The Peaceable Kingdom
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a liturgical season in the Christian calendar that has God’s people yearning for the coming of Jesus, the return Christ and the establishment of his kingdom fulfilled. In these weeks of December, we will look at words from the prophet Isaiah, who is pointing to the future for a Peaceable Kingdom. We are living in anxious times with sexual harassment charges exposed through emboldened spirits of “#me too,” with religious and racial tensions becoming more divided and rhetoric of nuclear strikes more frequent. We are living in troubled times, with entire nations facing hunger and starvation and refugee camps morphing into dependent towns and cities. People are hungering and thirsting for pleasure and dying for meaning and purpose. In the midst of Judah being dismantled and Jerusalem and the temple destroyed, the prophet Isaiah presented God’s people with a vision of a Peaceable Kingdom. Even while the tallest trees were cut down and destroyed, Isaiah pointed to a stump that had a shoot growing out of it. This was the stump of Jesse and the tender shoot would come out of that stump, and from its roots a branch would come forth and bear fruit. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord- and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2,3. Then Isaiah paints word pictures that baffle the imagination. Edward Hicks was a respected minister in the Quaker tradition who lived from 1780 to 1849, and is most well known for his paintings on Isaiah 11:6-9. He was so drawn into the vision of a Peaceable Kingdom that he proceeded to paint sixty-two different scenes of what the Peaceable Kingdom looked like. In this peaceable kingdom the sexual harasser would sit down with the one harassed, the refugee would be invited into neighboring homes, leaders of opposing nations would be invited to a feast, and the food for that feast would include the warmest of breads and the choicest of wines. And it will come to pass, for that shoot in the stump of Jesse has grown into forests around the world, and we continue to long for and wait for that Peaceable Kingdom to come.