God’s Animal Kingdom Come
By Wendy Alsup
I took a break Saturday from wrestling with God over the election results. I did something that didn’t seem to serve any present need in the world. It didn’t minister to my kids or my church. It didn’t further my writing ministry or help any of my community college math students. Instead, my parents watched my boys for the day so I could go out on a boat and help with a NOAA survey of inland bottlenose dolphins in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Knowing my love for marine mammals, my dad in particular encouraged me to do it despite my feelings of guilt for bailing on my parents and kids.
So I drove to Hilton Head and joined a crew who spent the day cruising inland waters in cold and windy weather. We didn’t see many dolphins until the very end of our day, when we stumbled upon a group of 8 or 10, including a mom with several juveniles. Sea birds hovered close to the dolphins as they were feeding, and one of the juveniles rose out of the water for a bit with what seemed the intent of trying to interact with the birds. We saw several other types of dolphin behavior, and despite the weather, I had a great time.
Then today, as I was making dinner and my young, curious cat watched me from the opposite island countertop (I don’t let her get on the ones where I make dinner), meowing at me from time to time in her little communicative way, it dawned on me what these interactions with animals mean to me. When I communicate with an animal or watch them communicating with each other, it pulls at my longing for God’s kingdom come. The lion lay with the lamb in the Garden of Eden, and some animals apparently even communicated with humans if we can infer anything from the fact that Eve exhibits no surprise when the snake begins talking with her.
After the Fall, though, mankind killed animals for food and the lamb became prey for the lion. Humanity didn’t just harm animals for survival, many humans have harmed animals out of spite, hardness of heart, or worst of all a perverse pleasure in inflicting pain.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the goat.
The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together,
and a child will lead them.
7 The cow and the bear will graze,
their young ones will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit,
and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den.
This peace between mankind and animals and between predator and prey is just one facet of the peace of God’s kingdom when all is restored. Isaiah goes on to talk about others that hit me where I have most wrestled this election season.
4 He will judge the poor righteously
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
He will strike the land
with discipline from His mouth,
and He will kill the wicked
with a command from His lips.
5 Righteousness will be a belt around His loins;
faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.
9 None will harm or destroy another
on My entire holy mountain,
for the land will be as full
of the knowledge of the Lord
as the sea is filled with water.
When I see a young dolphin interacting with a seabird or my cat meows to me that she wants another snack, I hear echos of something far off and much bigger, though I can’t quite get to it from where I am right now. It reminds me of the day when no one harms another, when life is valued, the oppressed are uplifted, and dignity is restored. Righteousness reigns in that day, because the world is filled with the knowledge of God like the ocean is with water. That is an inspiring, hopeful image.
God’s kingdom is coming. And He doesn’t come back to a marginalized church fighting off attackers in a corner of the world. That’s Scofield and Darby’s 20th century invention, not the historic understanding of Christ’s return to the church. In fact, look just a bit past our own disillusionment with American evangelicalism and rising secularism, and you will see a vibrant growing church in Africa, South America, and Asia. The basic dignity of human life is respected in more and more areas of the world. Poverty rates worldwide are at an all-time low and life expectancy at an all-time high.
Isaiah ends his prophecy,
10 On that day the root of Jesse
will stand as a banner for the peoples.
The nations will seek Him,
and His resting place will be glorious.
And with Jesus’ repeated declaration during His earthly ministry that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, I am encouraged to enjoy my interactions with my communicative cat and young dolphins having fun with seabirds, because it breaks into my discouragement when I feel overwhelmed with the pain and rancor, abusive speech and contempt for the weak in the world. It reminds me of Eden and what was likely the daily experience of Adam and Eve before the Fall. It reminds me too of the promises of God that the end is coming and it will be glorious. I hope in that Day.