News about our ability to destroy is much in the news at present; stories about hurt and harm also predominate. I suspect most of us know someone who is going through a time of pain or difficulty; we may also know someone who has been harmed by others, or who has a great capacity to cause hurt and destruction. Therefore, to read in Isaiah that no one will hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain can seem an almost impossible dream (see Isaiah 11). The sheer idea that we could live in a world where there is no destruction or hurt would be so wonderful; but we are all aware that it won’t happen. Humanity’s capacity to cause hurt and to destroy appears infinite, and that ignores the destruction caused by natural phenomena, and the pain that comes from failing bodies. But yet …. reading those words in Isaiah caused a longing to spring up in me, a longing for a time when no-one will destroy or cause hurt; a longing for a time when no-one will have to live with the pain of that destruction and hurt; a longing for a time when all shall live in safety, in fullness of life; a longing for a time that still seems impossible.
Yet that passage in Isaiah says that it will come about; not might or could or maybe, if we try hard enough. It will happen, on God’s holy mountain. It comes in the same passage as the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and just after the wolf lying down with the lamb, and the child playing near the snake’s nest. One day we will live in a world with no hurt or harm, with no pain or destruction, where the aggressor and the hunted shall live together (although I’ve often wondered exactly what the wolf, the leopard and the lion will eat …). That aside, there will come a day when what we are longing for will happen, when peace will reign, and where there will be no more tears, as it says in Revelation. A pipe dream? Realistically, it would appear so. But that is to ignore God, and allow cynicism to dominate. This will happen. Admittedly, it is a long way off; admittedly, it will not happen in this world as it currently is. Yet it will happen, for God has said so; Isaiah says will, not probably. That longing for a day when there will be no hurt or harm, a longing which may be in all of us, is what Advent is about. We long for the day of God’s coming amongst us; for the celebration of that first advent of Jesus’ birth; for the second Advent, when all shall be made new.
How will it come about, this time when no one shall hurt or destroy? Isaiah tells us this also: through the knowledge of God. That knowing of God shall fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea. How do the waters cover the sea? Is not the sea actually all water? Does it mean as the sea covers the sea bed? Or as the sea itself, which is water? I don’t have those answers. Yet, think … the knowledge of God shall cover the earth. Knowing God will not be an if, but or maybe; it will not be partial and incomplete; it will not be a pulling between this way of knowing God and that way. It will be a knowing that covers the earth; that shall be part of the earth, and all who dwell there, humanity as well. It will be such a complete knowing, that all will know the ways of God; not a simple head knowledge, but right down to the depths of our beings. Right down to where that longing for a time of no hurt or destruction comes from; deeper, far deeper, than any of us are aware. A knowing, a knowledge that will become part of us, instinctive. A knowing that means there will no longer be hurt or destruction or pain or tears, for we will all know the total love of God, and we will all live in and out of that love.
It will not be a time that ignores all present hurt and harm, that wipes away all we have suffered as though it had never been; it will be a time when that will be brought to fulfilment; when all we might have learned through suffering will be part of us; when all our tears and lamenting will be honoured; when all harm or destruction will be healed; when we will be made whole, not despite our anguish, but maybe because of it. When, somehow, we will each become who we are meant to be, and all that we have been, or that has been done to us, or that has gone astray in our lives will somehow, strangely, contribute, be part of who we are meant to be, although who we are meant to be may not have included any of that originally. Not that God did ordained all of that to happen to us, for some reason to make us who we are; not that at all. But that God, who is love and of love, can bring us and heal us and enable us to become whole, and we will be who we are always meant to be beyond all that may not have been meant. If that does not make sense, it is because I cannot explain it; for all this that we long for, and all this that will come about, is a beyond our present time, and our present experience, so that we can only live and long for it, we can only catch glimpses of it, and cannot say ‘this is how it will be’ for only God can say how it will be. We can only live and long and trust that it will be, for God has said so; we can only live and long and trust that how it will be is also in God’s loving hands and, at the end, all be okay, and more than okay. In the end, there will be no hurt or destruction; and far, far more than that. In the end we will all know God; and that means we will all know love.