The text for this devotional is from Isaiah 11:1-10.

As we continue our journey in Advent, we are invited once again to place ourselves into the story as God’s expectant people. The prophet Isaiah continues to be our guide into what concrete hope and expectation look like. In this passage, the prophet longs for a king whose kingdom brings peace to all of God’s creation. Isaiah is painting a beautiful picture of God’s just reign on earth.The striking animal images in this passage are all parallel; predatory animals like wolves and lions are now living in community with their prey. Hunted and hunter have been reconciled. All of his examples have very one-sided relationships in the natural world. Isaiah doesn’t talk about wolves and lions getting along, two predators. What kind of just world would that be?

But in order for the lion and ox to eat straw together, it is the lion who must submit and change. The predator must be learn new ways of living from the prey, to no longer train for war as our passage last week put it. Another way to say this is that Isaiah’s picture of God’s justice takes the side of the oppressed in order to enact the healing of both oppressed and oppressors. Those who have been oppressed are at peace with their oppressors because the oppressors have been forgiven. What a vision for the people of Israel! The lions and wolves of Israel’s past are Babylon and Assyria. In Jesus’ day, the asp was Rome. Isaiah is declaring that God’s just reign will come through the lowly lamb of Israel, through Jesse’s lineage. God is taking a side—Israel’s side!—for the reconciliation of the whole world.

Working backwards through this passage, we can find the root of reconciliation in this key verse: “His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” Justice hinges on the true king joyfully submitting to God. Joy is at the root of justice. Joy is at the root of the redemption of all creation.This Advent, we are invited recognize ourselves as both lamb and wolf. We are all wolves, aggressors in our sin, our selfishness, our idolatry, and our violence. We need to come to the lambs in each of our lives, humbly asking for forgiveness. To do so joyfully is to participate in the justice of God. We must also come to The Lamb himself, the Lamb who was slain for us, whose blood and sacrifice offer us a new way of living, by beating our swords into ploughshares. To do so joyfully is to participate in the redemption of the entire cosmos.

But we are also lambs. Each of us has suffered the evil of the world’s sin, some of us more than others. We are able to offer forgiveness to those who have oppressed or wronged us. To offer forgiveness to an enemy is to enact the coming kingdom of God in Jesus. It is to become like the sacred Lamb. Last week, we lit a candle for the hope we have in the coming Messiah. This week, we light a candle for the joy of the fear of the Lord; for the joy which ignites justice, peace, and the healing of the nations; for the joy that overflows in forgiveness from lamb to wolf, calf to lion, and child to snake.

Let us Pray:

Joyful God,In your joy, you created humanity. In your joy, you took the side of those oppressed by sin and violence in your son Jesus. In your joy, you will redeem all that has been broken in our land and in our world. Help us to imitate this joy made by forgiving our enemies and asking for forgiveness from them.

Amen