Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Swords into Ploughshares

Read Isaiah 2:1-5.

Advent PonderingsThe image of beating swords into ploughshares is a common one, especially in the Bible. We read it here in Isaiah, as well as in Micah 4. Scholars think that both prophets had been exposed to this image from an older source, and used it out of familiarity.

On December 4, 1959, the Soviet Union gave the gift of a sculpture to the United Nations. The sculpture, created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, is named “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares,” and sits in the North Garden.

1959 is mostly known for the Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro was their leader and as he rose in power, would become allies with Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. This would make the United States nervous.  During the Cold War, the image of beating swords into ploughshares was often employed in discussions on the nuclear weapons race. War seemed inevitable.

It was common to live by the sword.

In Isaiah’s day, Judah and Jerusalem were in a place of political turmoil and were often under attack from other nations. In fact, throughout the book of Isaiah, we see that Judah was under attack from Assyria, Babylon, and Persia – some of the great world powers of their day.

And Isaiah delivers the call to his people to transform their swords into ploughshares. The sculpture in the United Nations garden depicts a man with a hammer beating a sword into a plough, transforming a weapon of war into a tool for peace. The plough was a basic farming tool. A tool that would give life.


Isaiah’s call was to drop the weapons of death and pick up tools of life.

There have been many, many moments since the Cold War ended where war seemed – and was – inevitable. It is hard to imagine, in a post-9/11 world, that peace will ever be possible. And yet the promise in Isaiah is salvation is for all nations. Isaiah paints a picture of God’s wide justice that is available to all people of all nations. The Assyrians. The Babylonians. The Persians. The Cubans. And, yep, even the Soviet Union.

God’s justice and peace is for all people in all places.

The same promise – and the same call – comes to us this Advent. The promise of salvation through the life and death of Jesus Christ is for all people of all nations. And yet, in the midst of that promise, we are called to be peace-bearers in a war torn world. Our day to day actions and words should be those of peace and life, and not war and death.

Come, let us walk in the light.

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