Scripture: Isaiah 9-12
Key verse: (11:6) “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
Reflection: I love this paining by John August Swanson titled “Peaceable Kingdom” and inspired by Isaiah 11:1-9. The image is full of animals that aren’t just often at odds with each other, but who naturally find their existence through the destruction of one another through consumption. In the world as we know it the lion and the goat are in relation to one another as predator and prey. However, in this image and in Isaiah’s passage the lion and the fatling (an animal plumped for consumption) lie down together in peace. I love both the literary and artistic imagery of this peace described by Isaiah, for it is all encompassing, not just surface level peace.
At the time when Isaiah spoke these words, Israel (specifically the southern kingdom of Judah) was rife with conflict with surrounding nations and also within its borders among its own people. Conflict identified the people as a whole, inside to out, from interpersonal to international. In Isaiah 9 we read of the nations at war with Judah and then in chapter 10 we read the specifics of the injustice done to its own people. Like the animals listed in 11:6-8, the people were identified by their hostility toward and destruction of one another.
And yet, Isaiah prophecies for a time of peace. True peace. God’s peace. This peace is not just a superficial cessation of violence, but it transforms the very nature of relationships between opposing forces. Predator and prey have to find a new way of identify themselves and relating to each other. What a transformation! What a promise!
Take a look at the picture again. Do you notice how all of the animals seem to be looking out of the picture and staring at you? When I meditate on this picture I see the animals as a witness of peace while also calling us to accountability and action. Their staring eyes seem to be watching to see how we respond. Right in the middle of the picture is the peacock, a historic symbol of the resurrection, reminding us that while we await Christ’s coming to fulfill this kingdom, we can by God’s grace begin living into this peaceable kingdom now. In these 50 days of Easter reflect upon the relationships of our lives, of our city, of our nation and the nations of the world. What relationships do you find yourself in that are adversarial by nature? How might God be calling us to a transformed way of identifying ourselves and relating to one another?
Prayer: Gracious God, we give you thanks that you can imagine this world in a new and peaceable way. By your love guide us in this way that we may be transformed and be lead in peace. Amen.
Author: John Magnuson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].