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Christ’s powerful rule is clearly seen in Isaiah 11:6-16, His rule being an obvious outgrowth of His personal ministry. Five arguments are given to show these verses are one unit and require a figurative interpretation to understand this passage best.
Sometimes the most straightforward observations can bring about the most powerful insights into a scripture passage. One such observation brought about a whole new appreciation for the kind of ministry God wants to be working through our lives.
Do you or I have the faith that is necessary to bring about a ministry like Christ’s? Many interpreters shift the interpretation of Isaiah 11:6-9 to the distant future resulting in the loss of another faith-building exhortation for our present ministries.
Below we will not only see how this passage refers to the New Testament (NT) era but also how His people are to have an increasing impact on the earth as His Spirit-filled people before Jesus Christ returns.
(6) And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.
(7) Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
(8) And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the vipers den.
(9) They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9, NASB).
(10) Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.
(11) Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, And from the islands of the sea.
(12) And He will lift up a standard for the nations, And will assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.
(13) Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
(14) And they will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; Together they will plunder the sons of the east; They will possess Edom and Moab; And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.
(15) And the LORD will utterly destroy The tongue of the Sea of Egypt; And He will wave His hand over the River With His scorching wind; And He will strike it into seven streams, And make men walk over dry-shod.
(16) And there will be a highway from Assyria For the remnant of His people who will be left, Just as there was for Israel In the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:10-16, NASB).
To wake us up to the great hope we have in Christ's work in His people through the Holy Spirit that Christ might again mightily extend the power of His kingdom into the lives of broken people.
Dear Father in Heaven, forgive me for joining many others in misusing Your mighty Word. By placing it in the remote future, I have lived without it empowering me today. I have not been able to have the power of God's Word mightily work in those around me. Christ was anointed. You showed us all how You desire to do it in Acts, but it is easier to think that this passage doesn't apply to today. Forgive me as your steward for hiding your talent in the ground without effectively using it for your glory and the benefit of others. In Christ's glorious Name we pray, Amen.
The way we interpret this passage has a lot to do with what we will do with God's gifts and callings in our lives. Either we will think the gospel is not being effective and legitimize our interpretation with a futuristic interpretation, or we will insist on crying out for God to desperately work in our lives and weak faith that we could help those around us.
The truth is not hidden away as if we can't find it. We are to discover the truth of this passage and then apply these truths to our present ministries.
The question before us is whether Isaiah 11:1-5 should be separated into an account different from that of 11:6-16 or at least 11:6-9. We understand the difficulty.
The issue does not seem to lie with verses 10-16; there are numerous NT references that have them refer to God's kingdom now on earth. We will look at this later. When people see this, they are not troubled at all. They can readily accept it. The key problem lies in verses 6-9 where the situation of a transformed creation seem to demand either a setting of the millennium or of the new heavens and earth.
Since we do not see a transformed creation where wolves can dwell with lambs or leopards with a baby goats or calves with a young lion, it is easy to discard this section into a file for some future application. The result is that we are not affected by God's Word.
There are three possible interpretations of this passage: literal, spiritualistic and figurative. Each of these interpretations have their problems and support. (1)
There is the literal translation that demands a remote future application to some millennium or heavenly period. This interpretation causes a number of difficulties, the greatest being the context.
The spiritual or allegorical interpretation assigns special hidden meanings to the specific items mentioned in 6-9.
We favor the figurative interpretation which takes this whole chapter to be descriptive of the work of the Spirit in the church age starting with Christ (1-5).
The literal viewpoint is favored by many modern Christians because of certain doctrinal assumptions. For this reason we will articulate the major reasons that the figurative interpretation should be accepted.
(1) Oswalt, in THE BOOK OF ISAIAH 1-39 (New International Commentary series) p. 283 for further discussion. "The first is literalistic, looking for a literal fulfilment of the words... A second means of interpretation is spiritualistic. The animals represent various spiritual conditions and states within human beings (cf. Calvin). ... The third way of interpreting this passage, and others like it, is the figurative. In this approach one concludes that an extended figure of speech is being used to make a single, comprehensive point, namely, that in the Messiah's reign the fears associated with insecurity, danger, and evil will be removed, not only for the individual but for the world as well (Rom. 8:19-21)."