Summary: Isaiah's vision of the New Jerusalem shows us God's recipe for peace, a peace that was first begun in Jesus Christ and is continued through the faithfulness of Christians today.
My Grandmommy was a one of a kind cook. Now, no offense to any of you fine cooks out there, because there are a lot of good cooks in this world, but I’m pretty sure she was the best! There were lots of things that excited me about going to visit my Grandmommy and Granddaddy in Kentucky, but I distinctly remember one of the things I most looked forward to was the buckeyes my grandmother always had prepared for my sister and me. She would make them before we got there, put them in a Tupperware and then freeze them until we arrived. Everyday after lunch, and every evening after dinner, my sister and I would run out to the utility room where the freezer was, and we would pull out that Tupperware and dig in! However, you can probably guess that my grandmother wasn’t known for her cooking just because of those buckeyes. She made a lot of other great stuff as well.
One of my Granddaddy’s favorites was the country ham she would make him for breakfast in the morning. I almost never ate country ham except when I was at her house, and it was so good! Nice and salty, but still moist and tender, not dry at all. Her green beans and chicken were really good too. But what my Grandmommy was known for was her rolls. Oh my goodness, I can guarantee that you’ve never tasted rolls anything like my grandmother’s. Lots of people have tried to re-create those rolls my Grandmommy made, but no one’s quite succeeded. There’s a recipe for them, but I’m pretty sure my grandmother didn’t use it very much. There’s also a special pan she would make them in; her sister took that pan after she died, in the hopes that she’d be able to make those rolls like Grandmommy’s. I know she’s tried lots of times, and she makes some good rolls, but somehow they’re just not as good as my grandmother’s.
As I grew up and began cooking myself, I came to appreciate more and more my grandmother’s cooking, even though she was long gone by then and I wasn’t able to partake of her goodies anymore. You see, I can cook, but unless it’s hot dogs or spaghetti, I have to have a recipe in front of me. I don’t think my Grandmommy ever used a recipe unless she was trying something new. She could cook dinner for a whole week, never repeat a dish, and never open a cookbook. It’s truly remarkable in my mind; because I, along with many others I’m sure, need a recipe in order to have any hope of cooking an even reasonably edible meal! In the same way, we people need some guidance when it comes to understanding God’s kingdom and what it will look like in its fulfillment. And that’s what we have in today’s passage: a word of God, given to the prophet Isaiah, about exactly how all these ingredients of God’s creation are going to mix together to form this perfect, peaceable kingdom; the New Jerusalem, God’s kingdom. And essentially, we are told, it’s going to mean starting from scratch, “a new heavens and a new earth.”
This new kingdom God is establishing is going to be so radically different that God can’t even mix it together with the stuff that’s already there. Isaiah takes us all the way back to creation. God is going to start all over again, and he’s giving us the recipe! First, the slate will be wiped clean, the old things forgotten. Then, no more weeping and crying, only joy! Of course, how could there not be if the old things are forgotten?!? People will live long, healthy lives (as long as the trees!), with houses to dwell in, and vineyards full of fruit! The people of this kingdom will be blessed by the Lord; before they even open their mouths to seek God, God will answer their need. The wolf will lie down by the lamb, and the lion and the ox will eat together.
Does it make your mouth water listening to that? Does it make you long for this kingdom to be ready? The thing about it is, though, these images that Isaiah uses were spoken to the Israelites in exile in Babylon. He was telling them what Jerusalem would be like when they were finally freed from Babylon and able to return home. He was describing for them the home of their dreams, what they have been longing for and missing since they have been away. And the truth is, it doesn’t really sound realistic, it sounds idyllic and utopian. While that may be true in a sense, this is also pretty radical stuff God is talking about here! I mean, think about it in more modern terms. Cancer’s gone; a foreign concept. 100 years old is young; people are living to be 300 or more. Everyone goes to sleep every single night under the shelter of a roof, warm, even on the coldest days of winter. Everyday there is enough food in the field for all people to be satisfied. All those mistakes we’ve made in the past; they’re forgotten, it’s like they never even happened.