  The desire for intimacy as presented in the Isaiah 2 text correlates with God’s whole story.  Throughout the Bible God’s hope never changes.  It always revolves around redeeming humans for relationship.  This would be a great sermon thread with the goal defining hope and outlining God’s passion toward redemption through examining God’s hope in the Isaiah text and then highlighting that hope with a narrative history from Eden to the Pentecost. This story gives humans transfinite hope.  Basically, the end of this sermon explains why God’s story matters to us.

TRACK #3  Can we hope with God (as presented in the Isaiah text) and work toward God’s finite wishes?  If we stayed in the context of Isaiah’s nationalist and political concerns the sermon would morph with a social justice theme.  While this is a worthwhile path, this particular study is about offering pastoral care from the pulpit.  So how can we bridge the text that appeals to the heart?  This query can be explored if the three preaching points of the text are internalized.  Preaching point #1 recognizing God in our life (raised above the hills) #2 being teachable (we may walk in his paths)  #3 peaceable toward others (beating swords into plowshares).  One or all of these points would make a great sermon because all of God’s hopes for us are grounded in our transfinite hope.  We hope that God is working in us in a mysterious way.  How comfortable are we in putting our hope in that?  How does God’s hope for us encourage us to further our trust in the divine?  The future is uncertain and sometimes scary.  Like Ahaz who looks for political alliances, we often look for feedback to validate our decisions or emotions.  Do we trust our own knowing?  How does God’s hope bring safety and calm to our future story worries?

TRACK #4  Just as every parent has a hope for a child, God hopes for us.  Isaiah 2:1-5 is a vision of what perfection would look like to God – a relationship with active participants.  As a child hears a parents hope for their future, we hear God’s hope for humanity. Can we receive it? What does it feel like to be the object of such hope?  What emotions does it spur?  Do we really see ourselves are partaking in this grand dream?  These questions dredge up issues of self worth and shame.  Many pew sitters struggle with living into the truth that God wants good things for them.  They stay in abusive relationships, subject themselves to work that is not fulfilling and drown themselves in American excess of food, alcohol, shopping, so on and so forth.  But God’s dream tells us that we are made for more.  If we begin our day with the end in mind and that end is God’s hope, how would we treat ourselves?  Therefore, this sermon would define hope and speak of recognizing and claiming God’s presence in our lives, believing we are worthy of God’s teachings and enjoying peace.  (What a different message in comparison to what our church people hear Monday through Saturday!)