The Mountain of the Lord
Year A, Advent 1
St. James' Episcopal Church
The Rev. Timothy J. Howe
November 29, 1996
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5
Title: The Mountain of the Lord
This morning marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. This first Sunday of Advent, we move into a fresh cycle of anticipation, growth, and discovery. Advent, of course, marks the time when we wait for the coming of Christ at Christmas. In Advent we remember God's people waiting for long years for the Savior to come. Advent culminates with Christmas, the yearly reminder that all the waiting was not vain, for God did fulfill His promise to send the Savior.
As we begin this season, I would like to think with you about mountains. Isaiah has this promise that in the latter days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall flow to it. For some reason, God likes mountains.
Repeatedly in the Scriptures, God promises to do things on mountains, especially His mountain, the one He claims as His own. This refers to Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
For instance, in Obadiah 17, God promises that "on Mount Zion will be deliverance."
Isaiah 11:9 God tells us "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Way back in Exodus 15:17, God promises to His people that He "will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of His inheritance - the place He has made for His dwelling."
I filled four pages of notes with references and notes about God and mountains. There is something about a mountain that reveals some of the character of our Creator. They are solid, immovable, very noticeable, and usually quite tall.
I remember the first time I encountered the Rockies. I flew into Denver, got off the plane, and there they were, a solid wall of rock stretching up nearly two miles. I was knocked nearly breathless at the sight. If you looked to the East, all was flat. But, turn around, and there, rising straight up like a mighty castle wall, were the mountains. They are hard to ignore.
They are hard to ignore in the Scriptures, too. Over and over again, we read of mountains playing a key role in the life of God's people.
One refrain that is almost constant when it comes to mountains in Scripture is that salvation will be found on a mountain. This is what we see in Isaiah this morning. Salvation from God will flow from God's mountain.
What has God done on the mountains?
Noah's Ark came to rest on the top of a mountain after the Flood. There, on the mountain top, God confirmed a covenant with Noah never again to destroy all flesh through a flood. Salvation came on the mountain.
By God's command, Abraham offered up Isaac, the son of God's promise. As he was about to plunge the knife, God stayed his hand and provided a Ram to offer up as sacrifice, instead. Salvation came on the mountain.
Moses received the commission of God to go to Egypt and lead God's people out of their bondage at the burning bush. On a mountain. Moses went and God brought them salvation. Salvation came on the mountain.
It was on a mountain that God revealed His law and His ways to His people, instructing them to walk in His ways to be His people. God's revelation came on the mountain.
God directed His people to build His Temple on the same mountain that Abraham had offered up Isaac. This Temple was to be the sign and symbol of God's presence with His people and the place where He would meet with them. True worship came on the mountain.
Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal to a power showdown on Mount Carmel. After Baal's prophets had danced and screamed all day, imploring their fake God to answer them, Elijah calmly rebuilds the altar of the Lord and prays, calmly, for the Lord to answer him. God sends the fire of His presence, consuming the sacrifice Elijah had prepared and convincing the people that He truly is God. Salvation from false gods came on the mountain.
It was on a mountain that Jesus delivered His greatest Sermon, revealing the depths of our hearts. Truth came on the mountain.
Jesus was transfigured before three of His disciples on the mountain, revealing His glory and majesty. Kingship came on the mountain.
Jesus was crucified on the mountain of God as the Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world. Love was revealed on God's mountain. Salvation came on the mountain.
After His resurrection, Jesus ascended back into heaven from the top of a mountain. As He went, the angels stood by His disciples and told them that Jesus would return in the same way, with power and great glory. The reunion of heaven and earth, the effects of salvation, came on the mountain.
We know from Zechariah 14:4 that when Jesus returns to earth, He will land on a mountain, the Mount of Olives. The beginning of God's reign on earth will come on the mountain.
Is it any wonder, then, that Isaiah, looking through the telescope of faith, declares that it will be the Mountain of the Lord's House that will be raised higher than all others and that from the Mountain of the Lord will flow salvation and His word? The prophet Daniel, writing about a hundred years after Isaiah, is given an incredible vision of things that were to come in the future. God gave Daniel this vision to tell the king of Babylon. In it, Daniel sees this enormous statue, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, torso of bronze, legs of iron, and feet made of iron and clay mixed together. While he is looking at this statue in his vision, Daniel sees this enormous stone come and strike down the statue, demolishing it completely. Then, the stone lands and grows to become a mountain that fills the entire earth.
God explains to Daniel that this stone represents His Kingdom, which He will establish over all other kingdoms. This is the Kingdom Jesus will establish. This is the Kingdom you and I still look for and pray for every time we pray the Lord's prayer. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We live in the period between the beginning of this heavenly Kingdom and its eventual establishment on earth. Jesus came first as the baby in Bethlehem, to die on a cross on a mountain that salvation might be given freely to all who come to Him in faith and ask for it. This is the Advent of Christ we celebrate every year at Christmas.
We also look forward to and anticipate and pray for the second Advent of Christ, when He will return to establish God's Kingdom on earth. His Kingdom will take preeminence over all others; the nations will come to Him to give Him worship and praise; and He will dispense true justice and bring true peace to the earth.
We must remember this holiday season that Jesus Christ is the point. Trees, decorations, lights, gift giving, parties, food, celebrations are all meaningless apart from Jesus Christ. He is the One we look for in the manger of Bethlehem.
He is also the One we look for in the mountain of the Lord. We must be careful lest we get distracted from a pure and uncompromised faith in this Jesus who is our Savior and our King by the glitter and tinsel of Christmas. Heed the warning He gives to His disciples in the gospel reading to watch, for we do not know the day or hour of His return. Advent is our reminder to do just that.
So, my brothers and sisters, watch the mountains. It is there God does His best work. It is on the mountain of the lord that we will find His salvation. Amen.