Saturday, November 10, 2007

The New Creation

Isaiah 65:17-25

This passage describes the world as God intends it to be – a new creation where suffering, tragedy, sadness and disappointment will be banished and where there will only be peace, plenty, joy and delight. This is a vision towards which all believers are called to commit themselves, in prayer and action.

But the passage raises some interesting questions. First, it talks about the imminence of this new creation, where as we know that it has yet to be established. Is this because – from God's perspective – a thousand years is but the blinking of an eye? Or is God's plan for a new and better world constantly frustrated by human disobedience?

Second, isn't the passage denying the created order, which Genesis tells us is already good? It's one thing for God to banish to sort of injustice and misuse of the world's resources which leads some children to die, needlessly, when they are only a few days old and some workers to toil for rewards which someone else receives. It's another thing entirely for lions to eat straw and serpents to eat dust. Does that mean the way in which the universe has evolved is not as God would like it to be? Is it just the best of all possible worlds rather than a perfect reflection of God's will?

And, finally, while the new order clearly has implications for the whole world, it is striking that the passage concentrates so much on life in the city. We tend to see cities as irredeemably bad – a human construct which we have imposed on nature and which inevitably make life worse than it might be, for all living things and not just for their human citizens. We talk about concrete jungles or concrete wastelands. But the Prophet is clear that cities, too, can be redeemed and are part of what it means to be truly human. Cities, like nature, can be made holy.

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