As I am writing this post on Election Day (US), I’m reminded about how important it is to pay attention to context. It’s important for us to understand the historical and cultural context of the passages of Scripture we read, but I also to be aware of my context within which I am reading and interpreting these passages. Within our entire reading (in four chunks), the theme of peace is resonating with me today. We often use the word “peace” personally as a feeling of inner calm, but we also use it politically as a lack of conflict or war.
Peace or Conflict?
In our reading for today, the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem. Their commander used the common language of the people as he called for peace and the end of this battle. However, when he said, “make your peace with me,” what he really meant was surrender, not peace. Politically, when we put peace, or rather conflict-avoidance, first, we have appeasement, not true peace. Appeasement is about giving in to an aggressor’s demands to avoid conflict, a policy that did more harm than good in the lead-up to the Second World War. A declaration of “peace in (for) our time” can be misguided if that means allowing injustice and oppression to continue. Politically, and personally, we sometimes need to embrace conflict to stand up for what we believe is right.
We know that true peace does not come by surrendering to a superior force in order to end or avoid conflict. True peace is God’s shalom, part of the fabric of God’s kingdom. Shalom is an essential part of God’s promise and plans for us and our world. As Isaiah 2 declares to us, the peace in God’s kingdom is based on loving God and loving others. All peoples will stream to God (loving God) and learn God’s ways of love and justice (loving others). Peace is the result of love.
When we love God, we must also trust God. The Assyrian commander wants to sow distrust of their king and their God to the people of Jerusalem. “‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us.” (36:14-15). Hezekiah, being one of the few kings in Judah that follow God’s ways, does trust in God at least enough to ask Isaiah to pray for God’s help. And, that trust is well placed, since God does deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army.
We contribute to God’s kingdom of peace when we love others. “Loving others” is not as clear in Isaiah 2 as it was in the reading from Micah last week. But we know that God’s ways are love. The vision of God’s kingdom includes an end to war and conflict and a refocus on the original vocation from the Garden, to till and keep the land. We see here a path of life, not death, a path of loving others.
Love, Justice, and Peace
God has given us a vision of peace, a glimpse into the kingdom of heaven. This is not a mere “it would be nice if…” dream, but a promise that God will deliver on. When we face challenges, let us trust in that promise of God’s shalom coming in the future. And, in the here and now, God calls us to give the world a glimpse of the kingdom by working for justice and peace, even if it means challenging the powers and creating conflict.
Our free activity this week, “In Days to Come,” guides participants to reflect on the hope-filled vision of the world to come in Isaiah 2 and elsewhere. This activity comes from our Living the Word: Youth resource, but it can be easily adapted to different ages and settings and would be especially effective in a cross+generational setting.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Advent is coming soon! If you had ordered Fall resources or are interested in just getting started, you can order now for the Winter resources, which start on the first Sunday of Advent and go to Transfiguration Sunday. As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Winter (and Spring) quarters immediately.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!