The Peaceable Kingdom
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. – Isaiah 11:6 (NRSV)
“The Peaceable Kingdom” of Isaiah is depicted in Edward Hicks’ famous painting of that name. The images sometimes show up on Christmas cards, too. Wolf and lamb dwelling, improbably, together while a small child plays over the head of a deadly viper. Realists dismiss these images of predator and prey reconciled as the sheerest sort of seasonal sentimentality.
But if we back up a few verses and read all of Isaiah 11:1 – 9, we see that the first part describes the kind of leaders God seeks, and the kind of ruler the Messiah shall be. God’s chosen leaders do not judge by appearances, rather they “shall judge the poor with justice and defend the humble in the land with equity.” In other words, a biblical standard for leadership is that a leader shall work to make the world, or a part of it, safer for the vulnerable, for the lambs and calves, for the poor and the children.
Today, hold in your heart Isaiah’s powerful vision for all leaders: protection of the vulnerable, making the world safer for the least powerful, taming the lions so that the lambs have a chance to live.
Lord, I pray for all those leaders who do seek to make the world a safer and brighter place for the vulnerable, for the sick and the weak, for the small and the suffering. Sustain, uphold and encourage them, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.