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. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 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)
Isaiah describe the nature of the kingdom of Christ, “the new David.” The imagery is amazing as it is beautiful. Read those words from verses 6-9 about this glorious kingdom. There are three aspects of this new Davidic kingdom that Isaiah pictures. First, there is reconciliation, an ending of hostilities (11:6). Wolves lying down with lambs, leopards lying down with goats, and fattened calves lying down with lions shows that there is an end to hostility in this new kingdom. Second, there is a change of nature (11:7). Cows and bears are eating the same food. The ox and the lion are both eating straw. There is a total change of nature that will occur in the creation during the reign of the new David. Third, the curse is removed (11:8). The hostility and enmity that existed between humanity and serpents ends. The infant has nothing to fear from the cobra and the viper.
Now, here is the sad thing. Many people read this text and think that this is talking about the end of the world or the second coming of Christ. They think that the earth will be made completely different and we will live on an earth where animals no longer fight or eat each other and children will no longer be bitten by snakes. I submit to you that these conclusions are drawn because we do not study through Bible books. We swoop into a text like this one, read verses 6-9 out of its context, and draw conclusions that do not fit the message of the prophecy. This amazing imagery is not concerned with fixing the world order around us as if it is God’s great concern that lions eat calves. Let’s put these verses back into their prophetic context.
The people are in hostility with God. Isaiah 9-10 declared that the anger of the Lord is still stretched out against the nation as judgment after judgment comes crushing against them. There is only a remnant that will saved and God is describing what life will be like for the remnant when the Davidic king arrives. When the King comes, there is going to be an end of the hostility between God and his people. Reconciliation is going to occur with God, and perhaps even picturing reconciliation between Israel and Gentiles as Ephesians 2 describes. God’s people will dwell in peace with God.
There is going to be a change of nature and change of order. Isaiah already declared this in 10:20 as well as in 4:2-3. The people under this King’s reign will faithfully depend on the Lord, the Mighty God, and no other. They will put their glory and honor in the Branch of the Lord. They will be called holy and have their filth and bloodstains cleansed (4:2-3).
The curse will be removed. Isaiah pictures the breaking of the curse. God’s people will not be hurt by the power of the serpent. The cobra and the viper will not hurt or destroy any of those in his holy mountain. Christ’s coming would be the crushing of the power of the serpent. Satan will be held powerless against those who are God’s faithful remnant. How is all this going to happen? Verse 9 elaborates that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” When the Messiah comes the knowledge of the Lord is going to spread throughout the earth as the nations will come to the holy mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2). We see the apostles instructed to carry out the message of the new Davidic king, preaching the gospel beginning in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. Isaiah pictured that hopeful, glorious kingdom where our hostility with God would end, we would have a nature that seeks him, and have the curse of sin removed.