What I’m Thinking: Peaceable Realm

Isaiah’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth includes the vivid picture of predators and prey living peacefully together. What I tend to forget is that it also includes the idea that those who work receive the fruits of their labor.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about some of the most popular little videos on the Internet. You know the ones. They’ve got cats and dogs in them, or sheep and dogs in them, or owls and kittens in them: all manner of different creatures, most of them generally hostile or suspicious of one another, but for a moment in these videos suddenly we see compassion, caring, affection. We might even call it love.

It is a long time human vision of what the perfect world would be, and we find that expressed, of course, in the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17-25): God’s new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem in which the lion and the lamb lie down together.

What I tend to forget is part of this passage is another instance which, in Isaiah’s day seems to have been as rare as the lions and the lambs living in peace. And that was that somebody would plant and harvest their own crop; that someone would build and live in the house that they had created. No, instead, says Isaiah, it appears that mostly other people would harvest the crops, other people would live in the houses. The poor would do the work. The rich would reap the benefits.

Well, that has not changed much in our time, has it? That is as far away from us as the lions and the lambs in peace.

The vision of the perfect world, to Isaiah, is not one without labor. It is not one without effort. But it is one in which those who do the work receive the benefits of what they’ve done. It is not one in which the rich enjoy all the successes, and the poor have to go on to some other labor in order to make their living.

Here in Hawai’i, we have plenty of people who travel many miles every day in order to get to their jobs. It’s not because there aren’t places to live near where they work. It’s because they can’t afford them, and so their commutes may be seventy, eighty miles one way in a day.

How is it just that people are not paid enough money that at the end of the week, they can make all their bills? The housing, the food, the health care, the utilities, the car. How is it that we feel justified to pay a wage that cannot be lived on?

It’s not Isaiah’s vision of a just society. It’s not my vision of a just society, and (dare I say it?) it’s not God’s vision of a just society, either.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on November 10, 2019

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