The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
I. THE BLESSED OR GOLDEN AGE A SUBJECT OF EARLY PROPHECY. It is believed that we have in these verses a very ancient oracle, first delivered by the earlier prophet Joel (see Joel 3:10), and from him repeated by Isaiah and Micah (Micah 4:1-4). An eternal hopefulness lived in the heart of the great prophets, like a light shining in a dark place, amidst all the scenes of national sin and depression. What has been said of true poetry is to be said of prophecy - it is the "light that never shone on sea or shore; the inspiration and the poet's dream."
II. A REVIVAL OF RELIGION WILL USHER IN THE GOLDEN AGE. The mountains were earliest seats of Divine worship, both amongst Jews and Gentiles. One of the seats of the great god of the Greeks, Mount Lycaeos in Arcadia, commanded, Pausanias tells us, a view over nearly the whole Peloponnese. Zion was a small and lowly mount, but it is to become a peak that shall overtop all mountains, the "joy of the whole earth" (Psalm 48:2), unrivalled in the majesty of its Divine associations (Psalm 68:16). The Gentiles will make pilgrimages to this holy mountain. All this poetically describes the commanding influence of true religion.
1. The revival of religion means the revival of morality. When the conscience is really awakened, the inquiry will ever be - What must we do? What are the ways and paths of God? What are the principles of a true, a just, and a blessed life?
2. It means social unity. In the vision the Gentiles are seen converging with the Jews to one point - to Zion. The more deep religion is, the more do men feel that truth is but one, thought one, spiritual worship one. The love of God solves all differences in itself.
3. True religion is a self-diffusive power. It goes forth like light, like heat, like a fame and rumor insensibly stealing through the air.
III. JUSTICE AND PEACE WILL BE THE EFFECTS OF TRUE RELIGION. We can clearly see that it is so from the course of history. With the progress of Christianity, the administration of justice within the sphere of each nation has become milder, because more thoughtful, more respectful of the value of the individual life. Not only so, the idea of international justice has gained ground. Whatever a certain school of Politicians may say, conscience does gain ground in the dealings of nation with nation. Wrong cannot be done to the weak without censure. Nations as well as individuals are more alive to the voice of public opinion, and more sensible of shame. In our own time, "justice" has again and again been the watchword of our politics, and has gained attention and overcome the clamors of the bellicose and the sneers of the cynical. Let us-be thankful for these things. Best of all, peace and its occupations replace war and its waste, as true religion prevails. In this beautiful picture, or slight sketch of a picture, we see the soldier going back to his fields, that he may turn the murderous steel into the hoe, the share, the pruning-knife, while the arsenals and military schools are closed (see the touch added by Micah 4:4; cf. Psalm 46:9; Hosea 2:20; Zechariah 9:10). It is the picture of an ideal and a future, not yet nor soon perhaps to be converted into an actual present, except in the delightful world of holy dreams which makes the best of our life. But for every one who works and lives in the true Christian spirit, the picture ever more nearly tends to coincide with the reality.
IV. REFLECTIONS OF THIS PROPHECY AMONG THE GENTILES. Doubtless a large collection might be made of passages of similar scope from the lore of other nations. Best known are those from the Roman poets. Virgil, like Joel (Joel 3:10), reverses the imagery. When right and wrong are confused, wars prevail and all manner of crimes. The plough receives no honor; the fields run to weeds, because the farmers have gone to serve as soldiers, and the curved sickles are turned into the rigid sword ('Georg.,' 1:506, sqq.). So Ovid: in time of war the sword is apter than the plough; the toiling ox gives way to the war-horse, while hoes and rakes are turned into javelins ('Fast.,' 1:697, sqq.). He further sketches the picture of peace bringing back the ox to the yoke, and the seed to the ploughed land. For "Peace nourishes Ceres, and Ceres is the foster-child of Peace." We must reserve the further pictures of the perfection of the golden age in the Gentile poets until we come to Isaiah 11. In their way they, too, recognized that so happy a state of things could only be brought about by religion - by the returning of men to obedience to Divine laws.
V. MODERN LESSONS. Let us "come and walk in the light of the Eternal." In that light the hideousness of war and of the national discords, which lead to it, are clearly seen. No sound understanding can ever look upon war as other than an occasional and dread necessity. Preaching against war may do a certain good. But practically to walk in the light and lead others to it is better. All sides of the subject need to be better understood by the popular mind. The most serious fallacies prevail. Were the energies now employed in preparing for and carrying on war devoted to exploring, breaking up, and cultivating new regions, how truly blessed the result! In fighting with the stubbornness of nature man may find an outlet for all his pugnacious energy. The poets should sanctify their art to glorifying the ideals of peace rather than those of war. None can read these lines without being enkindled -
"Ah, when shall all men's good
Be each man's rule, and universal peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Thro' all the circle of the golden year?"
(Tennyson.) And let every earnest toiler in whatever sphere for the good of man, for the glory of God, take these words to heart -
"Unto him who works, and feels he works,
This same grand year is ever at the doors."
Parallel VersesKJV: The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.