The way of the future...
What a mash-up of highs and lows is Isaiah 2. Images of perfect peace, with all the world coming together in perfect unity. And then a description of the "Day of the Lord," which has the whole world trembling over the consequences of man setting himself up as god. It's not good. Sprinkled here and there are some useful take-aways and applications, for readers and listeners from 8th century BC to today.
First off, the opening verses talk about "all nations." Micah, either writing in solidarity with Isaiah (contemporaries that they were) or receiving the same revelation separately (and, it's a visual one--Isaiah literally "saw" this imagery), both speak of all nations coming together in perfect unity to worship at the mountain of the Lord's temple.
Given that double-emphasis, one would think that Israel would have remembered that though they were God's chosen people, the ultimate goal was for all nations to become God's people. American Christians have a tendency to fall into the same error, and our over-emphasis on God's particular choosing of a special place and a special nation often leads us to dismiss how God may be working elsewhere in equally important or even more important ways. It may also give us the mistaken notion that no matter what we do, we will always be a "chosen" people...
Speaking of, that Day of the Lord section comes up fast in Isaiah 2. The prophet helpfully lists 6 sins as the problem ones in Judah. Maybe I'm reading into things here, but the first three seem to be sins that American conservatives would say are the really bad ones, and the next three are the ones that American liberals would shake their heads at. See what you think:
Solidarity with pagans
Idolatry--toward objects made of silver and gold
Maybe these fit neatly in groupings of three, maybe they don't. But, it's clear that in every generation, there is a chosen one (oops--opening line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer....). Ahem, I mean, in every generation, there's a certain faddishness regarding which sins are the bad ones that society or subsets of society focus on, and which ones are more or less ignored.
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory is helpful here. His work has identified 5 moral foundations that are the lens through which individuals and groups view the world.
In Haidt's work, he finds that American liberals put particular emphasis on Care/Harm (i.e. provide government programs to provide safety nets and supports) and Fairness/Cheating (social justice, equality), while American conservatives emphasize Authority/Subversion (respect authority and hierarchy), Loyalty/Betrayal (nationalism, loyalty to in-groups), and Sanctity/Degradation (purity, pro-life).
I'd argue that the flipside is true, then. Moral dimensions that do not fit within our moral/political framework become de-emphasized. And so, American liberals may find any wariness toward or condemnation of religious practices outside the bounds of established systems to be intolerant....until an event or movement opens their eyes to the dangers of what heretical and radicalized beliefs may do in larger society. And American conservatives may cry, "Socialism!" as a knee-jerk reaction at any critique of accumulating power and money....until they are in a position of oppression from those individuals who have accumulated the power and money.
And yet, Isaiah gives us the full package. These are all sins to be wary of, and all are things that may seem like personal choices, in a hyper-individualistic society like the United States. And yet, these personal choices may have stark consequences for other individuals, communities, and the larger society. 2020 perhaps revealed the dangers of what happens when our personal thoughts and choices come to affect us all.
Will we learn lessons from this year? What lessons appear to us from this 8th century BC prophecy? Well two direct instructions are given:
-Let us walk in the light of the Lord (verse 5)
-Stop trusting in man...of what account is he? (verse 22, closing verse)
These are instructions that people from across the political spectrum can follow in 2021. Pursue light! Specifically, the light of the God. Don't get angry, just cease trusting in either a single man or a collective of men to be the savior. There is one Savior, and the God of Isaiah is a God of light.