June 2, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
A friend of a friend. That's who Sam was to me when I was finishing high school and preparing to go to Moody Bible Institute. I knew Sam loved the Lord and also was pursuing ministry training. Our paths crossed a few times because of mutual friendships. Conversation with Sam was always rich. One conversation sticks in my memory even to this day. A conversation about polar bears.
Sam loved to talk about the day when Christ would return and right every wrong and restore the world to its Eden-like paradise. His eyes would brighten and a huge smile would come onto his face and he would simply say, “Polar bears!” After further probing we found that Sam was thinking about the promises of Isaiah 11 and how they would impact the animal kingdom in Christ’s kingdom. The fear, the animosity, and the savageness that create separation between animals and humans would be gone. We will be able to enjoy every single one of God’s creatures in new ways.
Isaiah 11 is a vision of the Messiah’s kingdom yet to come (the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” is the Messiah). To help illustrate the great extent of the righteousness and peace that comes with the Messiah’s reign, Isaiah turns his attention to the animals in verses 6-8:
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.
Sam read this passage with us and said, “Imagine playing with polar bears!” There was a childlike delight and excitement for what could be; for what will be. No animal will be endangered. No human will be threatened. A clear vision of what is promised in Christ produces hope and longing for the return of Christ.
This week a lot of attention has been given towards the debates of animal rights and conservation along with human rights and protection (not to mention the debate about parenting). This is the bottom line: this world is not as it ought to be; it is not the way God intended it to be. Every portion of creation has been marred and affected by sin. All of us with creation will continue to groan under the effects of sin until the righteous king returns to establish his full kingdom on earth. “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” (Is. 11:3-4).
Part of the Christian response to the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo is to grieve the systemic effects of sin on all of creation, repent of personal sin, and long for the return of the King.
When I graduated high school a group of my friends gave me a congratulations card. Sam was also invited to sign the card for me. All Sam wrote was “Polar Bears!” Clinging to the vision of all that Christ has done and will do sustains hope as we persevere in a broken world.