Continuing with our theme of what it will be like in the Millennial Kingdom, we find the following in Isaiah 65:25. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw [hay?] like the ox, and dust shall [still] be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.”
Many have puzzled over lions eating hay. It is well known that their abdominal tracts are designed for carnivorous food. And so it is with all created beasts, fish, and birds. They all have their own specific dietary requirements. The lion’s mouth and teeth are designed for the consumption of flesh. A vegetarian lion could hardly be considered a lion any more. So what was the Lord conveying when he caused Isaiah to write these lines?
The solution requires an investigation of the Scriptural use of animals to describe human behaviour. Let us start with the best known example of all. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”” John 1:29 “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” Isaiah 53:7. The Isaiah reference explains John the Baptist’s use of the figure.
Thinking further of Jesus’ passion, we turn to Psalm 22:12-13. “Many bulls encompass me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” Who are these bulls roaring like lions? It doesn’t take much ingenuity to recognise them as the Jewish leaders. Furthermore, in verse 16 we read, “Dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” The figure now changes to dogs, the epithet Jews used when referring to Gentiles, in this case the Romans who were crucifying Him.
We are now ready to apply this figurative principle to Isaiah 11:6. “The wolf 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.” Something amazing and rather wonderful is happening in God’s holy mountain, where all true believers dwell. Whereas throughout the last 2000 years members of God’s Church have so often been at each other’s throats, so that Paul had to say, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another,” (Galatians 5:15) now a new state of peace, compassion and gentleness is observed, whereby those who had been of wolverine tendency are now observed to be reconciled to the lambs who had been attacked, and those who had once possessed the vicious nature of leopards and lions now have their bestiality drawn, and the “young goats and calves” no longer have any fear of them. Furthermore we are told that “a little child leads them”, reminding us that Jesus said, “Unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Perhaps Jesus was thinking of these words in Isaiah when He was speaking.
Now we are ready to understand the next verse in Isaiah 11. “The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Those who had “devoured and consumed one another”, as depicted by bears and lions, have now been taken through the fires of God’s refining discipline, and become gentle, no longer desiring to consume and destroy brethren for not walking according to their rigid theologies. Erstwhile bears and lions have become as tame and docile as though they were lambs and calves. A good example of this is in the life of Saul of Tarsus, a man whose mission could be described as that of a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But after his Damascus Road experience, he became as a little lamb, and his letters are full of love and compassion. His bestial venom had been drawn.
Here then is the answer to our question. We shall not be looking for lions and bears eating grass in the Kingdom. We shall be experiencing what Paul said in Ephesians 4:13. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And so all these figurative passages, using animals to depict human behaviour, are speaking of God’s elect, and the attainment of His great purpose to have a glorious Church, redeemed, purged, refined, cleansed, like little children, in the image of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus.