THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD [2]

We looked last week at Isaiah 2:1-4 as a description of the church of Jesus Christ. But the church exists only because of the Word of God and only because of Jesus Christ.

The physical mountain on which the physical Jerusalem was built has a long history in the saving purposes of God, a history that constantly points forward to God’s eternal purpose to bring people from all nations together as the church through the death of Jesus Christ and under his headship.

It was on this mountain that Abraham lifted his knife to kill his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. But God intervened and provided a substitute. Here in Genesis 22 God speaks in advance of his provision of Jesus Christ, the ‘Lamb slain from the creation of the world’ [Revelation 13:8].

It was on this mountain that Solomon built the Temple, replacing the original Tabernacle which was patterned on a greater, spiritual reality that God had revealed to Moses [Hebrews 8:5]. The presence of the Temple and its rituals made this place the centre and focus of the worship and the hope of Israel, and visibly identified it as the ‘the holy mountain’, the ‘holy city’, ‘the city of the Lord’, ‘the city of God’.

It was on this mountain that the ritual, commemorative and predictive prescriptions of the Law of Moses  were performed and celebrated: God’s provision of sacrifice and priesthood by which the sinner obtained forgiveness and atonement, and which were prophetic symbols of Jesus Christ, the one ultimate and final sacrifice and the one ultimate and final priest. The annual Feast Days also – Passover, Firstfruits, Tabernacles, Atonement – all were celebrated only in Jerusalem, on this mountain, and all, in one way or another, pointed forward to the incarnate Christ and what he would accomplish.  

It was here on this mountain that all guilt and all the accusations and condemnations prescribed by the Law upon the sinner were taken by Christ, and it was here that all of the predictive prophecies and symbols of salvation contained in the Law were fulfilled in Christ. This salvation wrought by Jesus Christ could be accomplished in no other place than Jerusalem. Thus Isaiah states in 25:6-8 that on this mountain God will:

Prepare a feast for all people [verse 6],
Destroy the shroud that enfolds all people, all nations [verse 7],
Swallow up death forever [verse 8],
Wipe away the tears from all faces [verse 8],
Remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth [verse 8].

This he accomplished on this mountain in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, who

Is the bread of life, providing permanent spiritual sustenance [John 6:35],
Bore our sins in his body on the cross [1Peter 2:24],
Defeated and destroyed death [1Corinthians 15:54-57],
Brings the joy of salvation to us [Romans 5:2,11],
Took away our guilt nailing it to the cross [Colossians 2:14].

To achieve this Jesus Christ resolutely journeyed towards Jerusalem [Luke 9:51], towards the fulfilment of all the Old Testament prophecies focused in this city [Matthew 21:4,5], and towards his death [Matthew 26:54,56; Luke 13:33; 24:44].

Here, on this mountain of the Lord, the eternal, saving purpose of God is achieved. A purpose loaded with grace since before the beginning of time [2Timothy 1:9]. A purpose providing a sure, certain, confident assurance of eternal life planned before the beginning of time [Titus 1:2].

Here on this mountain in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ God’s wisdom is revealed: ‘God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began’ [1Corinthians 2:7]. This wisdom, now revealed to us in the Gospel by God’s Spirit [1Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 1:9,10; Colossians 1:25-2:3], was always there in the history of this mountain, in the symbolic rituals repeatedly performed and celebrated on this mountain, and in the Temple, along with its furnishings, that stood on this mountain.

But here on this mountain, here in Jerusalem, where everything in history, in ritual and in the Temple proclaimed the Saviour; here where everything was shouting ‘He’s coming! He’s coming!’ here where he should have been most readily recognized - here he was rejected. Here that other prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled:

‘He was despised and rejected by men …
… he was despised and we esteemed him not’ [53:3].

His words to Jerusalem are filled with pathos:

‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate’ [Luke 9:34,35].

His words to the Samaritan woman could well have been spoken to those who rejected him on this mountain:

‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’ [John 4:10].

For they did not know … the rulers of Jerusalem did not know that the Lord of glory stood and taught among them. They did not know that even as they killed him they were unwittingly bringing their rituals, their priesthood, their temple to an end. They sought to preserve these things by putting Jesus and his radical teaching to death. But it was his death that brought them to their intended goal, it was his death that brought them to fulfilment. They have by his death become redundant.

There is no Temple on this mountain today: but there is the Church, the building in which God dwells by his Spirit. There is no sacrifice there: but there is the once-for-all sacrifice of the body of Christ. There is no priestly mediation there: but there is the eternal and permanent mediation of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who has entered heaven itself for us.

All of it, like the curtain in the Temple, has been ripped away by God. Its predictive purpose all fulfilled and accomplished in Jesus Christ, of whom it spoke, to whom it pointed. It was all completed here, on this mountain of the Lord.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014