I was not much more than a toddler, exploring the backyard. I was a stones’ throw away from our garden, where Dad was no doubt trying to hoe his row to the end. But his work would have to wait when I announced my latest, neatest, coolest discovery: “Look, Daddy! A baby snake!”
I see myself staring down, slack-jawed, marveling at the magical, wriggling copperhead in front of my little sneakers. I decided instantly that the wisest course of action was to grab him before he got scared and tried to slither away.
I never even saw Dad coming. The hoe swiftly came down, the snake went in two different directions, and any designs I had on adding him to my pet collection were chopped into lifelessness.
Whether copperhead or cobra, it strains the brain to imagine the small hands of a child reaching down to pick one up while a parent looks on, saying nothing except, “Son, when you get done playing with that one, check out the fangs on this viper over here!”
But that’s what Isaiah 11:6-8 describes:
“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.”
It is just as mind-bending to imagine a news cycle that fails to mention harming or destroying, unrighteousness and injustice. We live in a world that seems unstruck by the rod of his mouth, where the wicked do their devilish work, unslain (cf. 11:4). Isaiah tries to transport us to a world where all of that is no more.
People can be “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). And not knowing God is the fastest way to dismantle your life. Maybe that’s why the wonderful, peaceful world Isaiah envisions is one in which the whole earth has jumped off the high dive and plunged down deep into an ocean of truly knowing God.