At least, this looks like one to me.
I am walking around downtown Norfolk in the hour or so I have before my event starts. Isaiah 2 is in my mind, having painstakingly drawn it digitally over the last few days of devotions. The phrase “beat swords into plowshares” plays on a loop in my head. I have an eye open for something that looks like shaped metal.
But then I see the spires of two church buildings. I love to sit in the sanctuaries of old churches, so I approach the first. I’m sure the architect meant for its spiky towers to be pointers toward heaven. But arrows, I might have reminded him, are also weapons. The building has a somewhat fierce and aggressive posture. Don’t mess with us, it seems to growl.
The second church has the frowning solidity of a castle. And like the first church, the doors are locked.
Isaiah paints a powerful image of hope in the beginning of his second chapter. In the culmination of days, God will live on his holy mountain and all the nations will stream uphill -- like water defying gravity – to hear his words. God will not only teach but render justice. Conflicts between nations will be settled, so much so that they will have no more need of weapons. Hence the famous “sword into plowshares” prophesy.
It’s hard to imagine a world without conflict. My walk today brings me to the harbor, where an enormous battleship is docked as a part of a museum. The navy’s shipyards are across the harbor. So much energy and money is expended in order to be prepared for potential war. To defend what is ours.
Isaiah reminds us that only the presence of God can bring ultimate peace. And until “the culmination of days,” when God brings his kingdom in its fullness, Christians are to be kingdom-bringers. In the midst of an increasingly charged conflict between the church and a post-Christian culture, we should take up the two calls of invitation in this passage:
Come, let us go up.
Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
The thought that any would heed those calls may seem as unlikely as rivers flowing up a mountain. But there is still a God in heaven who has a plan for history. A God who does miraculous things. Who draws the nations to himself.
Let’s look up. And unlock the doors -- not so that they can come in, but that we can go out.
Lord, how we long for the day when you will unite all nations under your sovereign rule. Help us, even in this troubled time, to be kingdom-bringers. To be inviters to your presence. Give us the boldness to love and to speak.
Reminder: I’m still hoping that some of you will join me on a video call, to share your own 8:18 experiences. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll set up a time. I’d love to hear how God reveals himself in the world around you!