Opening The Old Testament
Thy Kingdom Come: Reflections on Isaiah 65:17-25
The tradition often chided people for their refusal to call out to God, but in this new earth God will answer even before they call, and God will continually listen to a people now made loquacious in the presence of a God who is all ears. And to crown the new rule of God, the writer reiterates one of the Bible's most memorable images (Is. 11:6-9):
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together;
The lion will eat straw like the ox . . .
In this new creation all animal creation returns to the initial molding of the creator; all are once again vegetarian, as Genesis 1:30 implies, while the cruel serpent of Genesis 3 is again reduced to a diet of dust (Gen. 3:14). None of these "shall hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain," Jerusalem now the center of the world as Isaiah 2:2-4 described. In that reconstituted world, "swords are beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks," and peace reigns in God's world.
Well, isn't that all grand? And just when can we all expect to see this magnificent reign of God? Just exactly when will terrorists stop their destructive hate and sue for peace? Just when will preventable childhood diseases finally be prevented so infants do live full lives? Just when will cancer be eradicated so that old people can live to be 100? When will there be food enough for all, houses enough for all, good and enriching work for all? Just what are we all to learn from this expansive dream of the reign of God?
I think we learn this. When a Christian and a Muslim sit down to eat and talk, it is a sign of the rule of God. When people band together to begin the eradication of malaria in Africa, it is a sign of the reign of God. When prostate cancer deaths are reduced to increasingly smaller fractions, it is a sign of the reign of God. When millions are fed, when Habitat for Humanity builds another 100 houses, these are signs of the reign of God. Isaiah 65:17-25 is a sign and seal of the certainty of the coming reign of God. It is a divine vision that we can never fail to hold before us, reminding us of our part in the dream and reminding us of God's constant work to make that dream a reality. "Thy kingdom come," we say, and it will, oh, yes, it will.
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.