On Duct Tape, Swords and Ploughshares

by Brian Walsh

I need a new Bible.

Some of you have seen my Bible at Wine Before Breakfast or in my office. And you know that the duct tape (that great Canadian solution to a world falling apart) isn’t doing it anymore.

My Bible is falling apart.

Want to read the first few chapters of Genesis? Forget it. Not possible.

How about Colossians? Well, that one’s so marked up from years of interpretation that its hard to read through the underlinings and marginalia.

But there is one passage that I can’t read in my Bible because, well, that page has just been so well-thumbed that I’ve actually thumbed a hole right through it. It looks like this:

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall             eir swords into plowshares,
and their sp      to pruning hooks;
nation shall not               sword against nation,
neither shall th       rn war any more.

You can perhaps visualize where the rip in the page lies.

The text is, of course, Isaiah 2.4, and I think that we are all familiar with the metaphors that Isaiah is using here.

And I guess that I’ve either read this text many, many times in my Bible, or perhaps I have also read the text rather aggressively over the years.

When the word of the Lord comes out of Zion, when the nations come to Zion for instruction, the prophetic word is about the transformation of the implements of violence and war into the tools of cultivation and peace.

Swords become plowshares
and spears are now pruning hooks.

From cutting through the flesh of a human being, to turning the soil for planting.
From impaling an enemy on a spear, to pruning a fruit tree so that it will flourish.

From domicide to the making of home.
From ecocide to the fruitfulness of creation.

The problem is that the prophet says all of this in the future tense.

They shall beat their swords …
Not now, perhaps, but when the day of redemption comes.

And that is why this remains an Advent promise.
We so deeply and painfully long for such a transformation of our lives from enmity to peace.

Whether we are talking about
the ecological crisis of “this bluegreen ball in black space
……battered and abused and lovely,”
the geo-political violence of “stinking torture states,”
…or the family brokenness of “these hard-shelled husbands and wives,”
we long that the swords of our ecological, political and family wars
would be traded in for the tools that will cultivate shalom.
Deep and healing shalom.

I need a new Bible.
And I need anew every day, this vision of shalom.
I need a new Bible.
But I also need the new world that my old Bible envisions.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

One Response to “On Duct Tape, Swords and Ploughshares”

  1. Deborah

    Such beautiful thoughts for Advent. Advent can so easily become anodyne, because really, how are we suffering? Hmmm. How are we not suffering in this wicked world? How can we not feel the cloud of pain that surrounds us, even if we think we’re okay. And are we okay? Have we closed our eyes? Do we think we are first, and destined to stay that way? Or if not that, do we think we can ourselves reverse our last place status? Advent is our wake up alarm. All is not well. But we awake, not to take arms against a sea of troubles, but to surrender to the One. Lord Jesus, come soon.


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