By the time of the prophet Isaiah, Judah’s wickedness and God’s anger against them have destroyed what great King David and his wise son Solomon once ruled. The history of this chosen people has been turbulent and bloody. The tree of Jesse’s lineage of kings has been chopped down, leaving only a stump.
But there is still hope:
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot —
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
God says a new Branch will sprout from what little remains. An entirely new kind of king will come to establish and rule a new kingdom. That Branch is Christ, and his government and its peace will never end.
A ruler who brings peace that lasts. That’s quite a promise. Ever since Adam and Eve decided to act on their own decision-making skills rather than on what God told them, their children have been fighting among themselves, instigating everything from squabbles over toys to killing each other for both selfish and holy causes. We have never been able to establish peace in this world, much less maintain it forever.
A kingdom in which there is unending peace … it sounds like the impossible dream.
In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
Isaiah says that when this new Branch establishes his government, fierce predators will live peaceably with the weak prey they once devoured. There will be no danger, no killing; safety and rest and peace pervade this kingdom. Those who have previously lived as enemies will live together without any impulse or desire to inflict harm.
Some would say this passage refers to a future kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth that Christ rules after defeating Satan and banishing him forever. I see one problem with that interpretation: This description in Isaiah 11 of the Kingdom of Peace comes between prophecies that have already been fulfilled. The chapter opens with the foretelling of Messiah coming and establishing His kingdom. That has happened. The chapter ends with a description of the new King bringing salvation to all the world, Jews and Gentiles alike. Christ did that. Sandwiched between those two things is a description of His kingdom.
I know too little to debate about the timing of this prophecy. But I can tell you what I believe. I believe this gives us a peek at Christ’s kingdom now. Maybe this passage is not so much a prophecy of a future time, but a glimpse of what Christ will do when he rules.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is already here; it is within us. And I believe the lion-and-the-lamb picture of a peaceable kingdom tells us what Christ brings when He rules … now.
When Christ rules, the old habits of hostility and aggression are banished. When Christ rules, old enemies can be friends. When Christ rules, I can forgive and love someone who once tried to destroy me. When Christ rules, lions are no longer lions and lambs are no longer lambs (at least, not as we know lions and lambs now).
Some will think this a Pollyanna view, and label the Prince of Peace a namby-pamby ruler of a timid and faint-hearted people. Might this reaction come because we have no understanding of what peace really is? We have never known a world without strife, hostility, quarreling, being at odds, fights of all sorts and extremes. We can’t imagine a world at peace. We are so accustomed to living in a sphere that cannot grasp peace, that we have even sanctioned battles, pain, and discord as a means to an end … even within the church.
So it’s difficult for us to understand what the Prince of Peace intends to bring with His rule. But Jesus reminds us that His kingdom is not of this world. It’s far beyond what our little imaginations can describe. But we are told again and again that it is a peaceful kingdom. As different as light is from darkness, so is His kingdom different from the world we know.
And as extreme and impossible as this lion-and-lamb kingdom sounds, I do believe it tells us what the Prince of Peace can bring to our lives right now if He rules.
When Christ rules, He changes the nature of the beasts that once lived to harm and destroy.
Let me elaborate, tomorrow …
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1; 9:7; 11:6,9 (All NLT)