Isaiah 2-5 is a connected discourse, a soul-stirring message addressed to Judah and Jerusalem at a time unspecified. The parable of the vineyard in chapter 5 is a lovely yet solemn epitome of it all and is really the prophet’s text. That which precedes the parable is introductory and that which follows is a fitting conclusion, pronouncing the woes of the Lord upon the vine that only brought forth wild grapes.
Isaiah 2:2-4 is almost identical to Micah 4:1-3. There is no need to suppose plagiarism or a scribe’s blunder in transferring the words of one prophet to the book of another. Rather the similarity is a blessed evidence that the same Spirit inspired both speakers or writers. The double testimony is added assurance that the thing spoken cannot fail.
These verses tell in language too plain to be misunderstood that in the last days God will restore His ancient people Israel to their land and make Jerusalem His throne-city, from which His laws will go forth to the ends of the earth. Isaiah foresaw “that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills.” Mountains are a common prophetic symbol signifying governments and throne-cities, and the mountain in Isaiah 2:2 is the city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem will be “the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2) and “all nations shall flow unto it.” This will be fulfilled literally in the coming age after God’s present work of grace has come to an end. He is now, as James pointed out in Acts 15:14, visiting the Gentiles “to take out of them a people for his name.” But when this special work is completed, He will “build again the tabernacle of David” (Acts 15:16) and through restored Israel bless all the nations.
Then will be the time spoken of by Isaiah, when “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” In mat day of His power He will rule all the nations with equity and put down every opposing thing.
It is not in this dispensation that Israel will thus be saved and, through them, the nations brought under Immanuel’s sway. Therefore those who expect to see all wars ended and righteousness everywhere established in this age are doomed to bitter disappointment. It is not now while the King is sitting as the earth’s rejected One upon His Father’s throne that the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.” But when He returns to this world and takes the throne of His father David, then “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
It was in view of this glorious fulfillment of Israel’s Messianic hopes that the exhortation of verse 5 was delivered: “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” The house of Jacob, so long blinded because of their rejection of Christ when He came the first time, will then have their eyes opened to see the light that has been hidden from them.
It is very evident that the verses we have just been considering (2:1-5) are parenthetical, for there is no apparent connection between 2:1-5 and 2:6. But if read immediately after 1:31, 2:6 fits perfectly.
Wealth and luxury will not avail to avert the wretchedness that is to be the portion of all who forsake the Lord and turn aside to false gods. Such gods are powerless to deliver those who put their trust in them.
In 2:10-22 the prophet spoke of the day of the Lord, when God will arise in His might and indignation to deal with wickedness and corruption wherever they are found. As in the judgment of the sixth seal, men will seek to hide themselves “in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains” (Revelation 6:15). But their hope of escaping the fierce anger of the Lord will be in vain, for “the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
The day of the Lord is in contrast to the day of man, which is this present evil age when God is permitting men to take their own way, try out their own plans, and be independent of His authority. In the coming day of the Lord, high and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, all alike will be “brought low” before the God they have defied or forgotten.
That judgment will be like a tremendous storm or forest fire sweeping over the mountains of Lebanon, devouring the great cedars and oaks as well as the lesser trees, then reaching down the mountain slopes and consuming farmhouses and villages, and even spreading across the plains to the shipping ports, where all the ships of Tarshish and all objects of art would be destroyed. Judgment will come, for God has decreed that “the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” All that men have put in the place of God will be abolished. In their terror men will “go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth,” hoping to find shelter from the wrath of an offended God.
Casting away all in which they have futilely trusted, men will find themselves bereft of all confidence. They will seek refuge in vain in the most inaccessible places as they endeavor to flee from the majestic glory of Jehovah “when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” Such will be the end of man’s boasted civilization, the end of his effort to make this world a place of rest and security while ignoring the claims of Him who created all things for His own glory. And so the passage closes with a solemn admonition: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”