"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."
– Isaiah 11:6-9
Edward Hicks was a Quaker preacher and painter who was born in Pennsylvania in 1780. And Hicks was obsessed with the imagery of Isaiah 11. To him Isaiah chapter 11 was a picture of peace and paradise: a world in which a wolf would lie beside a lamb, and children would safely play with wild animals. As a painter Hicks painted 62 versions of Isaiah 11 in paintings called the Peaceable Kingdom.
In these paintings, Hicks attempted to capture not only Isaiah 11 but also Pennsylvania at the time. An American state was established by the help of Quaker - a group of Christians, who were committed to peaceful living. On the right in this painting Hicks illustrates Isaiah chapter 11, while on the left Hicks paints the treaty between the local Indians and the Pennsylvania leader and Quaker William Penn.
And when Hicks began painting Isaiah 11 he was hopeful that mankind, and in particular Pennsylvania, could establish a peaceful kingdom. But in time, Pennsylvania became divided, and conflict led to the Quakers, like William Penn, being kicked out of leadership.
As a result, in Hicks’ later paintings of Isaiah 11, he became cynical of this longed-for peaceable kingdom. In his early paintings the animals are joyful, but in his later paintings the animals are tense, exhausted, and even baring their teeth in hostility. And the children are not patting the animals but now controlling them.
THE DIFFICULTY OF PEACE
As humans, we have a deep longing for peace. We desire peace with those who are around us. We desire peace from the anxiety and fears that are within. And yet both social and mental peace is difficult to obtain.
No matter how well life is going for you, there’s always something for you to be anxious about. And just like it’s incredibly difficult for a hungry wolf to dwell and not devour a lamb, so it can be difficult for both countries and individuals to get along without conflict or disagreement.
The unfortunate reality is just like a lion has the violent desire to eat a juicy calf, so within us there is hunger for ambition, greed, status, and luxury. Desires that cause conflict with ourselves and those around us.
Edwards Hicks had to learn that true and complete peace is unattainable in this world. He had to learn that Isaiah 11, was a picture of Heaven.
A PEACEABLE KINGDOM
The ultimate peaceable kingdom where lions are transformed into vegetarians. A place where children will play with wolves, lions, bears, leopards and snakes.
As a parent it is exhausting looking out for clumsy and clueless children. You are constantly on high alert, to make sure they don’t run across the road, fall off the play equipment, or drink out of the dog’s bowl.
How peaceful it sounds to not have to be concerned about a child’s safety. I get stressed when my kid’s run through long grass in summer (#straya) - but in Isaiah 11 an infant will be playing by a cobra’s home with no danger at all.
Think about this, do you realise that in heaven, you won’t be anxious about anything? You won’t be worried about injury, pain, suffering or death. You won’t be stressed by your business or your boss. You won’t be anxious about being alone, about finances, or the future.
Doesn’t that sound delightful, doesn't that sound inviting and ultimately satisfying for your soul. A peaceable kingdom we crave and were made for.
But to enter this kingdom, you need to believe in the prince of peace. You need to believe in Jesus who conquered death on the cross, so we may have life. You need to put your trust in the lamb who was sacrificed for your sins, and the lion of Judah who rose again to give you hope.
Joel Deacon is the Associate Pastor at City on a Hill Melbourne. He is firmly convinced that we are designed for community, especially in a big and sometimes lonely city like Melbourne. Before becoming a pastor, Joel worked as a Civil Engineer and is always up for a chat about roads and bridges. But his greatest passion is talking to people about Jesus. Joel is married to Emma, and they have three kids Elijah, Isaac and Lily. An ideal day off for Joel would include coffee with his wife, smelling flowers with his daughter, wrestling with his boys, reading, and staying up late to watch EPL.