Lesson 8: Visions of Hope

Peaceable KingdomIt is not only the ancient Torah Law that teaches us to respect Nature. Biblical visions of hope picture God, humans, and Nature in perfect harmony when God redeems his creation. If that is the way things will be, then we should be acting to help bring this about here and now.

The first of these visions is Isaiah’s beautiful picture of the Peaceable Kingdom. “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity, for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:20-24) 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. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 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.” (Isaiah 11: 6-10)

All humans, all animals, and all the land will live together in the harmony presumed to be present in the original creation. The land will offer what is needed without toil. Humans and animals will again converse faces-to-face with their maker. No one, no thing, will act in violence any more.

The second of these visions also celebrates the end of violence, but in a way more relevant to our technological society. The ecological city of Revelation 22 moves from an abundant oasis to a fertile city.

“In the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God… Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ” (Revelation 21, 22)

Gone is the pollution associated with our cities. Now a crystal river runs through this one, watering Trees of Life that line it on both sides. The boughs of these trees bear fruits of the month for its inhabitants and their leaves provide healing for the nations. Creation is healed. All have enough.

Many use the apocalyptic language of Revelation to oppose any action to combat climate change. They argue there is no need to care for Nature, if it is going to be destroyed anyway. To do this, however, is to ignore that this kind of language is used to lift the veil that covers reality, so we can see what God is really doing.

Both visions include Nature in the future redemption. Both speak of God overcoming violence in all parts of creation. When we pray, as Jesus
taught us, for God’s will to be done; we should be reminding ourselves this means we should not be practicing violence against Nature.

That is certainly what Jesus teaches when he heals the sick and calms storms as a forecast of the coming salvation. Most of the New Testament uses pictures like Paul’s when he speaks of the creation groaning with birth pains as God prepares to set it free from the bondage to decay. (Romans 8: 18- 26) We should be midwives helping at the delivery.

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