17 Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
past events won’t be remembered;
they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever
in what I’m creating,
because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
and her people as a source of gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days,
or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,
and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in,
nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;
my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.
23 They won’t labor in vain,
nor bear children to a world of horrors,
because they will be people blessed by the Lord,
they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain,
says the Lord.
The book of the prophet Isaiah was written over hundreds of years. It spans the reigns of multiple kings and chronicles multiple devastating wars. In every trial the nation faced, the prophets repeated one refrain: hope. Hope for judgment on those who stand against God. Hope for peace and prosperity for God’s people. Hope for a new way of living where we can feel safe and secure in the care of our Creator who is constantly watching over us.
Hope can often seem like a misplaced or misguided statement of trust. To those jaded by long experience, the promises of verse 25, in particular, seem like an impossibility. We can’t imagine enemies sitting down next to each other across a table of friendship. We picture an old, grizzled sheep who has spent his entire life eyeing the tree line for predators saying: “the only good wolf is a dead wolf.” You and I know this is true because we’ve heard people say it about each other, too.
But at some point, you have to admit that there’s only one way to achieve peace, and that’s to trust in something other than the cycle of retribution. And in order to do that, you have to begin from a place of hope that peace really is possible. You have to trust that God can do a new thing in people’s hearts and lives.
That’s sometimes hard, because, like the sheep, it’s hard to part with our enemies. Our anger, resentment, and fear of another becomes part of us. We define ourselves often by what we stand against. But hope requires us to be open to the kind of new heaven and new earth God wants to create – even if it’s one that we have a hard time imagining.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there someone in your life with that you have a hard time imagining being reconciled to? God calling you to imagine a new possibility for that relationship?
Prayer: God, so often we lack your imagination. We lack your imagination to see the changes you can work in us, or in others. And so we lose sight of your hope. Forgive us, Lord. Remind us that you can do all things. Help us to trust in this truth. Amen.