When Up There Comes Down Here

He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:4

This is a vision of a world put back together and restored to pre-fall status. This is a picture of a just world. Isaiah is pointing to the day when God steps into this broken world to heal it, and restorative justice will triumph. The truth will prevail, wrongs will be made right, and God will stand up for all of the kicked down and trampled upon of all history. God will arbitrate for many peoples.

And on this great day—peace, shalom will win the day. This day weapons will be transformed into different uses. This day will be a day when humanity will forget how to harm each other. 

My brother is an antique dealer. He has told me that part of his job is to explain to modern people what some of the old collectibles were actually used for. When we purchased Mr. Davis’s home, he left several antiques and I would take pictures of them and send them to my brother and ask, “What is this and what was it used for?”

Isaiah is telling us that there is coming a day when we are going to come across a bomb, or a drone, or an AR-15 and ask God, “What is this and what was it used for?”

But if I’m honest with you, when I read these words there is a haunting voice in the back of my mind that says, “In a world dominated by typhoons and terrorists, how can I take this ancient prophecy seriously? How can you believe these words after watching the evening news?”

Then louder than that haunting voice of cynicism is the still small voice of the transcendent God of the universe that says, “Jesus is how you can take those words seriously.” Because Jesus is this great future. God promises a glorious tomorrow entering into our broken, dark, and divided today. For those of us who trust Him by faith in this life, that will be our destiny.

Steve Hoekstra was my first youth pastor and my friend for decades. Steve and I would go cross-country skiing together when I was a teenager. We led scores of backpacking tips for high schoolers together in the 80s and 90s. We have hiked hundreds of miles together in the wilderness. I called him Woolybooger or Hook.

He became a lead pastor then he went to work for our denomination of Colorado Baptist. One time he told a group of college summer interns that he considered me his pastor. I was caught off guard and humbled.  

On countless trails above timberline and in alpine meadows, Steve and I would talk about what heaven might be like, and we both agreed that heaven would have several fourteen-thousand-foot peaks and high alpine lakes with lots of cutthroat trout.

I went for a long hike last week and took a picture of Mt. Princeton and texted it to Steve with this message, “Steve…I’m out for a walk on the BLM land beside my house and thought of you and our many walks in the wild for nearly 50 years and I thanked God for our long friendship. I prayed for you out here in the wild, old friend.”

Steve texted me back, “Glad I was there with you.”

Woolybooger died this week.

I imagine Steve hiking into the New Heavens and the New Earth. And maybe he’ll walk down the trail and come upon a woman who has a wagonload of roses. He reaches to get one and discovers there are no thorns on those roses and says, “Ma’am, where did you get these roses?

“I grow them out there in the desert.”

“What?” Steve asks.

“Haven’t you heard? The Lord reigns in Zion. And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose.” (Isaiah.35:1)

A little further he walks down the street and steps into to a pet shop. There, Steve hears a man say, “I want to buy that cobra for my little boy.”

“What?” Steve asks.

“Didn’t you know? The Lord reigns in Zion. And the lion shall eat straw like a lamb and the sucking child shall lay upon the nest of the snake.” (Isaiah 11:8)

Little further he asks a man, “Where is your police department?

He’ll say, “We haven’t got any!”

“Well, where are your soldiers and military academies?” asks Steve.

“Haven’t you heard? The Lord reigns in Zion! And they have beat the swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks and the nations have learned war no more!” (Isaiah 2:4)

“Well, what about the home for crippled children?”

“We don’t have any. And the lame shall leap in that day.”  (Isaiah 35:6) The Lord reigns in Zion!

“What about your home for the deaf and dumb?”

“Don’t have any of those either!” “The tongues of the dumb shall sing in that day. And the ear of the deaf shall be unstopped in that day. (Isaiah 35:6) The Lord reigns in Zion!”

Maybe Steve asks, “I want to go to your hospitals and visit some of your cancer patients.”

“We don’t have any.”

“You don’t?”

“No. Not since the Lord began to reign in Zion! The inhabitants in this land never say, ‘I am sick.‘”  (Isaiah 33:24)

“Well, what about your funeral homes and cemeteries?”

“Not any of those in this land. For the Lord reigns in Zion!”

“Well, where do you folks go to church?” Steve asks.

“We don’t have a church. Haven’t you heard? Up there has finally come down here and we all go up to the New Jerusalem and worship the great King!”

The Christian story is that God so loved the cosmos that he comes into it as a chubby-cheeked, dimple-handed baby boy in a backwater town, in a no-name country—to live among his creation and has promised that one day he will heal all of it and make everything sad come untrue.

One of my favorite thoughts about this hope for tomorrow came from the late Lewis Smedes an author and professor from Fuller Seminary. He was addressing a graduation class of college students and he had a line that has stuck with me since I first read it in an article a few years ago. He was talking about hope, but not worldly hope which is nothing more than wishful thinking. He spoke about Christian hope.

Keep hope alive, and hope will keep you alive.

And so, dear reader, may you live today in hope because of this great promise of tomorrow. And that is where I will see Woolybooger again.

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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