November 15 – Isaiah 2:1-4
We’ve spent much of our year talking about the Kingdom of God, and one important aspect of that kingdom is its “already but not yet” state. By this we mean that Jesus’ kingdom has been inaugurated, that Jesus has been crowned and seated on the throne, but also that the kingdom hasn’t yet been consummated or completed. Thus in one sense the kingdom has already broken into this world through Jesus’ ministry on earth, but in another sense it isn’t yet here in its fullest capacity, which, as Isaiah describes here, will be the unified earthly reign of Jesus after his return (cf. Rev. 21:1-4). So, while we don’t yet live in that completed kingdom, the citizens of this kingdom (Eph. 2:19) are called to live in light of and according to their citizenship. This is the way God’s kingdom is meant to direct our lives, by determining our future hope and our present thoughts and behavior.
There is some sense to which Christians are called to live in such a way that, when they arrive in God’s eternal kingdom, there’s no culture shock. Our lives are meant to be lived according to the pattern of God’s kingdom such that, when we get there, we’re ready for it. And that’s how we read this passage in Isaiah 2—while this describes the future reign of God’s perfect justice, it also calls us to live in the light of God’s justice now. And God’s kingdom has four main aspects here: God’s word (v.3) and God’s judgments (v.4), which create perfect peace (v.4) and unity among the nations (v.2). God’s word is so unifying that people come from all over the planet to hear about his teachings, and God’s peace is so perfect that they all turn their implements of war, swords and spears, into agricultural tools, plows and pruning hooks (fun fact: pruning hooks were like curved machetes, used to prune branches and pick fruit).
In Isaiah’s day you always had to have both swords and plows, the latter to till the land, the former to help you keep the land. Think about this: since the Garden, no society has ever existed (at least for long) without weapons of some kind. Since the Fall, people have always lived under some sort of threat from other people. While the weapons we have are more sophisticated these days, they still exist due to the same problem: human sin. However, not all threats are physical, so neither are all weapons. Language, laws, stereotypes, power, wealth—all these things can be turned into weapons. But in God’s kingdom the peace is so comprehensive, so irresistible, that it will transform all these things and more from means of death into means of life. Have we not already seen this in our own lives, that our enmity towards God has been transformed into a loving relationship between Father and child?(Rom. 5:10) And the completion of this same reality for the whole world is something we long for, when all enmity is put away, when no one will ever inflict pain again, when tears are consider a former thing (Rev. 21:4).
And that is a reality we are called to start living in now. If there are any people on the planet who are called to be peacemakers, isn’t those who have been made at peace with God? If there’s anyone who can lay aside the tools of warfare, both physical and otherwise, is it not us? And this call is comprehensive, in everything from violence to unrighteous anger, being unloving towards your neighbor, even talking about your friends behind their back. Think of all the things that divide us from other people and produce hostility between us; we should put every one of these under scrutiny in our lives and in our society. As Christians, we are called to make peace in every situation that doesn’t require us to depart from Jesus’ gospel (which is most of them). By doing so we simultaneously invite in the coming kingdom and prepare ourselves for it.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Isaiah 2:1-4 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• What future reality is this passage describing? What about that sounds attractive to you?
• What does this passage tell us about God’s kingdom and justice?
• What’s the relationship between “beating your swords into plowshares” and the gospel of Jesus?
• How can “beating your swords into plowshares” inform your life now?
• How does this passage describe our hopes for eternity?