Today we continue our six week series entitled Fight. In this series we have looked at and will continue to look at questions like, What does the Bible say about warfare and violence? Can a Christian use violence? Go to war? Kill in self-defense? Why does the Old Testament seem to present violence in a positive light while the New Testament seems more negative? Do we kill our enemies (Joshua) or love them (Jesus)?
We’ve spent a great deal amount of time the last two weeks talking about this idea of peace or better yet the biblical and hebrew concept of Shalom. We talked that Shalom or peace is far more than just the absence of conflict or war. Shalom can be defined also as well being, wholeness, perfection of God’s creation, prosperity, peace, fullness, abundance, joy and harmony. Or think of it this way, Shalom is the way things are supposed to be.
And the text that we’ll be looking at today fits into this idea of shalom being the way things are supposed to be. This is a vision that God gave the prophet Isaiah and it’s a messianic prophecy that will one day come in its fullness, but as I said last week, those of us who call Jesus king, and seek to follow him, should begin to live the future reality now. Or as someone said this weekend at a conference I was at, God’s future is our present. Meaning that if we want shalom to come in the future, we don’t wait until the future, but begin to work that future out in the present. And wait of the day for total complete shalom will come into being through the rule and reign of King Jesus. Both the Old and New Testament proclaim the vision of a coming peaceable Kingdom preached and revealed by Jesus Christ. This vision is sometimes called the Peaceable Kingdom and inspired the artist Edward Hicks, a quaker, to paint 61 versions of a painting that he called the Peaceable Kingdom.
So turn to Isaiah 11:1-9. Isaiah 11:1-9 says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 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.”
So Isaiah has this vision, this prophecy if you will and it is a grandiose, amazing vision of the messiah, his rule and reign in the world, and what will happen because of that rule and reign.
Isaiah starts off with this vision in describing where the messiah of God, the anointed one will come from. He says that, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” So this is giving us the lineage if you will of the messiah. Jesus came from the stump of Jesse. The royal authority of the house of David had laid dormant for 600 years when Jesus came as King and Messiah. When Jesus came forth, it was like a new green branch coming from an apparently dead stump. What the Lord is doing, through the prophet Isaiah at the beginning of this text by calling the Messiah a shoot and a branch is emphasizing the humble nature of the Messiah. Jesse was the much less famous Father of King David. It is far more humble to say “from Jesse” then to say “from King David”. Isaiah believed as did Israel that God would send a descendant of David to fix the injustices and restore the Kingdom of Israel. But many of the texts were then later reinterpreted by Christians to be pointing to something even bigger: Jesus restoring the Kingdom of God for all people. And this is not doubt what it happened here…Isaiah pointing to the Messiah, King Jesus who is currently, this very moment, ruling and reigning and his Kingdom will come in it’s fullness and the very system that is broken and fragmented, will be totally healed and fixed and set right. This will result in former enemies, those at enmity with each other now, to live in shalom-peace with each other. And Isaiah’s vision beckons us to enter a new vision, to walk into God’s ideal of what the world might be. His vision calls us to live by an alternative reality to our violent world.
Once Isaiah lays out the vision of where the messiah will come from, the family tree and roots of the messiah if you will, he then begins to lay out the type of ruler and King this messiah will be. What will the reign of the messiah look like? The first thing that will define the messiah, according to Isaiah is found in verse 2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” The messiah will live out the Spirit of the Lord. This Spirit of the Lord will be of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. The Messiah will have these seven aspects of the spirit and 7 in Hebrew is the number of completeness. Jesus fits this to a tee. He was spirit filled in the best sense of the word. His everyday existence, his walking around, his ministry, his engagement with people, his conversations with his disciples, were based on his connection to His Father through the Spirit of God. And because of this connection to the sprit, we begin to see how he rules and reigns in the world. We see how he rules and reigns in the world in verses 3-5 which says, “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.” You can see that the Messiah/Jesus will be about the poor, the needy, the marginalized. He sides with those not in power. Those who live under the thumb of the empire, who threatens violence to all those who get out of line. Jesus here does not threaten violence, even though it seems to say that. His words bring judgment. The rod is coming out of his mouth (reminds me of the text in Revelation where the sword of this word is coming out of his mouth.) The mere words of Jesus have the power to judge the wicked. He only has to announce a judgment and it is done.
Once we see how the Messiah rules and reigns, we then come to the section of the vision which spells out the effect of his rule and reign in the world. The effects of his rule and reign The prophet describes in verses 6-9 the effect of his rule and reign in producing peace and tranquility on the earth. Verses 6-9 says, 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.” In the coming Messianic Kingdom, not only humans but all of God’s creatures will live together in peace and harmony. Jesus through his rule and reign will bring shalom. Will restore right relationships between not only himself and humans, but also between humans and humans, humans and animals, and all of creation. This vision is one in which former enemies will live together in peace. Where the cow and lion will be together without the cow having to worry and be weary of the coming moment when the lion pounces and kills him. That the child can lead them and be safe. Where the lion fills himself not will the meat of other animals but the straw. This peaceable kingdom also brings together peace between the child and the snake. In this texts Isaiah reminds us of the enmity brought through human sin in Eden and that God will overcome the curse of sin and establish a world in which all creatures thrive.
All creatures thrive because of what Isaiah says in Isaiah 11:9, “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.” God’s ideal, in terms of human relationships, is depicted in these words. That shalom will fully come and touch down on his holy mountain (remember that we talked about his holy mountain being mount moriah, or the temple mount), And people will be filled with the knowledge of God. This vision touched down in the person, life, ministry and death resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be no more violence, no more harm, no more destruction, because people are living under the rule and reign of King Jesus. That this shalom comes about because of the life, death, and resurrection of King Jesus. That shalom is only possible because of the cross (which scholars believed Jesus was crucified close to where Mount Moriah was/is and where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac). Jesus took on violence into his life and into his body. He absorbed it and returned it with shalom. He took on chaos into himself and returned it, not with violence, revenge, and hatred but with shalom. Here in this text we see that Jesus, the messiah (who Isaiah is speaking about, prophesying about) has the power to take enemies and make them friends. To turn them towards and for each other and not against each other. To return us and the world to the garden of eden where peace, love, harmony, shalom ruled. Where things were the way things were supposed to be.
The vision of a world in which wolves, lambs, and lions can all lie down together without killing each other, and where a little child can walk among them, stick his hand in a snakes den, and not die clearly moves beyond the possibilities of the present age. We live in a world where enemies don’t lie down together, but seek to destroy each other. Where power, might, and violence “rule” the day. Where shalom seems almost impossible. And if not impossible, some what of a pipe dream. And we realize that this scene of enemy becoming friend, of enmity becoming love, of a restored eden, will not be fully realized until the reign of the King, comes in its fullness and completeness. But remember what I said last week and at the beginning of this message. God’s future is our present. Yes Isaiah’s vision is yet to be fulfilled. But the vision invites us to step into the picture. It calls us to take up our cross and to follow the one who has walked out Isaiah’s vision with his whole life. The vision invites us to be at peace with our enemies and to live out a little bit of paradise in this broken and violent world.
But what does a peaceable Kingdom look like? How does this vision touch down with our everyday reality? How are you and I picking up our cross, and following the one who did not return violence with violence, but called us to love our enemy, return hate with love, and to pray for the very ones who are violent to us? How are we seeing to love our enemies so that they will stop being enemies and become friends? Let’s unpack what the peaceable kingdom looks like in our lives and in the life of our community as Veritas together. 1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and/or the message?
2. What does a peaceable Kingdom look like? How does this vision touch down with our everyday reality?
3. How are you and I picking up our cross, and following the one who did not return violence with violence, but called us to love our enemy, return hate with love, and to pray for the very ones who are violent to us? How are we seeing to love our enemies so that they will stop being enemies and become friends?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?