By Mark Scott
God does some of his most important work on mountains. God’s wrath against humankind’s evil was averted when the ark rested on Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4). God’s test of Abraham’s faith took place on the mount he named The Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14). God’s law was given to his people on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19, 20). God’s house was built on Mount Zion (1 Kings 8). God’s victory over
false gods was secured on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Jesus delivered his famous sermon on what is now called the Mount of Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1, 2). Jesus was transfigured before three of the disciples on a mountain (Matthew 17:1, 2). Jesus died on a mount called Skull (Mark 15:22). And Jesus went back to God from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12).
If wells were places of romance (Genesis 29:9-12), then mountains were places of revelation (Exodus 34:2-4). The Bible uses the term mountain in a literal way (Matthew 24:3) and in a figurative way for peoples, nations, or governments (Micah 1:4) and for the kingdom of God (Isaiah 2:2, 3; Daniel 2:44, 45; Micah 4:1, 2). Last week’s lesson stressed that God’s ultimate kingdom is peaceful (Isaiah 11:1-9). But the road to that peace goes through several valleys of difficulty. Nations and cities such as Babylon, Assyria, Moab, Damascus, Cush, Egypt, Tyre, and Sidon would all have to undergo judgment (Isaiah 13–24) before the mountain (kingdom) of God would have prominence.
Provision Yet Destruction
Mountains were places of provision (Genesis 22:1-14). That is what the imagery in our text means when it says, The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. In the kingdom of God the Lord himself is the chef. The kingdom of God is pictured as a mountain, but it is also pictured as a great banquet (Revelation 19:9). Jesus himself pictured it this way (Matthew 8:11, 12). When he turned water into wine it was the best of wine, and it was in abundance (John 2:1-11). God provides for his people in a kingdom where he reigns unchallenged.
Sometimes the road to peace is bumpy. God has to do the hard work of judgment to get his people to peace and joy. So he will destroy (the same word for swallow up in verse 8) anything that stands in the way of his agenda. Isaiah did not tell us exactly what this shroud (covering) or sheet (veil) were. In verse 8 he mentioned death. Since that is the ultimate enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), it must be removed or swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
There are two marvelous things about this destruction. First, God himself will do this swallowing. He will endure the destruction himself (Isaiah 53:10). Second, he will do this for all nations. This mountain of God is not exclusive or prejudiced.
Compassion and Celebration
If the God of this great mountain seems harsh and hard-hearted, think again. Isaiah pictured a time when the Lord would wipe away the tears from all faces. In the new heaven and new earth God will wipe away (literally “out of” our eyes) tears from everyone. Ultimately the kingdom of God is a land of no more tears. After the smoke of God’s judgment passes, there will be no need to cry.
Another indication of his compassion will be his removal of disgrace from his covenant people from all the other nations of the earth. Israel was the apple of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8), but she had been disgraced on numerous occasions. God would act in his sovereign compassion to remove any shame.
Isaiah pictured a time when God’s hand (symbol of his power) would so rest on his mountain (people) that the only appropriate thing to do would be to party. Everyone would recognize that God acted on behalf of his people to save them. God does the saving. His people do the trusting (mentioned twice in the text). Together they celebrate. Rejoicing and celebrating is the only rational response in light of God’s saving activity.
The most significant thing about the mountain of God is the God of the mountain. In our text today he is referred to as Lord Almighty, Sovereign Lord, the Lord (three times), and our God. Even in the turmoil of our world (as this lesson day is the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11), God reigns on his mountain.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.