I always have a sick feeling in my stomach when little children come up to my wife or myself with those fundraising magazines filled with overpriced candles and summer sausages. Part of my sick feeling is that I will inevitably have to disappoint a child. I simply cannot order from one child and not another. Nor can I afford to order $30 trinkets from every student at church. So, I get none of them. But that is not the real reason for my sick feeling.
History. That is the real reason that my stomach turns every time I see a little kid coming to me to buy $80 popcorn kernels to help out their school. It pains me to see because I remember when I was that excited little kid with a glimmer in my eye. You see when I was in first grade we did one of these fundraisers. I did not yet understand that I was merely a cute little pawn in the scheme of some desperate principal. I thought that when I sold a candle I would get a chunk of that money. As the dollars racked up so did my hopes and dreams. I thought about buying that new bike or maybe even one of those sweet remote control cars.
I still remember the day of heartbreak when someone explained to me that I did not get any of the money. Of course, if I sold enough items I could get a keychain with ALF on it. But that was a paltry prize when my dreams had been so high. That’s why I get a little sad when I see a happy little kid selling four gummy bears for $12. I figure that her selling career is matched with a dream that will soon be crushed. It’s painful to labor for a misguided dream.
As I read through Isaiah 2 this morning my mind went back to the heartache of all the times I’ve built an empire in my mind only to see it crushed. There is an interesting contrast in this passage of Scripture. In the first five verses Isaiah paints a vivid picture of worshippers going up to the mountain of the Lord. It is a beautiful picture of a future day when peace and justice reign and worship of Yahweh thrives in the land. The first section closes with a call to the people of Israel. Looking to the climax of the story of Yahweh, Isaiah implores the people:
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Verses 6-22 chronicles the bringing low of all the proud and lofty. Everything that is high and lifted up is brought low as “the LORD alone will be exalted in that day”. The picture is of two different mountains. On one mountain, the mountain of the LORD, all the humble worshippers of Yahweh are exalted with Him. On the other mountain, the mountain of man, all those trekking up her will be brought low by the terror and splendor of God has he terrifies the earth. As Isaiah paints the picture of human boasting being brought low he questions the people:
Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?
Which Mountain Are You Climbing?
Isaiah 2 begs a very probing question to its readers. Which mountain are you trekking up? Are you laboring with all your energy up the mountain of human regard? Are you giving all of your energies and staking your identity in a mountain that is going to be flattened by the terror of Yahweh? Or are you plodding up the mountain of the LORD?
Isaiah says that in the house of Jacob “there is no end to their treasures”. It is a land filled with idolatrous riches. Why do you think they have so many idols? The flashy allure of the mountain of man has captivated their heart. They are living to climb that mountain. The “fortune-tellers like the Philistines” are present in Jacob because they regard the mountain of man as more valuable than the mountain of Yahweh. These idols help them climb.
The ESV Study Bible mentions that “Sennacherib, king of Assyria, boasted in terms of ‘the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship’ in his writings.” Yahweh laughs at such a foolish claim. You want to see terror-inspiring splendor? Sennacherib, you’ll be groveling in a bat cave and hanging out with moles. When Yahweh wants to terrify there is none that can stand before him.
That is the story that we are being asked to believe. Will we be a people that believe Yahweh’s story of redemption or will we believe the Sennacherib’s of the world? Will we be a people that regard man in whose nostrils is breath (Yahweh created breath)? Or will we be a people that goes all-in on the story of Yahweh?
As I ponder these questions for my own life I am also forced to ask them of my children, my wife, and the people God has called me to lead? Am I a faithful Sherpa leading them up the mountain of Yahweh or am I leading them up inferior mountains that will be squashed before the terror of the Lord?
May Jesus captivate my heart, so that my life is a trek up the mountain He rules instead of the mountain He squashes.