The Wolf and the Lamb—Isaiah 11:6

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6, ESV).

el_buen_pastor

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them. “El Buen Pastor” (The Good Shepherd) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ca. 1650.

 In my previous post, I shared some observations regarding the above passage. Most of us have heard the phrase, “The lion shall lie down with the lamb,” so often that we think it is biblical. It seems to be a misquotation of Isaiah 11:6, though.

When we realize that we have misunderstood a passage of Scripture, or we thought it said something different from what it actually says, we need to take action. We need to find out what the Bible actually says and what the Holy Spirit is actually teaching us. Some people are taken aback by this passage, since the lion and the lamb are two aspects of Jesus’ character. They think that a prophecy of Jesus has been taken away if this verse does not say the lion and the lamb lie down together. This verse remains incredibly messianic. It speaks of the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, although not exactly as many people expect. (Jesus’ nature as the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God are brought together in Revelation 5:5-6, and I intend to share about that passage in a forthcoming post.)

Isaiah 11:6 is a key point in a memorable messianic prophecy in the book of Isaiah. It is a lengthy prophecy, one that begins a few chapters earlier, where Isaiah said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); it is a follow-up to Isaiah’s prophecy of Emmanuel, who would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:23).

The prophecy continues, speaking of God’s judgment on the Assyrians and eventual restoration of the people of Israel. Then, in Isaiah 11, we see a glorious promise of the Messiah:

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins” (Isaiah 11:1-5, ESV).

I highlighted the word “branch” in there; the Hebrew word is “netzer,” the root of the town name “Nazareth.” When Matthew 2:23 quotes the prophets by saying, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” he is paraphrasing this passage. The “branch of Jesse” was the son of David and son of God, raised in the “town of the branch,” Nazareth. Students of bible prophecy will recognize many of the other attributes of this stump/branch of Jesse as attributes of our Lord, particularly when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

This is the context of Isaiah 11:6 and the verses that follow:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9, ESV).

To be honest, from a lamb’s perspective, it does not matter whether it is a wolf or a lion. In the natural realm, both animals would have the same opinion about a lamb: It must be delicious! The wolf does not dwell with the lamb; he eats it. If a lion lies down with a lamb, he eats it. In the natural realm, neither a wolf nor a lion lives peacefully with lambs; given the opportunity, they are both the gentle farm animal’s mortal enemy. The same can be said about the relationship between the leopard and the young goat, or the lion and the calf.

However, the Bible promises a coming age when the suffering that is a normal part of life will be no more: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Scripture describes death and suffering as the symptoms of a sin-soaked creation, but Isaiah 11 points to a time when suffering will be no more.

Mankind continues to try to solve the world’s problems by purely secular means. We see this especially in politics and social activism. Another mass shooting? Gun control will solve that. Another terrorist attack? Let’s declare a war on terror. Another epidemic? Surely we can eradicate this disease so nobody ever suffers again. We make grand plans to create a better world. Some of them have limited or even great success. But few, if any, have perfect success. Despite our best efforts, there will be wars, there will be crime, and there will be poverty and disease.

Someday, Jesus will return and wipe every tear from our eyes. And then, the wolf will lie down with the lamb (and I would not be surprised if a lion joins them, and they all enjoy one another’s company). And the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who came as a child born of a virgin, shall lead them.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Categories: Bible meditations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The Wolf and the Lamb—Isaiah 11:6

  1. Pingback: The Lion IS the Lamb | Darkened Glass Reflections

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