Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters
fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.
– Isaiah 11:9 (NLT)
There are places in scripture when God gives us a glimpse of what is to come. Believers find life in the God’s assurance that a day is coming when there is no hurt or destruction; when everyone knows God, and everyone lives godly lives. In these words, God gives us a great and powerful promise: things are not always going to be as they have been, and we will not always be what we have been. A day is coming when we will love, think, act, and worship like Jesus.
What makes these brief glimpses so powerful is that they stand in stark contrast to our current reality. The world we live in is harsh, cruel, heavy, and unforgiving. The bright colors of hope that flow from Isaiah’s prophecy are intensified by our experience of present suffering.
This contrast is not only of our own experience. In scripture, hope and restoration is almost always in response to the experience of desperation. Isaiah’s vision of a world in which the wolf lives with the lamb and children joyfully play with vipers (Isaiah 11:6, 8) comes immediately after his prediction that God is releasing retribution upon His people for their sin. It comes after God has declared that “only a remnant will be left.” Theirs is a world of chaos and pain—and here’s the rub—God’s people are the authors.
The contrast between the pain of our current world and the world we hope to see mirrors the contrast between the people of God as they are and the people of God as He will make them. Isaiah’s people—the Jews—were God’s people, just as the church is today. Just like them, we have been born with a nature that is opposed to God in every way. Our desire is to live in a world of peace, comfort, and joy, but our nature is to strive for our own interests, regardless of how selfish they may be. As Paul puts it, “I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate (Romans 7:15).”
This is the natural fallout of the nature of mankind.
The good news is that our destiny is in no way linked to our nature. It is, instead, bound to the nature of God, which is grace. How is it that we can look forward to a restored humanity? Out of the remnant, Isaiah claims, will come a branch—a branch full of the Spirit: “the Spirit of Wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).” We know this branch to be Jesus, the Christ. Through Him, everything that we were designed to be will be. Through His grace, the world will be filled with “people who know the Lord,” and they will know Him in such a way that they will be like Him. Instead of chaos, character. Instead of pain, praise.