In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
Isaiah 27:1 ESV
There is the very real and powerful desire that we all have to see God do “His thing”. I don’t say “His thing” with any sense of hyper-familiarization, or with the flavor of commonality. I am not attempting to create a more accessible or simple way to understand the work of God. On the contrary, I say “His thing” because I don’t pretend to grasp with either mind or emotion any more than a blurry sliver of understanding when it comes to truly seeing “His kingdom come”.
I read this verse this morning and I found myself both excited and confused. I love the fact that the Bible actually talks about God slaying dragons. This image of the Hero is so clear in Isaiah’s words here. But at the same time, I’ve never seen a dragon…for that matter I’ve never seen God. So for there to be some kind of contest to the death between the two, while intrigued, I am largely unaware of the scope, the implications, or the image of that duel. Really, other than the fact that God wins no matter what I have no idea what else to make of any of this.
He slays dragons. As much as I do love this, I have to wonder what it means for me. When I pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, just what kind of revolution am I praying for? What kind of all-encompassing, universe shaking, life altering event am I attempting to so blithely invoke? Do I really want HIS kingdom to come?
I am quite certain that I do, though I am obviously basing this certainty on nothing more than what I know of God’s character and His treatment of me. When we pray, I wonder if we wouldn’t be better to served to attempt to really listen to what we are saying. We can grow so mechanical in our petitions and confessions that we don’t ever realize that some of the things we are asking for and agreeing with are things that, if granted on the spot, would change everything that we know about life.
Let us be cautious, as we pray for God to slay the dragons, that we actually mean what we ask. It is far too easy to perceive those beasts that imprison us as pets. We are far too apt to learn how to live comfortably under the shadow of oppression. But when we pray for God to come into a situation, we should know that He never comes into a dark place to survey it and affirm it. When we pray for God to move into a place we should know that we are praying for the One who is referred to as a “mighty man of war”, and an “all-consuming fire”, not some kind of cosmic tax assessor. And perhaps we don’t see the moving of God, at times, because He is aware that we aren’t really asking Him to change our lives, but to make them more comfortable.
Friends, let us not forget that when His kingdom does come, whether incrementally or fully, we will not find a more comfortable version of the life we have gotten used to, what we will find is that “all this have become new”. I encourage you to pray with a dedication to “seeing” what it is that you are asking for, and exactly what it would mean for God to do what we ask, and then assess if we are really interested in that kind of complete reformation or not. He is the dragon slayer, and He will slay dragons, even if we have them on a leash and even if they have parasitically attached themselves to us. This “coming of the kingdom” may be more painful than we want it to be, but there is balm for the wounds incurred. A healing balm that cannot be matched.
Buechner offers this beautiful passage about this idea:
“We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all of its terrible splendor the devastating power that is now mostly under restraint. Thy kingdom come on earth is what we are saying. And if that
were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be as phony as three dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak these words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.”
– Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark