For the Dogs
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……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
Most of you didn’t know Paula was expecting again. We’ve kept it pretty quiet, but she’s been expecting for quite some time. And we’re happy to announce the little one has arrived. Her name is Lucy. She was 6 pounds and has lots of yellow hair. And four legs. And fuzzy ears. And a long tail. Paula’s been expecting a new puppy since our last dog died seven years ago, and it’s finally arrived.
Lucy is a yellow Labrador and she has wiggled and squirmed her way into our hearts. I like to think of myself as something of a curmudgeon-in-training, not as easily swayed by cuteness as others. But Lucy has set me pretty far back in my training regimen - she is just so cute and I’m such a mush. Samuel and I wanted to call her Murphy but the Bolt men lost naming rights to the Bolt women. Since we are such wonderful, servant-hearted, others-centered men, we let the women get their way. That….and with only two men and four women in our home, we men lost the vote. Sometimes democracy stinks……
I love my puppy for many reasons, not the least of which is how she pictures the glories of Isaiah 11, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Isaiah 11 pictures the reversal of the curse under which Creation is suffering because of Adam’s fall into sin. The Apostle Paul describes this curse in Romans 8. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:20-22).
Don’t miss what Creation is groaning for – the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Humanity’s highest glory is in its right relationship to God. When humanity is right with God, Creation is right with humanity. God always intended Man to rule over Creation as his Vice-Regents. God commanded Adam and Eve to have dominion over all of Creation (Genesis 1). Creation was created to be under right and good human rule. Since the tragedy in Eden, it has not been. Adam handed over the keys of Creation to that ancient Dragon, the one who Jesus said is “the ruler of this world,” Satan (John 14:30). Creation is under a curse, ruled by a cursed creature.
Isaiah 11 is so wonderful because it pictures the day when the curse is reversed and Creation rejoices in the right rule of Man again. All of Creation, including the animals, will joyfully, willingly submit itself to human rule. Well, actually, it will submit itself to humanity because it will be ruled by the one perfect human being, Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected God-Man.
Genesis 3 tells us that a physical manifestation of the curse on Creation are thorns and thistles. Speaking of the ground, God tells Adam “thorns and thistles it (the ground) shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:18). Jump ahead to the New Testament - when Matthew describes how the Roman soldiers tortured Jesus before his crucifixion, he says “and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand” (Matthew 27:29). Jesus is taking one of the symbols of the curse on Creation – thorns – and he is bearing them on his head. His death and resurrection are not just about individual salvation; they are also about reversing the curse on Creation. The thorns on his head show that when Jesus dies he is taking Creation’s curse down into the grave with him, and when he rises – free of the crown of thorns – he is evidencing that he is the Curse-Reverser. He is showing that he is the one to bring about the perfect, restored Creation of Isaiah 11.
What does all this have to do with Lucy? One of the ways God, in his faithfulness and grace, strengthens our hope for a restored Creation is by planting little pictures of it all over. When the gardener works her soil and plants her seeds and pulls the weeds and nurtures the plant as it grows, she is picturing the new creation, when humanity lovingly and sovereignly subdues, cares for and tends a willing, joyful Creation. (Unless she’s growing zucchini – there’s nothing at all redemptive about that. Nasty waste of perfectly good soil and nutrients and proof of the fall.)
And there is another picture: after the flood, God blessed Noah and his sons and told them to be fruitful and multiply. Then God said, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth…..into your hand they are delivered (Genesis 9:2). When you walk by a squirrel or a rabbit or any other wild creature, they always run away from you because they have the fear and dread of you in them. That is what God’s Word says. But when I see Lucy contentedly cuddling in the arms of my kids, or sleeping peacefully in her bed on the floor in spite of family noise around her, or on her back enjoying one of her many daily belly rubs, I see no fear or dread in her. She is not afraid of me or of Paula or of the kids. The other night on a walk, a large dog barked at Lucy through a fence. Lucy was scared and only calmed down when I picked her up. She was afraid of the dog, not of me. That seems a lot closer to Isaiah 11 than to Genesis 9.
It is right and good, and an amazing picture of the gospel and of our curse-killing King, when we take an animal into our home and love it and care for it. When Lucy runs to me when I get home from work, she is running away from the curse and towards an Isaiah 11 world, right into the arms of her human master. More than that, she is running to Jesus of Nazareth, because I am, as a sinner now saved by that thorn-bearing Redeemer, his representative in this world. So are you, if you are saved by the blood of that death-killing King. Even though it doesn’t look like it, Jesus has killed the curse and is even now bending the entire cosmos to his perfect will. In a world filled with apparent chaos and the final violent outbursts of a defeated Dragon, God wants us to get a glimpse of the Kingdom to come, a Kingdom in which a wolf dwells with a lamb and a calf frolics with a lion. The wagging tail and excited licks of a little yellow puppy show us what is coming.
Whether you have a dog or cat or hamster or cockatoo or horse, when they long for your touch or sit in your hand or sleep at your feet or bear you peacefully on their back, you and your pet are picturing a fallen world made right, a broken Kingdom made whole, a fallen cosmos redeemed. Never, never, never think less of your love and care for your pet than that. As you love and care for them in finite measure, you are picturing the love and care your King has for his Creation in infinite measure. Do not mock God by thinking pets are meaningless things. God treasured your pet long before you did, and he is glorified when by your love for your pet you display for the world the coming glory of an Isaiah 11 cosmos.
If my fuzzy little Lucy could talk, she would tell you she does not fear me because long ago, a perfect Lamb bore some thorns on his head and hung on a tree. He took care of fear and dread forever. Who knew a cute little high-pitched bark and a happy, wagging tail could say so much?
Who knew? The Lamb knew.