More on the Great Reversal
Last Sunday we heard Hannah’s prayer which envisions God’s new-creation-restorative-justice as a great reversal. In her prophetic prayer she joyfully proclaimed that God brings down the arrogant (e.g. rich, strong, full, etc.) and raises up the humble (e.g. poor, weak, hungry, etc.). In this we see a reversal of station and standing. Today I’d like to listen to another important prophetic text that envisions God’s new-creation-restorative-justice as another kind of great reversal.
Hear Isaiah 11:
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and strength,
The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
(Note, this Davidic King is is so much greater than all the kings we’ve been reading about in our Sunday morning class!)
And he will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And he will not judge by what his eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what his ears hear;
But with righteousness he will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
And with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about his loins,
And faithfulness the belt about his waist.
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 fattling 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.” (Isaiah 11:1-9)
In this breathtaking vision of the kingdom of God, we see the coming King from David’s line (11:1), empowered by the Spirit of God (11:2), bringing God’s justice and righteousness (11:3-5) and thus establishing peace, in the knowledge of God (11:6-9). It’s in that picture of peace in vv. 6-9 where we see the great reversal. In the kingdom of God, “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat, etc.”
This time we’re not seeing a reversal of standing, but a reversal of nature and ultimately of relationships. Here the vulnerable are safe and secure, not because their enemies have been destroyed, but because their enemies have become their closest companions. Violent opponents and mortal enemies have become best friends. And this great reversal flows from a great transformation of nature and character. The violent beasts have completely changed and put on God’s peace from within.
Isn’t this an amazing vision?!
As with everything in the kingdom of God there is a “now” and a “not yet.” Of course, we recognize this has not been fulfilled in the fullest sense—even among God’s people we experience all kinds of strained and broken relationships. Yet since the first coming of Christ we’ve seen signs and foretastes of this peace in the kingdom of God.
Consider the first disciples: Matthew was a tax collector and Simon was a zealot. Mortal enemies. Yet Jesus brought them together and taught them to live as brothers.
Consider the early church: Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters, men and women, rich and poor, etc., all divided by social structures and prejudices. Yet in Christ they learned to live as family as they shared their resources and shared their table. In this the Lord broke down social structures and hierarchies, however imperfectly they lived this out.
And so when we too follow Christ in pursuing reconciliation, turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, forgiving those who’ve wronged us, etc. we are living up into our hope in the kingdom of God. Our small actions of peace become signs and foretastes of the kingdom of God and reveal us to be the true children of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Mt 5:9)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.