Isaiah 2 gives a short but stunning vision of God’s exaltation over human pride and idolatry. The chapter begins with a glorious vision of what’s coming: the global exaltation of God (1-5). Then, Isaiah presents a contrastive vision of the present situation: the human pride and idolatry that will be destroyed by the revelation of God’s majesty (6-22). Here is an example of a prophet both foretelling (what will be) and forthtelling (what is).
In the future (the “latter days”—2), the worship of YHWH, centered out of Jerusalem, will become a global reality. Isaiah pictures the Temple as located on the tallest of mountains: “the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be lifted up above the hills” (2).
What’s more, the nations will stream into Jerusalem, ascending the mountain of the Lord, in order to come to God’s house and learn His ways (3). The Lord will be the righteous ruler of all the nations, who will submit to his judgments (4) and lay down their weapons of war (“beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”—4). The long-desired global peace will finally arrive: “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (4).
In light of what’s coming, Isaiah exhorts God’s people to “walk in the light of the Lord” (5). It becomes painfully clear from what follows that “the house of Jacob” is not doing this now!
Verses 6-22 speak to the current condition of God’s people: compromised and conceited. The house of Jacob has become spiritually contaminated, adopting the ways of the surrounding nations (6). They have adopted the viewpoints and values of the nations, trusting in their wealth (silver and gold—7), military muscle (horses and chariots—7), and hand-made idols (8).
God sees all this as so much hubris which He is in the process of humbling (“So man is humbled, and each one is brought low”—9). In light of the foreign invasion of Judah depicted in chapter 1, this humbling has already begun. But it’s not over. Isaiah speaks of a future, glorious revelation of God that will completely humble the proud. Three times he speaks of a coming “day” (the Day of the Lord) when people will be brought low before “the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of his majesty” (10, 19, 21). The Lord will “rise to terrify the earth” (19).
In that day, all human pride and power will be “brought low” (12). Isaiah describes human pride in terms of cedars of Lebanon, oaks of Bashan, lofty mountains, fortified towers and walls, ships of Tarshish and “beautiful craft” (13-16). In other words, all the sources and symbols of human accomplishment and glory will be demolished. In fact, at the revelation of the Lord of glory, people will “cast away their idols,” throwing them into the caves, tossing them to the bats and moles (20). The idols will be seen for what they are—utterly worthless and shameful.
The chapter ends with a sobering summons: “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (22). Isaiah refers to people as those “with breath in their nostrils” as a way to show human frailty and vulnerability. We are not self-sustaining. We need breath to live. That’s why we must depend on the Giver of every breath, the One who’s Spirit (“breath”) animates our very lives.
Ironically, God’s people have stopped regarding Him and are relying on false gods and frail people. They are looking to foreign powers and false gods to help them when only the Lord is worthy of worship and trust.
Behold Your God
The Lord alone is high and lifted up. Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6 is a personal encounter with the truth presented in chapter 2. Only the Lord is high and exalted. While humans are prone to worship money (silver and gold), power (horses and chariots), man-made objects (idols) or ourselves, only God is to be feared and worshiped. He towers over all else.
A day is coming when God’s power and majesty will be revealed in a stunning way. Isaiah pictures the “day” (Day of the Lord) when the God of Jacob will “rise to terrify the earth” (21). His coming in “the splendor of his majesty” will send humans scurrying for cover (running to the caves—10,19) in fear.
The proud will flee from the Lord while the humble stream to the Lord. While the proud are looking for cover, the humble will come to the mountain of the Lord in worship and obedience (3). 2 Thessalonians 1 speaks of the Day of the Lord’s coming as a terror for the ungodly but a marvel for believers (2 Thess. 1:9-10). One day the kingdom of God will reign on earth. Isaiah pictures nations streaming to Jerusalem (the mountain of the Lord) in humility and obedience. The result will be a global peace that we’ve never seen before. While God’s glorious coming will terrify the proud, there is a glorious future for our earth!
Here Am I
Pride and idolatry are a deadly duo; flee them both. Pride makes us idolators; we elevate ourselves and our resources to the place reserved for God. This puts us in the crosshairs of God’s coming judgment. He humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The future will be both terrifying and glorious. The coming of the Lord will terrify those who are proud and idolatrous. At the same time, the Lord’s presence on earth will draw people from the nations to Himself and usher in an unparalleled time of world peace. So, we pray, “Your kingdom come” and we spread the gospel to the perishing while there is time.