This post is being written on Christmas Eve, 2010. The Christmas event is too large to just let it slip by without at least a nod. So, I am interrupting the flow of thought to offer you something Christmasy. I am going to place this post also on my other blog,
I am offering you some quotes from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah. This is a prophet of peace and justice. He repeatedly talks of the future in terms of hope for peace and justice. The Messiah whom the Jews had long been waiting for would introduce a new framework for society that was to be characterized by those two features, peace and justice. A new set of standards, if you like. To be sure, even Isaiah’s vision was an Old Testament one that allowed practices that we no longer approve today but have not yet been able to stem in our own lives and nations. And, of course, it is all written in terms of an ancient culture most of us no longer understand. Hence, it takes extra effort to understand it all. Don’t even try. Just go over these passages a few times and appreciate the emphasis on and the hunkering for peace and justice.
Of course, some readers will object that it is all very nice and idyllic, but tell me about it once Christians actually demonstrate or live up to this perspective. I fully understand the objection and am ashamed to admit that it is a reasonable one. Christians will be the first to admit their failure to live up to this picture. We believe in Jesus, in God, to save us from ourselves. We do not believe in ourselves, in our own capacity to make this all come true. We cannot create utopia. It is God who will one day turn this hope into reality. In the meantime, we struggle towards it as best as we can and ask for forgiveness where we fail.
There are more such prophecies in Isaiah and in other prophetic writings in the Old Testament. However, I am giving you perhaps more than you can or care to chew for one day. I will probably continue featuring such quotations next Christmas. In the meantime, here goes. Participate in the poetry; ponder the promise.
Isaiah 2--The Mountain of the LORD
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
(Jesse is the father of King David and ancestor of Jesus.)
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
15 till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
Isaiah 42:1-9 The Servant of the LORD
1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
5 This is what God the LORD says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”