WELCOMING GOD'S FUTURE NOW
I read Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIV) and find it the most compelling scenario of the future a Biblical prophet ever expressed:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will 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.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
WHAT GOD MOVES HISTORY TOWARD. There are many references to the future in the Bible. To me, this prophecy in Isaiah 11 is the most compelling. It is one of the divinely inspired scenarios of the future that gives me great hope. I look forward to such a time. There may be many tough things to go through before this day arrives. Other prophesies of tribulation and judgment may occur along the way. But this vision in which the poor and needy are treated fairly, in which ancient hostilities and divisions end, and in which "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" is what God is moving history toward.
PREPARE THE WAY. If this vision is what we're headed for, then why not live and act in light of its fulfillment? Let us embrace its values. Let us lift up this way of relating to one another. Let us establish its policies as a way of governing. Let us "prepare the way for the Lord" by filling the gaps and the barriers in our own lives that prevent such a future from occurring in our lifetimes.
ALREADY HERE. Beginning to live as if the future were already here is the essence of Biblical hope. It is what Jesus described when he said "the kingdom of God is among you." If this future--God's future--is what is intended, then surely all God's will and power is pressing toward it. Then, let us align our intentions, our wills, our behaviors, and whatever limited influence we have fully in the direction of this future.
LEAN INTO THE FUTURE. Rather than despairing in the face of judgment or disaster or disheartening things beyond our control (by withdrawing, abandoning, turning inward, etc.), we are invited to express the Word's most simple and profound callings -- offer peace, hospitality and hope. We are invited to lean into the Kingdom of God. We are invited to think and live and act as if what SHALL be ALREADY is. What we believe to be true about the future does more to shape our present actions than anything from our past. We are ambassadors of God's future.
WHAT'S DESTINED TO FAIL. The world's values are self-destructive. An economy based on greed will fail. An order based on survival of the richest, the fittest, the brightest, etc. will tumble. Social values that exclude some and hoard wealth and serve relatively few at the expense of many will come to a disastrous end. Jesus has already spoken the word of judgment. And Jesus has already spoken the word of hope. His words shake the world to its foundations.
TRANSFORMED BY SIMPLE ACTS. But the world will be transformed, not by great force or might, but by such simple acts as hospitality, neighboring, and lived grace. The word of grace - the Good News - is that we do not have to live backwardly, repeating the past. We can live God's future now. In fact, the future becomes more of what we envision and live and choose.
Go to Daily Doses of Hope to access journaling, spiritual exercises and sacred lyrics that accompany this reflection. There is a Daily Dose of Hope for each day of Advent 2007.