Top 3 Pathways to Peace: Politics in the Book of Isaiah

Isaiah calls for peace today, not in the distant future. The book’s authors’ three political themes tell the people of God to broker peace, compassion and understanding. “Turn your swords into ploughshares.”

South Korea's military tests -- Isaiah calls for peace and reconciliation among nations. (Photo: New York Times/Yonhap via Reuters)

South Korean tanks conduct military drills in Cheorwon, near the demilitarized zone. North Korea insists on maintaining its nuclear arsenal. (Photo: New York Times/Yonhap via Reuters)

With North and South Korea staring each other down, insurgency in Mali, threats of post-election fighting in Kenya, and violent clashes in Syria, there’s never been a better time for humans to remember the lessons of Isaiah. Nations the world over get snagged in standoffs, step into diplomatic minefields, and succumb to territorial fracas on an hourly basis. What we can all learn from this book…

Isaiah’s Top 3 Themes for Peace

  1. Peace is possible NOW.
    Peace is not a pipedream for future administrations, future generations, or life after death. Isaiah is calling for peace right now. Do not rely on horses and chariots (the missiles and tanks of the ancient world) — that is, on human violence. Trust in God.
  2. Do not fight darkness with darkness.
    The job of the people of God is to be a light to the nations. You can’t be a light to the nations when you fight darkness with darkness. You cannot be a light to the nations when you use violence.
  3. We need the reconciliation of nations.
    Nations must reconcile. God’s salvation involves all of the nations, and it will come when God’s people respond to violence with compassion and love and mercy and the hope for reconciliation. That’s the message of Isaiah that he calls us to live into.

How can we do this? Isaiah is not naive. The authors know this is nearly impossible, it will be scoffed at, even ignored. But resist the urge to fight darkness with darkness. Resist the urge to distrust and overpower and fight. That is the teaching of God as brought to us by the prophet Isaiah. Now, how can we live that lesson?

For more on Isaiah, watch Adam Ericksen’s video in the Bible Matters series.

Ecclesiastes: Chasing the Wind

Ecclesiastes claims life is meaningless. Why? Because we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. The author compares himself to others when he claims to have had more possessions “than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.” (2:7) To make his point comparing ourselves with others, he repeats himself “I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.” He realized that all this “was vanity and a chasing after the wind.”

Yet, Ecclesiastes insists we can find joy in life. We can do so when we release our grasp on finding meaning in comparing ourselves with others and seek to love others as we love ourselves. This means doing what we can to make sure that Ecclesiastes statement that “it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in their toil” (3:13).

For the section on love, see W. Sibley Towners commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:9-10. “The point here is … the importance of the ability to love amid the fleeting absurdity of life.”