Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
For all of the beauty of this passage, we are often guilty of removing it from its natural context. The prophet is not merely painting a hopeful image for an idealized future. He is speaking words of hope in the face of unrelenting exile. His people were in the throes of Babylonian exile; removed from their homes, removed from their streets, and perhaps, most significantly, estranged from their place of worship. Yet notice how universal and comprehensive his vision proves to be! It is not merely of a rebuilt temple that he speaks. He speaks instead of a return to the way things were. His words depict Eden, yet an Eden that has been enhanced through the process of deep redemption. It is hard for us to imagine Isaiah’s ideal world ever being born into reality. Harder still for his original hearers to take him seriously as they lived as strangers in a pagan land, while all they held sacred lay in a pile of burnt rubble.
Isaiah 11 is often spoken of as a vision of the messianic kingdom; the earthly reign of the Messiah, which is to be marked by universal wholeness. It is a future reality that we as Christians are currently longing for . . . at least in theory. Yet this prophecy holds an important place for us in the here and now. The much-anticipated Messiah has been born in the most humble of circumstances. While we await his climactic return, we must yet remember that his birth is the guarantee of things to come.
When you drop a pebble into a pond, it may take a while for the ripples to work their way to the shore. But . . . the pebble has been dropped. The ripples arriving at the shore is an inevitability. With the birth of Jesus, the pebble has been dropped. The healing of the cosmos is now inevitable. At this very moment, the ripples are rapidly making their way to the shore. Jesus has already done everything that needs to be done. There are no missing ingredients. All that remains is for us, as his followers, to hasten the restoration of all things by prayer and obedience. His long-awaited arrival has awakened within us an even deeper yearning for his imminent return.
Creator and Sustainer of all that is, renew within us a hunger for the completion of your plan.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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