1Like a branch that sprouts from a stump, someone from David's family will someday be king. 2The Spirit of the LORD will be with him to give him understanding, wisdom, and insight. He will be powerful, and he will know and honor the LORD. 3His greatest joy will be to obey the LORD. This king won't judge by appearances or listen to rumors.
4The poor and the needy will be treated with fairness and with justice. His word will be law everywhere in the land, and 5honesty and fairness will be his royal robes. 6Leopards will lie down with young goats, and wolves will rest with lambs. Calves and lions will eat together and be cared for by little children. 7Cows and bears will share the same pasture; their young will rest side by side. Lions and oxen will both eat straw.
For several years now, I’ve understood that the utterances of prophets, psalmists, and wisdom writings in the Hebrew Bible were intended for the Hebrews themselves, not for folks like us centuries into the future. In some readings God is silent or hidden. In some readings, the people are excoriated; in other times and situations, they are given promises of deliverance and hope.
In the first seven verses of Isaiah 11, the people are given a vision. And even though we weren’t part of the original intended audience, these verses are a part of the legacy given to us in our Scriptures. “Bible Study” means we try to ‘get’ the original intent, the context of time, culture and situation that made the utterances prophetic. But our major task is to “appropriate” them - to make them our own. They can be “true” for us as well.
Verses 1- 7 describe a system of justice that no Democrat or Republican, however well-intentioned and dedicated, could hope to achieve; no political or religious society however homogeneous, diverse, well-governed and inspired, could hope to implement and sustain. Verses 6 – 7 do not describe the real world as we know it; the meat-eating animals will all die of starvation; they can’t survive on grass. (And we know what happened to the others).
The first lesson I take from this vision is not to place any final or ultimate hope on human intentions, abilities and the institutions we create. No matter how much effort I may put into electing any candidate or even supporting the Oregon Ducks, I am bound to be disillusioned and dismayed.
The second lesson. By placing my trust in the person, life, and example of Jesus in his world, who reveals what God is like - maybe I can reconcile, in my own inner world – the leopard and the goat – which inhibit me from bringing peace and life to those around me.
Where does your heart most feel the injustice of the world? What is the most painful burden you carry now? Do you trust a God who hears you, and believes in you? Can you offer some of the burden to be shared by God? The vision of the lion and the lamb lying down together has been a powerful one. When you let your mind go, and your imagination play, are your dreams or visions for humanity's future?
From Neal Stixrud