The nature of the relationship between dreams and future reality depends on both the character of the dreamer and the essence of the dream.
Some dreams are so out of sync with the way things are that the dream’s realization can happen only in a fantasy world. Isaiah’s dream will appear to be one of those unless you acknowledge that the dream he gives voice to is of divine, not human origin.
One of the most poignant songs in Les Miserables comes after the failure of the student led revolution. It is a hymn sung by young Marius. He’s in a bar — a bar that is now empty but which, only a short time before, was the gathering place for his then-vibrant fellow students. Now, they are dead and Marius is alone. The words of his song:
Here they talked of revolution.
Here it was they lit the flame.
Here they sang about `tomorrow'
And tomorrow never came.
From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn
And they rose with voices ringing
I can hear them now!
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion
On the lonely barricade at dawn.
Youth has both its dreams and its daydreams. Some are or were about the moments of that then-present time — winning a critical game, meeting the right girl, acquiring that cherished auto or even just passing all one’s classes. Others are or were about personally expansive endeavors — developing the cure for cancer, becoming the first astronaut to land on Mars, landing a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame or even retiring at twenty-nine with a gazillion dollars. I think — or I would like to think — that the most common dreams of youth are more altruistic than either of these. These are the dreams that are indigenous to the corner table in a neighborhood bar or the casual chairs in a local coffeehouse. These are the dreams where the dreamers can see a world reborn.
Listen again to the words of Isaiah and tell me he was not a youthful dreamer.
The mountain of the LORD's house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
"Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths."
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war any more.
The nature of the relationship between dreams and future reality depends on both the character of the dreamer and the essence of the dream. Some dreams are so out of sync with the way things are that the dream’s realization can happen only in a fantasy world. Isaiah’s dream will appear to be one of those unless you acknowledge that the dream he gives voice to is of divine, not human origin.
Some dreamers are so out of sync with the demands of their dreams that their dream’s probable realization fades and disappears over time. This too is a hazard for those who would take Isaias’ dream seriously but would rely on themselves alone for its accomplishment.
Going up to the mountain of the Lord. . .
Having all peoples and all nations stream toward it . . .
Being joined by the multitudes in seeking the Lord’s instruction so that we might walk in his paths . . .
Beating swords into plowshares . . .
Beating spears into pruning hooks. . .
Seeing the cessation of training for war. . .
None of these are within the competence of men or nations; and in these matters it is not sufficient to admonish as Robert Browning did that “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Isaiah speaks what he hears, and what he hears is the Lord’s dream for us. But it is also Isaiah’s dream, and so also should it be ours. It is a masterfully participatory dream. Not a dream of just God alone, nor of just man alone. It requires, not just the efforts of men, but the efforts of men living within the grace and presence of God. It is a dream that requires not so much that we transform the world, but that we allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s Spirit.
I feel blessed by the mountains as if hugged by a close friend, so the recurring Biblical image of the Lord’s mountain is a special one for me.
A friend from years ago would observe the deteriorating foundation for a mountain home never built or the rotting roof rafters for a mountain cabin that hadn’t been moved since delivered, decades ago. Observing these he used to say that the mountains were filled with broken dreams. Seeing a world reborn by our efforts alone is but a pipe-dream — neither realistic, nor probable nor possible. Knowing that the dream presented by Isaiah is the dream of Our God, what do we need to do to relight the flame and see a world reborn?