Last night I was listening to the book of Isaiah on my audio Bible, . For some reason I have been drawn to both Isaiah and Jeremiah lately. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the prophets tend to be skipped more often than other books, and so there’s the feeling that you might learn something new. That is in fact what happened. Well, I shouldn’t say I learned something new exactly. Sometimes a spiritual truth just comes to the forefront of your mind and you can’t believe you never payed attention to it before:
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. ~ Is 11:6-9 (ESV)
This is a fairly well known passage. Most would probably say it is to be fulfilled somewhere in the end times or new earth, which in my opinion seems like the only two options. What struck me was the end of verse 9: “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The miraculous part is indeed the fact that babies will be able to play with snakes. Sheep and wolves will nap together, lions will eat straw. That’s pretty incredible. But have you ever considered how this would be possible? It seems that the reason given above is not simply because God changes animals. Rather, it is because the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord that this will happen.
This doesn’t fit in my mind. What can an animal know about anything? Well, don’t worry, it gets even more strange:
As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~ Luke 19:37-40 (ESV)
How many times have I read that with hardly a second thought? And yet it is an incredible statement. It is as if the earth itself is so ready to praise the triumphant King on his way into Jerusalem that if the people refused to do so, the rock of the ground would fill in the silence.
Do we believe that? Could it really be that the inanimate earth itself can be empowered by the presence of God to sing his praises? Or filled with the knowledge of him such that the curse against the earth would be reversed?
Things in this world are not always as they seem. Revelation 20:11 (ESV) depicts the great judgment at the end of time: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.”
The universe itself can’t even remain before God at the judgment. The fact that rocks can cry out or that lions will become tame shouldn’t bother us, it seems. The knowledge and presence of God is so overpowering such that nothing that fully experiences him can remain the same.
My hope is that as this new year unfolds the same would be true for all of us. May the presence and working of God in your life be such that, were you to hide it away, the very stones would proclaim what he has done.