Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Animal Parade

In first grade I was in an animal parade on a Sunday afternoon. While my classmates brought dogs, cats, birds, and even rabbits, I had the show stealer—a goose.

“Goose-Goose” wasn’t just any goose—she had a unique passion that took her to the top of the class when it came to animal parades. Goose-Goose was in love with my little red wagon. (Every boy has a little red wagon, right?)

Wherever I pulled my little red wagon Goose-Goose was sure to follow. While other students dragged their humiliated cats around the circuit on leashes or waited for their rabbits to decide to take another hop, Goose-Goose happily continued her love affair with my wagon as I leisurely pulled it along. Waddling unaided a few webbed paces behind the wagon and quacking with gusto, Goose-Goose easily stole the show.
In Isaiah 11:6-8 the prophet tells us about the new earth. It is a place where leopards and goats will nap in each other’s embrace, wolves and lambs will share space, cows and bears will have lunch together (and not at the cow’s expense!), and if you want to see the show stealer, just wait till the children show up!

Isaiah reveals with amazement, “A little child will lead them.” Can you see it? No fences. No leashes. Just kids who are finally allowed to play with the big animals! Can you hear the kids? “Mom, Dad, you have to come to the animal parade! All of us kids are in it!”

Snakes will even be fair game for the little ones. Isaiah says, “The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest” (Isaiah 11:8). It doesn’t seem realistic, does it? No wonder the much-loved children’s Sabbath school song says, “Heaven is a wonderful place!”

But while we wait for Jesus to return and take us to His beautiful home, we remain wary of the wild—sin remains. We protect our children with passion and ferocity—they are our precious possession, our righteous responsibility. This is the parents’ charge: “Impress them [the  commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). It is our daily plod and plight that reveals both the nature and nurture of God to our children. The example they receive is the God they believe.

And thus it is so hideous that lions, wolves, and snakes abide unabated in our homes and churches. It was such horrors of the wild that caused Jesus to cradle a child close to His heart and say, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). God is in the business of judgment.

More so, God is in the business of forgiveness. Paul promised, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). Jesus lives (and died) to create new hearts. Through the prophet He demonstrated His passion for new-hearted people: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). If God can make the lion eat straw like an ox, it stands to reason that He can do even greater things with those created in His image.

Perhaps today is the day for you to seek the healing Jesus is offering, or to encourage someone else to do so. Abusing children is not OK. Hiding it doesn’t heal it. Ignoring it damns the offender, devastates the child, and delights the devil.

Parents, a day is coming when your children “will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace” (Isaiah 54:13). We must do our utmost to protect the children until the trumpet sounds and all people are changed by the brightness of His coming. Then we can be at peace, knowing that our children cannot be harmed.

I am excited about the day my children can walk through the streets of the New Jerusalem pulling a little red wagon. I wonder what peaceful giant will follow them. I can’t wait to watch the animal parade!

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