December 27, 2018
“Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness shall be the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as waters cover the sea.”
For all of the beauty of the above 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 long 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 awhile 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.
- Look around you. Can you see any ripples? Any indication that the restoration is already underway?
- How does the birth of Jesus give you hope for today, and not just for the distant future?