By Michael E. Brooks
“The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:8-9 NKJV).
I was standing by the garden at Khulna Bible College watching one of the workers pulling weeds. Suddenly he jumped up, ran for a stick, and came back to look closely among the plants. After a moment he struck in the weeds, then reached down and pulled out a dead snake.
Though I do not find it necessary to kill every snake I see, I am not the one working in weedy areas and exposing myself to potential danger. I let those who are in that situation make those decisions.
Given the almost universal fear of snakes and our understanding of the great danger of the cobras and vipers, Isaiah’s description of the peacefulness of God’s kingdom is especially vivid and startling. All of Chapter 11 is a beautiful prophecy of peace and prosperity which was to be established through the coming of “the Rod from the stem of Jesse” (verse 1), also called “a Branch.”
Isaiah reports a number of characteristics of the Rod. They include: (1). His delight is in the fear of the Lord (verse 3); (2). “with righteousness he shall judge the poor” (verse 4a); (3). “with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked” (verse 4b); (4). “Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins and faithfulness the belt of his waist” (verse 5).
In the kingdom which the Rod would establish, there would be universal peace. The wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, calf and lion would all dwell together in safety. A small child would lead them. What a wonderful description of harmony.
When we read Isaiah 11, it is natural and correct to apply this description to the eternal home of the righteous — to heaven — where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
But is this the only application of Isaiah’s prophecy?
Note these things also included in the message of chapter 11.
(1). The Rod of Jesse “will come forth . . . and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (verse 1, 2, compare Matthew 3:16; John 1:32).
(2). “With righteousness he shall judge the poor” (verse 4, compare Luke 4:16-21);
(3). “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek him and his resting place shall be glorious” (verse 10, compare Acts 17:27).
(4). “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people who are left” (verse 11, compare Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
It seems clear that Isaiah is prophesying the coming of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom, the Church. That kingdom would ultimately receive eternal glorification and a translation into heaven (Revelation 21:1ff), but would first have an earthly existence.
We miss the point when we assume that the perfect peace described in verses 6-9 applies only to eternity. Though it may never be achieved totally on this earth, it remains the ideal goal of Christian unity and harmony.
We must strive for an environment within the Church where each Christian feels safe and comfortable with all other Christians. One where the small child can play where he wills, in perfect safety. One where people of different and opposing natures (Jew and Gentile, master and slave, etc.), can trust and love one another.
It is this environment which Paul envisions in his command to owe no one anything but love (Romans 13:8). “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Jesus came to establish a kingdom of love. If the church is such a kingdom it is also a place of great safety and peace. This is our constant goal.
By Michael E. Brooks