Formations 01.28.2018: Come and See!

Isaiah 2:2-4; Zechariah 8:20-23

Friedrich Jugel, Print, Stage Design: Jerusalem and Mount Zion, for Athalia, 1816

When we think of evangelism, the verbs that usually come to mind are “go and tell.” That is certainly the approach we see in verses such as Mark 4:19 and Matthew 28:19. When I was in college, our Baptist Student Union leaders often encouraged us students to take the Great Commission seriously. They offered numerous retreats and seminars to impress upon us the importance of sharing the gospel and to give us tools to do so. I learned many good and important lessons about my faith and my Christian calling during those years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Today’s passages, however, remind us that “go and tell” isn’t the only way to proclaim God’s grace to the world. God also honors the “come and see” approach (see Jn 4:29).

Both Isaiah and Zechariah imagine Jerusalem as the spiritual center of gravity for the entire world. The days are coming, they both proclaim, when people from every nation will flock to the holy city and its temple to seek the God of Israel. Isaiah envisions this as a time of peace when God’s justice prevails. Zechariah imagines Gentiles so eager to encounter God that they grab hold of Israelites and implore them to lead the way. How’s that for an evangelistic strategy?

In the prophetic imagination, there was something about the ideal Jerusalem that compelled even Gentiles to flock to it to learn God’s ways. The vision Isaiah and Zechariah cast should lead us to ponder what in our lives, our church, our Christian experience, would make others flock to us.

What makes us credible pointers toward God? When we see people searching for meaning and wholeness, what gives us the right to say, “Come and see”?

Discussion

• Is your concept of evangelism more “go and tell” or “come and see”? How so?
• How has your understanding of evangelism changed over time?
• Do you think most people see the church as a place where their deepest needs and aspirations might be satisfied? Why or why not?
• Whom could you invite to experience your community of faith—and possibly embrace it as their own?

Reference Shelf

Mount Zion

The elevation of Zion as the focus of God’s presence on earth of course made it the chief cultic site in all Israel, and eventually Josiah’s reformation (late seventh century) through the Book of Deuteronomy would stipulate that sacrificial worship could take place only at the Zion Temple. Ps 24, possibly composed for Solomon’s first entry of the ark into the Temple and subsequently enacted periodically to celebrate Yahweh’s enthronement on Mount Zion, assumes Zion is the chief mountain in all the earth, which God “has founded…upon the seas, and established…upon the rivers,” the home of the “King of Glory.” Both Pss 46 and 76 praise God, the king who has established Zion in Jerusalem, fortress of peace, in order to make “wars to cease to the end of the earth” and to break “the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.” thus Zion became in Hebrew tradition the central symbol of God’s rule, the Kingdom of God, a realm of justice, righteousness, and peace.

Lamontte M. Luker, “Zion,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 985–86.

Let Us Go Up

As anyone who has traveled to Jerusalem knows, the hill on which the temple stood is not the highest mountain in the vicinity, much less in the region. The Mount of Olives, immediately to the east, towers over the landscape, separating the city from the descent to Jericho and the Dead Sea. But the height of the holy mountain becomes symbolically significant in view of later verses in Isaiah 2, in which “The LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty” (v. 12), including trees, mountains, towers, ships, and especially haughty people, and “The LORD alone will be exalted” (v. 17). In the prophetic imagination, at least, nothing should or ultimately will be raised higher than God’s own dwelling.

In the course of this brief passage, the temple is called by three names, and by extension even five. “The mountain of the LORD’s house” and “the house of the God of Jacob” are unique, found only here and in Micah’s parallel passage. “The mountain of the LORD,” is nearly as unusual, found in Isaiah 30:29 and Psalm 24:3 (and, referring to other mountains, in Gen 22:14 and Num 10:33). Not until the narrative of Isaiah 37 is the temple again called the “house of the LORD” as it often is in Kings and Chronicles. And nowhere else in Isaiah is it the “house of God.” The phrase “God of Jacob,” so common in the Psalms, appears nowhere else in Isaiah. Isaiah’s more usual phrase for the place of the temple is “Mount Zion” (4:5; 8:18; 10:12; 18:7; 29:8; 31:4; cf. 37:32) or “the mount of Daughter Zion” (10:32; 16:1). So when in v. 3 God’s word is said to emanate from Zion and Jerusalem, the city is being closely identified with Mount Zion.

The role of the nations stands out distinctly here. Throughout much of Isaiah 1–39, many nations appear as threats to Judah, even when they are threats averted. Friendly views of the nations in relation to Israel’s God appear only sporadically, such as at 18:7 (concerning Ethiopia), 23:18 (concerning Tyre), and especially 19:16-25, which foresees Egypt and Assyria worshiping YHWH in their own lands. More universal expressions of the nations’ acknowledgment of Israel’s God in Jerusalem are mostly reserved for later portions of the book.

Patricia K. Tull, Isaiah 1–39, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010), 82–83.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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