Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The New King and the New Kingdom (Isaiah 11)


Isaiah is wrapping up the first portion of his book with a beautiful image of a coming kingdom in which justice reigns, and the just King from which the peace of the kingdom will come.

Isaiah 11:3-5 (ESVUK)
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Chapters Eleven and Twelve end a portion of Isaiah often called The Book Of Immanuel, after the name of the child mentioned three times since Chapter Seven, and the meaning of the child’s name, God-With-Us, a phrase also included in this portion of scripture. The first twelve chapters are also a unit, considered by many scholars to be a collection of Isaiah’s early writing. In this first collection, Isaiah has proclaimed judgment on the nation of Judah, and prophesied its destruction. In the book of Immanuel, he gives Israel and Judah hope for redemption, and he paints us a picture of a Saviour who will come and bring peace to the nation after her fall.

Here, Isaiah writes of the shoot from the stump of Jesse, a new king that will emerge from David’s family, and take the place of David as Israel’s ideal king. This king will be just, and his justice will flow from his fear of God. He will remain faithful to God, and be unmoved by the selfishness that so corrupted the line of kings that followed after the first David.

Christians worship Jesus, the Son of David, as this forever King. Upon his death and resurrection was his kingdom inaugurated. His willing death, though innocent, purchased for him the earth that had been corrupted by human rebellion. No more would God’s judgment need to fall on rebel kings and kingdoms, as it did upon Judah. This king took it all. By his blood may any and all enter his Kingdom of Justice, an upside-down kingdom that would grow from the seed of a king who would willingly die as a criminal, into a garden of former insurrectionists against this very king. Up from the ground would spring up a salvation that will consume the entire earth. All will be turned back to justice, peace, and love, as it was all originally created to be.

Jesus is already on the throne. However, like Judah and Israel in their exile, as they waited for God’s promise of their return to their land to be fulfilled, so we also wait patiently as all injustice and oppression and empires of violence both military and personal are placed under King Jesus’ feet.

We watch as the world’s empires crumble and God’s Kingdom of freedom grows. We are invited to be citizens of the kingdom now, and to begin now to participate in the work God is doing in the world to call all things back to true peace and order. At the return of Jesus, we will see the final consummation of this just kingdom, as everything is finally put back to right.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (ESVUK)
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
    and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

At Jesus’ return death itself, the final enemy, will be defeated. At this final victory of Life over Death, the citizens of the Kingdom of God will be resurrected with new bodies, like Jesus’ resurrection body, onto the earth similarly transformed to its fully healthy and living state, as God always intended it to be.

All of Creation will live in harmony and peace. Death and pain will no longer exist, yet rest and play will remain.

Into eternity will remain everything good about God's Creation. Only sin and the consequences of sin will not remain. To imagine what may continue of this life into eternity, we need only ask what of this life is neither sin nor the consequences of sin. All else will be restored to its original purpose.

Some of the things in this life are symbols of the realities of eternity. Many of these things will remain, but in their true, transcendent, eternal form. For example, the sacrificial law of the Old Testament was a symbol of the final sacrifice of Christ on the Cross once for all. The transcendent reality replaces the temporal one.

Our physical bodies and the joys and pleasure we experience in them will be redeemed and glorified. This is not a hope for a misty, abstract eternity, but weighty, and real, the perfect image of what we now know and experience. God could have made Jesus' resurrection body in such a way that he did not need to eat. Yet, Jesus ate fish in the presence of the disciples (Luke 24:41-43). The animals in Isaiah 11 also eat. If eating can be preserved for eternity, and play can be something we look forward to, than we can expect that most of what we enjoy about our life now will also remain. Jesus says that after the resurrection there will be no marriage nor giving in marriage (Matthew 22:30). Yet God has made us as sexual beings, and called us as his Creation, "very good" (Genesis 1:28,31). The expression of all of these parts of our being may be different than we know them now, but there is no biblical reason to believe that they will be destroyed in eternity.

The new earth, unmarred by the scars of our selfish treatment now, will be resurrected as we are, yet still as true and corporeal as Jesus’ body was to the disciples when he appeared to them. For an eternity we will be able to explore all of the earth, in communities of pure love, the fruit coming from the source of all love to whom we are connected. We may enjoy travel, exploration, invention, and artistic creation. Like the Old Testament sacrificial system, our eternal, physical existence in the presence of Immanuel, God-With-Us, may be manifest as a more true, eternal, transcendent experience for which our temporary lives and relationships as we know them on this side of eternity are only a symbol.

Until then, we live now in the reality of our New Creation, the seed of the kingdom planted in us by Christ. With the New Creation of our earth and sky in our hearts, we live in faith according to the just and peaceful reign of Christ in which we will live for eternity. We are ambassadors of this coming kingdom and its King, living on this broken earth as hands of healing, as God works life in her from the inside out until his return.

Romans 8:19-25 (ESVUK)
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

A new world is coming. A new world is here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014: Isaiah 12 - Songs of Justice and Victory
Thursday, July 3, 2014: 1 Peter 2:21-25 - Following the Lord, our Suffering Saviour

Click the image above for the entire series in Isaiah.

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