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 2:4 NIV)
Remember, remember the 11th of November.
Of course that’s not how the rhyme starts, but for 100 years now this nation has paused on 11th November (or the Sunday nearest to the 11th) to remember those who gave their lives in the ‘Great War’ of 1914-18, and the wars and conflicts that have taken place since.
The act of remembering for many people starts before Remembrance Sunday with the wearing of a poppy. During the First World War the previously beautiful countryside of Western Europe was fought over again and again with the landscape turning to fields of mud where little or nothing could grow. Bright red Flanders poppies however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of devastating destruction.
In May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’. McCrae’s poem inspired the use of the poppy to be a symbol of remembrance and hope. To remember that even in the carnage of death there is hope for life to come forth and flourish.
The prophet Isaiah also gives us cause to hope for a transformed world, where God will decide issues (judge), and arbitrate (settle disputes). Where God reigns, nationalistic interests are gone and weapons of war are made into garden tools. Eden has returned. The means of war (swords and spears), the practice of war (take up) and the mentality of war (train for) are also gone.
If you wear a poppy this year as a means of remembering and honouring those who have died in wars since 1914, why not also wear it with hope? Hope that life can indeed come out of death, hope that the Bible looks forward to a time when God reigns over this earth and we will live in a world without war.
Now those are things to remember to hope for.
Father, as we remember those who have given their lives in the conflicts of this world, we thank you for the certain hope that you bring peace where there is war, instruments of harvest where there are instruments of mass destruction, and life where there is death. May you speed the day when Isaiah’s vision becomes a reality.
Have a hopeful week,