Prince of Peace

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

I majored in history in college.  One of the things that simply amazes me is the sheer number of conflicts that mark human history.  The history of every nation is scarred by war.  In our brief history as a nation, we have fought in at least ten major wars and been engaged in several other violent conflicts.  One doesn’t have to be a student of history to realize that peace is elusive.  We can simply look into our offices, our schools, our neighborhoods, and even our homes.  We are indeed a people marked by conflict.

Roughly seven hundred and fifty years before the first Christmas, Isaiah wrote of a coming king who would usher in peace.  He would be able to do what no one else has ever been able to do.  He would be able to broker a peace between God and man and thus be able to broker a lasting peace between all peoples.

We see this announcement reinforced on the first Christmas night.  The angelic messenger announced to the shepherds that the birth of the Messiah would bring peace on whom His favor rests.  In other words, Jesus’ life and death would bridge the gap between us and God.  He does for us what none of us can do on our own.  He rights our relationship with God.  And, once our vertical relationship with God is straightened out, then God can work to straighten out our relationships with each other.  The only way for us to have real peace is to look to God.  Anything else will ultimately fizzle out and come up short.

When we connect with Jesus and embrace the peace He offers, we have peace with the One that matters.  Then, with that peace firmly in place, He works in our lives to grow us in order to have peace with others.  He begins to chip away at our selfishness and our impatience.  He helps us to speak in a way that is graceful yet pointed when it needs to be.  And while we will never enjoy ultimate peace here and now, He promises us a time when He will reign and there will be nothing but peace.  Peace in our homes.  Peace in our neighborhoods.  Peace everywhere.  That’s definitely something worth studying.

Further Reading:  Romans 5; John 14


Everlasting Father

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

By now, you’ve been through Black Friday and lived to tell about it.  You’ve survived Cyber Monday.  You’ve endured the rush to go, shop, buy, and save.  Why are these events so crazy?  Part of the reason for the frenzy is the brevity of time.  We have to run hard and run fast because these deals expire soon.  First come, first served.  Limited quantities available.  The offers are great, but they’re short.  Like Cinderella, they all come crashing down at the sound of the clock striking twelve.  These are promises with an expiration date.

In the verse we’ve read over the last couple of days, we see that the prophet Isaiah describes the coming Messiah as “Everlasting Father.”  The coming king will protect and provide for His people like a loving father would.  His love and oversight of them would not come with an expiration date.  His provision and protection is not temporary or short-lived.  Rather, it is for all eternity.

It seems inevitable that the minute something breaks we dig out the warranty papers only to find that the warranty expired last week.  We call customer service with the hopes that they will come through for us.  More often than not, they don’t.  The warranty was for a limited time.  Its protection was temporary.  It had an expiration date and when our gadget or gizmo breaks, we’re on our own.

The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us, however, that Jesus is with us forever (Hebrews 13:5) and He “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  Jesus is unchanging.  He is forever the same.   And, if we belong to Him, He cares for us like a shepherd tends his sheep (Psalm 23:1-4).  He holds us.  He protects and provides as a loving father.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Forever.

Further Reading:  John 10

Mighty God

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Maybe it’s just me, but we don’t use “mighty” much anymore.  At least not in a context of real power and strength.  If you’re a little bit older, you may remember “Mighty Mouse.”  If you have a grade-schooler playing sports, he or she may be on a “Mighty Mites” team of some kind.  But, hardly do we hear someone say “he’s a mighty person” or “they have a mighty military” or “they’re a mighty tough football team.”  Mighty almost sounds comical anymore.

In days gone by, however, the word mighty spoke to immense power and strength.  This is what Isaiah has in mind as he continues describing the coming Messiah.  Not only does the Messiah demonstrate awe-inspiring wisdom and offer wonderful words of counsel, but He is also the mighty God.  He is the very embodiment of power and ability.  All things are possible to Him.  Nothing is beyond Him.  Power resonates from His very being.

Today, we characterize Jesus as a mild-mannered guy walking around dispensing pithy little sayings.  To many of us, He is Yoda without the cane and the funny speech.  The Bible, on the other hand, gives us a completely different picture of Jesus.  He is the mighty God.  He can do anything.  He crackles with power and ability.  He’s not Clark Kent.  He’s Superman.

What’s the practical implication of Jesus being the mighty God?  Simple.  Nothing is too big for Him.  There is nothing He cannot do.  He can create something out of nothing (Colossians 1:16).  He can turn a little into a lot (Matthew 14:16-21).  He can heal the sick (Luke 4:40), give sight to the blind (John 9:25), speech to the mute (Mark 9:25), and hearing to the deaf (Mark 7:37).  He can enable the lame to leap with joy (Matthew 15:30-31).  He can even raise the dead (John 11:43-44).  He can do anything and everything, and we can do anything in Him (Philippians 4:13).  So who better to lean on this Christmas season and all the days that follow?  Look to Jesus.  He is the Mighty God.

Further Reading:  Philippians 4

Wonderful Counselor

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

A generation ago, our parents looked to Dear Abby for advice.  Today, we are the generation of Oprah and Dr. Phil.  And, it seems that those that are coming after us turn to Google for the advice they need.  Whatever our age and whatever our resource, the fact that we are seeking counsel says something.  We all need guidance from time to time.  We all need advice.  The lesson worth remembering, however, is that the advice we’re given is only as good as the source.

Over 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the birth of a special child.  He would fulfill the hopes and the dreams of generations of men and women.  He would be a great deliverer and He would have authority resting squarely on His shoulders.  And He would be characterized by the name wonderful counselor.

In ancient times and cultures, names meant something.  They revealed something of the character of the individual.  The prophet tells us that Jesus, this child to be born, would be a source of great wisdom.  He would be unlike most kings and political leaders of his day (and sadly ours).  When Isaiah wrote these words, a man named Ahaz was king.  He was intelligent, but foolish.  He was far from wise.  This coming king, however, would be different.  He would be someone we can trust.

In a world where we are surrounded by foolish voices, it’s comforting to know we can turn to Jesus to find the direction and counsel we need.  The Bible tells us that God thinks differently than we do (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Because of that, He is not swayed by the sentiments of the day.  Remember those clothes you wore back in the seventies?  That hairstyle you had back in the eighties?   Your musical tastes back in the nineties?  Ever look back and wonder, “What was I thinking?”  The truth is, we were thinking the same thing as everyone else.  We followed the crowd and the crowd followed us.  While that’s relatively harmless when it comes to clothes, haircuts, and music, it can be really dangerous when it comes to the important decisions of life.

So the question is this.  To whom will you listen?  To whom will you go for advice?  Dear Abby’s not published much anymore these days.  Oprah’s off the air.  And Google?  Please.  Stop listening to everyone else and begin to listen to the real source of wisdom.  Turn to Jesus for direction.  Look to Him for guidance.  He will never lead us astray.

Further Reading:  Psalm 111

A Child is Born

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

I had seen them before, but this one captivated me like no other.  A hazy, little black and white photo.  The object was small and had just a few defining features.  But, the more you looked, the more you could see.  A nose.  A thumb.  A head.  Two little feet.  A picture of what was slowly gave way to dreams of what would be.  That’s the power of an ultrasound.  A simple, little, marvelous picture of a coming child and all the hopes and dreams that come with him.

Long before ultrasounds, the prophet Isaiah gave us a picture of a child to come.  He would be unlike any child ever born.  This child would be born into humble circumstances, yet He would reign in a far greater way than any of His ancestors.  His reign would touch every people group and corner of the globe.  He would come and He would make all things right.  Such high hopes and high expectations for a coming child.

Over seven hundred years after Isaiah gave this prophetic ultrasound, a baby’s cries filled the night sky.  He was born in an unassuming place to unassuming parents.  No real pomp and circumstance.  No courts and attendants.  No real royal announcements in the halls of power.  His court was probably not much more than His parents and a few animals, and the only real announcement was made on a hillside to a group of anxious shepherds.  Yet, from this inauspicious beginning came the One who reigns.  The hopes and dreams of generations had come to pass.  The long awaited Messiah had arrived.   It was only a matter of time now.  His reign was at hand.

When we think of Jesus, we need to remember that He is king.  In some of His last words to His followers, Jesus said that “all authority has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).  Paul writes that “every knee” will bow and “every tongue” confess that Jesus is Lord.  In the last book of the Bible we see Jesus described as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  This child, this son, has all authority resting on His more than capable shoulders.  He reigns over heaven and earth and all that is in it.  And, He invites those who yield their lives to Him to share in His reign forever.  So, when you think of that baby lying in a manger, remember He is the ruler of all that is.  And He gave His life for you so you can share in it with Him.  Open you heart and bend you knee to Jesus.  Yield control of every area of your life to Him.  No holding back.  No part off limits.  Give it all to Him.  He’s the king.  He reigns.  Let Him reign in you.

Further Reading:  Revelation 20-22

The First Promise

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

Christmas is a season filled with hope and promise.  It seems like no matter how difficult our current circumstances, there is something in us that thinks things might just get a little better this time of year.  When we see the neighbor’s lights flickering on the snow or we hear a familiar Christmas tune, we tend to just pause and look up from our troubles for just a moment.  Why is that?  It’s not the snow or the songs that bring us hope.  It’s the season.  It’s the hope and the promise woven through the fabric of this time of year.  It is this season that we celebrate the God who keeps His promise.

The Bible tells us that God created a perfect world.  In that perfect world, He placed two people named Adam and Eve.  They had everything they could possible want.  Despite that, they desired something else.  They wanted something more.  They wanted the one thing God told them they could not have.  And, at the urging of Satan, they disobeyed God and sinned.  In the process, they lost everything.  They lost an intimacy with God and they plunged the whole of creation into the chaos and the corruption of sin.  Because of their choices (and the ones we make as a result of them), we live as broken people in a broken world.

When God confronts them about their sin, He tells them of its lasting ramifications.  In the midst of explaining to them the impact of their choices, He gives a wonderful promise.  He tells them that someday a descendant of Eve will come along, and He will overcome the evil one who corrupted and ensnared His creation.  One will come and undo all the harm they have caused.  The fulfillment of that promise is Jesus.

As descendants of Adam and Eve, we have been plunged into the chaos and despair of sin.  We know its power.  We have experienced its sting firsthand.  Yet, we have hope because God kept that first Christmas promise.  A deliverer has come and has set us free from the power of sin and death.  Jesus has come to set things right.   He has bridged the gap between us and our loving creator.  That’s what we celebrate this time of year.  It’s not the songs or the presents.  We celebrate because God kept that first promise.  We rejoice in the hope we have in Jesus.

Further Reading:  Genesis 1-3