“THE wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a young child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
Pursuant to a request from a reader of the SIGNS, living in Chicago, Ill., we will try to give our views on the above subject. Like so many other prophecies in the book of Isaiah that looked forward through unborn time to the gospel age, this text quoted above also describes in figurative language that which the Lord’s people in the gospel dispensation were to witness and experience, but which was never apprehended by those who lived under the law, except by faith. Here we have set forth that which is contrary to nature, which the nature of men can never bring about, but a condition which, in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, is to be the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the effect of the grace of God. It is not natural for a wolf to dwell with a lamb, nor for a leopard to lie down with a kid, neither for a calf to dwell with a young lion and a fatling. Further, it is not natural for the cow, which enjoys the vegetarian diet, to eat with the bear, which loves to devour flesh; nor for the lion to eat straw like the ox. All these incidents, though contrary to nature, are to be effected, because “a little child shall lead them.” This means that nature is to be brought into subjection, and held there, by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, by his meek and lowly and gentle Spirit, which shall subdue the vile passions of men and shall cause them to dwell together in gospel love and fellowship as they shall be brought by the power of God’s grace to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God. We have been hearing a great deal for the past few years about an era of worldwide peace to soon be ushered in, when the nations of the earth shall learn war no more, when the swords shall be beaten into plough-shares and the spears into pruninghooks. This is an outcome, no doubt, devoutly to be desired, for we all agree that war and strife are dreadful things, but these things which have been resident in the nature of man from the first of his creation can never be abolished through human inventions and man’s ingenuity. If worldwide and everlasting peace is ever to prevail over a world weary of war, we must look to a higher power than our own. Such an age can only dawn upon us through the victorious operation of God’s holy Spirit subduing evil and vanquishing all that is opposed to godliness, and giving rise to righteousness and wisdom that must prevail in and through all who inhabit the earth. There never can be any compromise with evil, nor any treaty with antichrist; these must be utterly destroyed if righteousness and peace are to prevail unmolested. So the prophet Isaiah through the divine telescope of faith was looking down the years seven hundred years beyond the period in which he was living, and beholding the spiritual kingdom of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. In this church of God is that peace that passes understanding, the peace which the world can neither give nor take away, but which is eternal to all the elect of God, through the atonement made for their sins in the sacrificial work of Jesus. In this church are both Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and barbarians, bond and free. The Lord himself, not the Missionary societies invented by men, brings his sons from afar and his daughters from the ends of the earth and calls them by effectual grace unto godly repentance, working in them by his resurrection power to believe on Him who raised Christ from the dead. In this way all the nations flow up unto the house of the Lord, and the mountain of the Lord’s house is established in the mountains. This is something that is going on to-day, though men cannot see it with their natural powers. The kingdom of heaven is in the world and is within the subjects of divine grace. Jesus is living and reigning in his kingdom in the hearts of his elect, gathered from every nation which is under heaven. He has been gathering them into his gospel kingdom, he is now so gathering them, and he will continue so to gather them until the last vessel of mercy, beforehand chosen unto glory, shall have been brought into this church of our God, and with this gathering men have had nothing to do. It has been all the result of that still small voice which, like the wind, blows where it lists. It has not been by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. As for man, he is altogether vanity, and all his works are a vain show. All of them are utterly contemned before God. God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions. He has invented ways to save the heathen from their sins and to bring them to God, he has schemed to win the whole world for Christ, and now he is scheming to abolish war and to usher in the millennium. All these inventions are a vain and idle show, and shall pass away into nothingness when the breath of God shall blow upon them. It will be noticed in the words of our text at the beginning of this article that, in the list of animals given, a wild animal is coupled with a tame animal. From the Jew standpoint, the Gentiles were to them aliens and foreigners, without any right to participate in the services of the legal sanctuary, and strangers from the covenant made with them by the hand of Moses. Therefore, in Isaiah xi. 6, 7, the Gentiles are represented by the wild animals and the Jews by the tame ones. The declaration, therefore, is that the time was to come when the barrier, or middle wall of partition, between Jew and Gentile was to be abolished through the work of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, and of the twain was to be made one new man. The Gentiles were no more to be strangers and foreigners from the commonwealth of Israel, but fellow-citizens with the saints and with the household of God. (See Eph. ii. 12-22.) These wild ones were to be brought into close spiritual relationship with the elect of God among the Jews, so all would be one body through one Lord, having one hope, one faith and one baptism. The gospel was first preached to the Jews. After this, the gospel was declared to the Gentiles. In the Acts we see many striking instances of God’s work among the Gentiles, how that true believers were raised up among them, how that the prejudice between Jew and Gentile was overcome through grace, and all lived together in the church of God, forgetting their past differences and forgiving one another their transgressions. Peter, the Jew, was sent for to preach the word of the kingdom to Cornelius, the Roman. We doubt if he would have gone on this errand had he not been prepared there-unto beforehand by the vision of the sheet let down from heaven, knit at the four corners, containing all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. Herein was revealed to Peter the truth that in God’s covenant of election were included all the peoples of the world, that election is not confined to the Jews, but that God has a people among all kindreds, tribes and tongues that dwell on the earth. Having had this matter shown to him, Peter’s prejudice against the Gentiles was overcome, and he was ready to preach the gospel to Cornelius. Here we see the wolf and the lamb dwelling together. Cornelius belonged to a nation that then dominated the world and ruled over the Jews, who to the Romans were a subject people. However, here we see an individual of a world-ruling people made willing to sit at the feet of a disciple of the n1eek and lowly and despised Jesus, anxious to hear the word of truth, and believing in it with all his heart. Again, Saul of Tarsus, like a lion, went about the country hunting down and persecuting the christians. But the time came when this roaring lion was subjugated by the mighty hand of God and brought under the sway of divine grace. He then was made to eat straw like the ox, to desire the same spiritual bread of life as the Jews whom he had been persecuting for believing in Christ. The little child Jesus led Saul and changed him into the humble Paul; the same little child Jesus brought Peter to preach to Cornelius, and caused Cornelius to embrace the formerly despised Jew in gospel love and fellowship. We believe, therefore, that the words of our text apply not to some far distant millennium framed in human dreams, but we think the spiritual meaning of Isaiah’s words are realized in the gospel kingdom of the Lord, where dwell his honor and glory, and where is the habitation of his throne. What a great variety of natural dispositions and temperaments there is among the members of Christ’s body. Some of us are like lions, others like wolves, and so on. But all are chastened and subdued by reigning grace and made to dwell together in unity, when if left to ourselves, to act our individual likes and dislikes, we would be quarreling and contending all the time. All these strifes and contentions are annulled by the reign of the childlike Spirit of Jesus, causing his people to pray for one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to esteem others better than themselves, all because he has taken out of them the stony heart and has given them a heart of flesh, wherein he has written his royal law: Lore one another. The kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation. Though we may long look for some outward sign of approaching worldwide peace, we may never see it so long as man’s nature remains as it is and earthly governments continue to be organized as they are. However, in the realm of Spirit, in that world which lies beyond the reach of all mortal senses, in that church of our God which is in the world, but is not of the world, peace has already come through the death of Jesus. This is a peace which passes understanding and abides world without end. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 11
June 1, 1919