A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
It takes imagination to dream for a time like the picture Isaiah paints above. It also takes guts. Because the children of Israel had been languishing under the looming threat of the Imperial might of Assyria. This “stump of Jesse,” the little Kingdom of Judah, was all that remained of the previous Kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had been destroyed after a devastating Assyrian assault in 722-21 BCE and again in 701 BCE. Judean leaders and anyone deemed important from these Northern Ten Tribes of Israel had been carried away into Assyrian bondage and were never heard from again. They would become known as the The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
So it takes guts, along with real imagination to dream of a peace in a time like the days Judah faced. The image is striking, really, where so many opposing entities could come together without significant danger: the wolf and lamb, the leopard and the goat, the lion and calf, all led by a little child? But what a dream this is. Especially in days like now.
Times like then and now necessitate a hopeful imagination that sees beyond the tension and limitation of the immediate. Days like these also require more from us than dreaming.
This is what the Bible expects when speaking of peace. It is a powerful word.
Shalom, the Old Testament word for peace, is important and fascinating in its Hebrew context. It can be a greeting or a farewell. It can refer to inner peace or outer peace. It might refer to peace with God or peace with neighbor – and peace with oneself. The breadth and depth of the word is virtually limitless – as is the very concept of biblical peace. Like a finely cut diamond turning in the light, this Shalom, this biblical peace, sparkles regardless of the facet we see. Each has its own value, its own place, its own necessity.
What God offers to us and asks from us is that we seek this kind of peace and live this kind of life. Whether in greeting or goodbyes, we can wish for ourselves and those around us this invaluable gift – for our world so desperately needs it – Shalom. Be aware of it in yourself; be conscious of it in the lives of others. Seek to give it, to spread it, to cultivate it whenever and wherever you can. And in doing so, your life will be richer – and so will those around you.
And perhaps the “wolf shall live with the lamb” and “Shalom,” all will be well indeed.
When ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.
– Dalai Lama
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me …
– Jill Jackson and Sy Miller
Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.
– Albert Einstein
Dona nobis pacem
Give us peace.