Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Isaiah 11:6-10

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
10 Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.

Today's text in Isaiah Chapter 11 inspired Edward Hicks' creation, "The Peaceable Kingdom." Not difficult to see the relationship between the two, at least as far as the animals and children. What I didn't remember about the painting was the inclusion of the adults in the distance. "Hicks incorporated a vignette of William Penn's treaty with the Indians, an image he adapted from a popular painting by Benjamin West (q.v.). Hicks may have viewed parallels in the two parts of the composition, inasmuch as Penn, who had introduced Quakerism into Pennsylvania, had also brought about a measure of the peaceable kingdom on earth." [Worcester Art Museum] What Hicks--and Penn, for that matter--could not capture in their work was something that only the Prince of Peace could and will.

The first three verses of our passage show the sharp contrast between images of peace and images of fear, terror, brute strength and death. The ferocity of the beasts of the jungle and field (wolf, leopard, bear, lion, snake) will be tamed in this time, as they shall dwell and eat and live with the calm, gentle, passive creatures (lamb, goat, cow, babies) that they would have otherwise maimed or devoured. The ferocity of empires like Assyria, Babylon, Rome, fill-in-current-threats-here will be tamed in the presence of Him who embodies perfect peace. "They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain...." (vs. 9) Though times of peace would be known, what Isaiah describes here is a time unrelated to any we have known except, perhaps, in the days of the Garden of Eden [and they weren't long enough!].

“In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety."
--Hosea 2:18

Matthew Henry says in his commentary, "Peace signifies two things: unity or concord... [and] safety or security." For me, verse 9 holds the key: "For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord...." With Jesus Christ coming, there is the knowledge of what true peace is, and with His coming to reign on earth, there is the permanent establishment of that true peace. There is no peace in the absence of Jesus:

"Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
--John 16: 32 and 33 (emphasis mine)

Christ's ministry emphasized peace and ways to make peace, even as He knew that perfect, sustained, everlasting peace would not be possible here on earth. But His word to us to seek peace, to end conflict (Matthew 18), to be united and sanctified in Him (John 17), is truth to be lived out now. Accepting Him as our Savior warrants our response to living as He did, bringing about peace as we are enabled through Him.

"This [bringing about peace] is fulfilled in the wonderful effect of the gospel upon the minds of those that sincerely embrace it; it changes the nature, and makes those that trampled on the meek of the earth, not only meek like them, but affectionate towards them. When Paul, who had persecuted the saints, joined himself to them, then the wolf dwelt with the lamb."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
Not only will Christ's word and example change hearts, but His very rise as the "root of Jesse" will be a calling out to the nations. Isaiah says here that this Prince will not only come to save the Jews but will come to save the nations, also referred to as the Gentiles. The stem that arose from the root of Jesse would touch a man named Simeon, who would not only find peace in his dying--having seen the Savior of the world--but who would affirm Isaiah's prophecy:

"For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."
--Luke 2: 30-32 (Simeon, upon holding the infant Jesus)

Let's finish out our passage today with verse 10, looking at it from the King James Version:

"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."
--Verse 10

The root of Jesse, Christ, will stand as a signal or ensign for the people. The Hebrew word means "flag; also a sail; by implication a flagstaff." [Strong's] The dictionary definition of 'ensign' is "flag or banner indicating nationality," "badge of office or authority," or "sign, token or emblem." [] This strikes me as being a very good word choice! As we talked about last week, Christ comes from the house and line of David--a long line of kings from the early days of a united Israel. He represents the Israelites, God's people, in that He came as one of them. Christ came as "the Word" which was "with God" and "was God." (John 1:1) All authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. (Matthew 28:18) Christ also came as a token of everything that His Father was--an emblem of peace and so much more! And, yes, the Gentiles will seek Him, too.

"...and his rest shall be glorious" or, as put in another translation, "His resting place will be glory." Again, looking at the Hebrew, 'rest' can mean "abode." [Strong's] This time of rest and extreme peace, Christ's abode, is glorious--of greatest honor, abundance, fullness. It is hard to describe, much less fathom, what this Kingdom that is to come will be--again, not having known a time of peace in all situations and relationships. Unparalleled unity in mind and purpose. What might the nation of Israel have thought at hearing Isaiah's words? A nation torn apart, to be reunited? A remnant to be saved, after all that had happened? A world that no longer questioned, challenged, nor oppposed the Lord?
"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'"
--Jeremiah 31:34

Speaking of the remnant, more on its restoration, as Isaiah Chapter 11 continues.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Isaiah 11: 11-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).