Where the Wild Things Aren’t
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. – Isaiah 11:6-7 (NRSV)
Until a few years ago, I delighted in Isaiah’s “peaceable kingdom” with its vision of an abundant and playful creation, filled with lions and lambs, leopards and little goats, bears and cows all getting along.
But then I learned that the Syrian brown bear, which roamed from northern Lebanon down to the Sinai in Isaiah’s time, is essentially extinct throughout the Middle East. Habitat loss from endless wars has taken its toll, as have deforestation and poaching. A handful of zoos and private preserves still hold a few bears, but none exist in the wild.
Similarly, until last century, Arabian leopards thrived in the region’s mountains and deserts. With less than 200 of the big cats left, they are now considered critically endangered. The region’s wolf population has met a similar fate. Even the Lion of Judah, aka the Asiatic lion, has vanished from the landscape.
Given our human role in the extinction of so many of God’s creatures, whether in the Middle East or in our own country, I wonder what Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom would look like now. He promised that a “little child shall lead them,” but I pray we don’t leave to the next generation the work of repairing the damage we’ve done.
God of all creation, your prophet called us to neither harm nor destroy anything on your holy mountain. We have done both. We ask your forgiveness and pray for the commitment and courage to help restore your creation. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.