A Complex/Complicated Story
(Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins is Senior Pastor of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church)
Isaiah 2:1-5 (NRSVUE)
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
“The history of Jerusalem is a very complicated story,” says Laura Schor, a professor of history at Hunter College, in the 2021 CNN series Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury. “And if you don’t know it in its complexity, it’s very hard to understand what’s going on there today.”
Part of that complexity revolves around theological fault lines, as Jerusalem is sacred ground for three major world religions: Jews, Christians and Muslims all have significant and separate ties to an area that today is roughly 50 square miles.
Then there’s the fact that Jerusalem is also “the center of national aspiration of two communities: the Israeli community and the Palestinian community,” explains Smith College religion professor Suleiman Mourad in the “Jerusalem” series. “That adds another layer of complexity.”
Sadly, for many of us, the first word that comes to mind when we hear the name Jerusalem is conflict. Indeed, its history is rife with conflict. Yet, the hope for Jerusalem is that it would live up to the meaning of its name, City of Peace.
The fourth verse of today’s text exemplifies this hope. [From Jerusalem the LORD] shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
A fitting hope for this Advent season is that Jerusalem will begin to find its way toward fulfilling the prophet’s dream for it and that together we will learn anew the ways that make for peace.