At the end of the Second World War, people hoped there would be a lasting peace. But around Remembrance Day, the commemoration of past events is mixed with live reports of ongoing strife, death, and streams of refugees in various parts of the world. Apparently, advances in the realms of education and technology are not enough to deal with the lack of love that leads people into armed conflicts with each other. There are people among us who know firsthand what it is to suffer the terrors and deprivations of a war. They can tell us something of what it means: the humiliating experience of an occupation, the loss of the freedom to come and go as you please, hunger, fear, hatred, sorrow, and despair. Hearing about this is important. It is hard to fathom such experiences if you have not gone through them.
In the United Nations garden there is an interesting statue donated in 1959 by what was then the Soviet Union. It is the figure of a muscular man beating a sword into a plowshare. The allusion is to a text from the Bible in Isaiah 2:4, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Many people look to the United Nations to provide a platform for international dialogue and cooperation. But can man achieve a lasting peace through his own efforts? The context for the Bible quote just mentioned tells us that ultimately peace can only come from God. “The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3b-4). The United Nations is founded on the acknowledgment of human rights. The text from Isaiah makes it clear that human rights cannot be made secure without God’s Word affecting the lives of human beings. When you continue to read in the prophecy of Isaiah, it becomes clear that the lasting peace that God gives can only be found through the Servant of the LORD, the Messiah. We know this Servant as Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The rest of the Bible tells us more about Him. Through Jesus Christ, God restores the bond between Himself and sinners. Through Christ, God also brings about unity among people of many national background and grants healing. Former enemies from all sorts of countries learn about forgiveness and unite in the desire to serve the LORD.
Isaiah describes the promised peace in a way that we can understand. Instruments of war are changed into tools for agriculture. Swords become plowshares. Spears become pruning hooks. Those are tools for farmers. Farming is a picture of a peaceful endeavour. Its results sustain life instead of destroying it. Life blossoms instead of being annihilated. This peace will be permanent. Why? Because there will be no more training for war. This is a picture of a total change of heart and life. The change in basic attitude is so radical that war becomes unthinkable. The peace between individuals and nations is all-embracing. In this life, we can receive a foretaste of such peace. It is a peace that extends beyond this life and is received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Andrew J. Pol