I recently sat on the sandy shores of a Southern California beach enjoying a balmy winter day with my wife and two oldest granddaughters. They had ventured down the beach to collect rocks and seashells, leaving me alone to muse about the panorama unfolding before me.
The sea that day was soft and still and was like an endless glassy mirror with no end in sight. Its color was a steel gray-blue, and the waters were gently framed with high cirrus clouds that cast a slightly brooding tone over the already still body of water.
As my eyes drank in the watery expanse to the clear line of the distant horizon, my ears were drawn back nearer to shore, as I began to pick up the rhythmic sound of the lightly crashing waves coming one after another to take their turn in touching the shore. It was as if the waves began to steadily pound in a whispering manner, "As the waters...as the waters...as the waters."
It propelled my thoughts back to the prophetic declaration and encouragement of Isaiah 11:9: "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
Sitting on the beach with prophets
Now before I go any further, please understand, I was not having any out-of-body experience or trance. I say this, chuckling as I type. But I do feel it was a personally inspiring moment of time set in the midst of God's creation that activated all my senses to transport my mind and heart beyond simply a solitary seaside moment to a future time.
I began to think I wasn't the first to sit on the beach and have God "talk to me" through such waterscapes. I began to recognize that I needed to move over and share my rocky perch with Isaiah and the prophet Habakkuk, who repeated the same thought (Habakkuk 2:14). Furthermore, I recognized that I needed to scoot down on my rocky bench a bit more to make room for the apostle John, who spoke of "no more sea" in Revelation 21:1.
How did they come to record such things? Have you ever thought about it? Just where was Isaiah when he wrote his message, and how did he experience God's prophecies? Was he taking dictation from God in a hut in some remote desert spot? Did he say: "Sorry, God, could you repeat that one more time for me—I didn't quite get it—'as the waters cover the sea'? Uh, I don't understand what that means. What's a sea?"
No! Isaiah must have seen the sea. Habakkuk must have walked on a sandy beach along the Mediterranean. John the apostle with his aged eyes must have longingly gazed across the straits that separate the island of Patmos from the mainland and viewed the expansive "sea" as a barrier between him and his beloved Church family in Asia Minor. He must have sighed and longed for the day when there would be no such barriers as "seas" or hostile ocean waters to hinder relationships between God or people.
Just how big is big in modern terms?
These conveyors of God's truth, perched in their small vantage points along an ancient coastline, were inspired to write "God-breathed" concepts in tangible terms. In modern times due to exploration and technology, we can appreciate what the expansiveness of waters that "cover the seas" truly means. The oceans are gigantic! It has been estimated that 71 percent of the earth is covered by ocean water. In one sense there is one vast expanse of a singular global ocean set apart by continental masses. Even so, we break down this mass with names like Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic.
The average depth of many of these oceans ranges from 8,000 to 12,000 feet. In such waters, you could put 10 Empire State Buildings on top of one another. Some spots plunge to nearly 6½ miles below the surface. You could easily drop Mt. Everest in "the deep" and never see it through the darkened waters. Just imagine this liquid universe, most of which never sees the light of day because of its depth.
How does oceanography help explain God's eternal truths? Let's understand that where light can't invade, God does pervade. The Psalms remind us, "The sea is His, for He made it" (Psalm 95:5). Yes, God owns it.
The psalmist further engages our mind to consider the reach of God by asking: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your Hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7-10).
Yes, God's reach is unfathomable. Nothing remains apart from Him and the impact of His sovereignty. While my eyes could only see that which was directly in front of me in time and space, God has chosen to open the eyes of all of our hearts by allowing us to peer into the future social and spiritual environment of a brand-new age that the Bible portrays as a stark contrast to the society we currently experience.
Isaiah 11 speaks of the triumph of God the Father through Jesus Christ. It tells of the pervasiveness of the Messiah's reign of 1,000 years that will transform every aspect of the human condition. Over the years, when considering Isaiah 11:9, I have often thought of the length, depth and breadth of this statement. But I never fully comprehended the pervasive nature of water that fills and impacts every inch of space below the surface. Water fills everything in between. There is no isolating its impact.
Isaiah's watery analogy is in stark contrast to the story of Noah and the impact of water on his times. Those waters brought death to all living things. The element spoken of by Isaiah, the water of God's Word (Ephesians 5:26), brings life to a future society by a greater Noah, the Messiah, who not only cares for the temporary well-being of mortal animals, but the spiritual well-being of humanity's eternal salvation.
The fullness of God's Kingdom in motion
As we glance at the beginning of Isaiah 11, we discover what is actually covering the earth at the time of Christ's return is not water, but the personal qualities of the Messiah found in verses 1 through 5. Again, not water, but life-giving components like "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (verse 2).
The intervention of Jesus Christ in earthly affairs even permeates the nature of the animal kingdom, as declared in verses 6-8. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (verse 6). The changed nature of bears and even cobras is mentioned.
In a grand sense there is a return to Eden. The One known as the Word, the Lord of the Old Testament, will again live among His people just as He did with Adam and Eve. Animals will no longer be adversarial or threatening to one another or humanity. The curse upon the serpent and its enmity toward the woman will be healed.
But why such a change?
Isaiah's rollout of incredibly good news is but a lead-up to verse 9 that actually focuses on why this evil age will be transformed to what God initially intended at Eden. It is because of the "knowledge of the Lord" being made available to all and, for the first time, being accepted on a grand scale by the descendants of Adam and Eve.
Unlike the powerful and churning waters of the sea, this knowledge is not only going to stretch across the earth, but it will penetrate the strongholds of the human heart in a new way until every inch of that heart surrenders to the power and perfection of God's Spirit.
This expansive, deep and far-reaching knowledge is going to break down the barriers between peoples who have experienced antipathy toward one another for ages. Verse 10 speaks of the inclusion of the gentiles and their recognition of the Messiah by rallying around His banner. The prophet shows how the Messiah will reclaim the remnants of Israel for His purposes in verses 11-12.
The impact of God's unbridled Word, which offers knowledge of our incredible human destiny, will create a seamless environment that will touch every living person. People will no longer react in horror and dismay at God's precious truths and commandments but will passionately stream to Jerusalem proclaiming, "'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
As humanity absorbs such precious knowledge, there is one casualty left behind in the trash bin of human nature. It is war! Isaiah 11:9 proclaims, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain." Why? The answer follows immediately on the heels of the proclamation. "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
Again, just imagine, as I did as those waves came rolling ashore with the rhythmic whisper of "as the waters...as the waters...as the waters." That means no more war! And yes, it means no more internal conflicts that separate people, folks like you and me, from others—because the source of all war will be pinpointed and dealt with. The Word of God does not defuse bombs but defuses the hearts that make the bombs (James 4:1-2) .
Considering the sand castles of my heart
As the sun began to sink lower on that day of my personal reflections along the Southern California coastline, one more thought came to me as I saw my family come closer and I knew it would be time to go.
With a quick glance I looked at the quiet, yet powerful, surge of the encroaching tide, and then I looked at the sand directly in front of me. I asked myself, "With all that God is sharing with me today by this moment in time with this tool of His creation, how many personal sand castles—plans of my own making—do I continue to place and strive to prop up in the path of His living words?" God had granted me a living workshop in prophecy not to be wasted.
Why? Peter reminds us that the words of prophecy are not designed to simply inform us and excite our external senses but to transform our very nature. We are to consider the manner of people we should be, "in holy conduct and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).
Perhaps the words of Isaiah 30:21 ("This is the way, walk in it") are granted best voice by the host of heaven when they proclaim, "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:13, emphasis added).