Tanks Become Tractors
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 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 2:3-4)
In their book of liturgy Common Prayer, Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro render that classic line from the middle of verse four this way:
Teach us, Lord, to twist our tanks into tractors and tilling blades.
I have always paid attention to the first part of this verse — the destruction of instruments of war. Not until today have I really noticed the last part of the verse. The prophet is not just saying to destroy the war machine, he is saying replace those instruments of death with agricultural implements. Instead of making war, till the ground and make food.
Violence is perpetrated for many reasons, but hunger produced by poverty and economic inequity is most certainly one of these. I love how the prophet moves us past a philosophical comment on geopolitics and on to how we bring the kingdom of God. We attack the root of the problem. We become the people who help others produce what they most need.
The peace (shalom) of God is not just wished for, it is worked for.