The small copse of trees amidst the road was gone - hewn down, leaving a gaping void where, for years, there had been beauty and a feast of life every spring. The ravages of disease, no doubt. No wonder creation aches and groans for release.
A friend recently made a very astute observation. If Science Fiction is the literature of our times, why does so much of it conclude with a dystopian rather than a utopian ending? It's a pretty obvious problem when you think about it - if the 'science' you depend upon has been nourished by naturalism, then there really is nothing but energy and matter, and both are in a state ruthlessly ruled by entropy, so the conclusion is obvious. Why, then, all these grand notions of aspiring to something bigger and better? Is that just an aberrant bane on the household of our race, or does this 'hunger' tell us a truth we need a whole other series of narratives to probe?
Romance gives us a big nudge on this, but not just the 'happily ever after' (me and you) variety. There are a whole range of things around us that we have deep and genuine affection for, because each and every day, it's these evidences of a splendor to creation that truly make our lives worth living, and allow us to consider the wonder, even amidst our deepest pain. That, I suspect, more than anything else, causes us to dream and see beyond the ugliness. We want this all to have a better future than death and decay.
The good news is that it does.
In the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, we find the prophet encountering a vision of the earth post all the current anguish, and it's not a cinder or a dead end. He begins the revelation by defining who has saved this rare gem with His work and character - a clear description of the one who would be born amongst our very woes (note the reference to Jesse - verse 1) to bring an equity only anticipated in those first short, earliest moments in Eden.
The picture of Lions at ease with Lambs which follows (verses 6 & 7) is often something so coddled in Sunday school-type thoughts that we never truly consider what's being stated here, but one of the next images leaves us in absolutely no doubt.
"The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and put his hand in the adder's den" (verse 8). There will be no hurt. There will be no death. The 'equity' brought by the one sent to our benighted race will be the 'sign' (which, as I touched on last post, clearly means lots more than just a symbol) to the whole earth. The 'weight' or significance of this manifestation of what is truly good will cover the entire realm of His handiwork.
The force of this image would be plain to its original readers. The bite of the most poisonous creature has been muted and the sheer joy of the innocence of the child at play is regained. Even amidst places which would have previously only brought fear and death, peace has been totally restored.
That is the goal of the 'new wine' of the kingdom, which will be evidenced on the day of resurrection.
The one who sprang from Jesse, born of David's line, has appeared and opened the gate wide to that new and living way, where those bitten by sin's awful venom can come and be healed. Jesus Christ the righteous died and rose to set us free, and as we trust in Him, we gain a foretaste of what is to come - creation continuing as it was meant to, filled with a life and a culture that is devoid of evil, eternally growing and deepening in its understanding and appreciation of it's richness and the worth of it's maker and Lord.
That's a story that's not only worth reading, but of being within.