Last week I spoke from Romans 5 as we gave some consideration to the thought of peace, what it is, where it comes from and how we may participate in it and receive it. That peace did not come about by accident, it was all part of God’s eternal plan for the world and for His kingdom. We can view God as the Author of the peace that we seek and therefore view Jesus as the Deliverer of the peace. This morning I want to explore some of these thoughts by looking at this prophecy of Isaiah in Isaiah 9 that foretells the birth of Jesus.
In those few verses in Romans 5 we thought about peace and just what type of peace we truly need. This isn’t the peace between nation states or within nation states but rather the peace with God that should form the foundation of our lives. Without having a close personal relationship with God there will always be a state of hostility between us, a hostility that can only end in our being doomed and separated from God for all eternity. This peace that we desperately need can only come from God; it is only available from Him and it cannot be received from any other source; there is nothing that we can do to earn or deserve being at peace with Him. It is absolutely vital for us to understand and accept that we may only obtain that peace by coming to faith in Jesus Christ; there is no other way. Many have tried to find that elusive peace by indulging in hallucinogenic drugs, new age philosophies or eastern philosophies, all without success. We need to reach a peace settlement with God and the only way to do that is through Jesus Christ. In the second half of John 14:6, Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” God sent Jesus to die on the cross of Calvary to pay the price for our sins and provide access to that much needed peace settlement by ending the long standing hostility that existed between us and God.
The birth and death of Jesus did not come about by accident, it was all pre-planned by God from the beginning of creation and was all part of His eternal plan for His kingdom, and it is Isaiah’s part in that plan that I want us to look at this morning.
These few verses in Isaiah 9 are amongst the most famous ever and are always included somewhere in our Christmas services. Now I do know that it isn’t Christmas and so I’m not going to be talking about the birth story of Jesus; that will come in December as usual. What I do want to focus on is the amazing prophecy that God’s entire plan for the future of His kingdom centred on a baby, baby Who would go on to become the Prince of Peace. That baby was Jesus and He is the Source of the peace that many so earnestly seek.
This glorious prophecy of Isaiah was written somewhere around 700BC which was therefore approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Whilst Isaiah may have been the scribe who was writing these words they were given to him by God Himself simply because He wanted everyone to know what His plan was. Whether or not the people understood or accepted that plan is difficult to know but it was God’s plan nonetheless.
The people at the time were longing for the Messiah to come, they craved His coming and His presence to help them overcome all the problems that they faced and the seemingly never ending conflicts that surrounded them. Imagine their surprise then when they heard or read these words of Isaiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6a). They wanted and expected a warrior-like Messiah and yet here was Isaiah prophesying the birth of a baby to be their government; how could that be? We often say, don’t we, that God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, and this was a perfect example of that adage. Our Heavenly Father was indeed going to send a baby boy to be the Messiah.
It’s worth asking what Isaiah meant by “the government will be on his shoulders”. Let’s ignore the fact that we are talking about a baby and consider what being in government means. Most governments are elected and consist of a number of people ostensibly working together to rule and guide a nation and they tend to be led by a President or a Prime Minister. Is that what God had in mind for this baby? Once He had grown up did Jesus join or lead a government? No He didn’t, He simply conducted His earthly ministry and set about changing people’s lives by leading them to faith. That has been happening ever since Jesus died on the cross of Calvary and people’s lives have been completely changed as a result of their coming to faith.
God had a different type of government in mind when He gave Isaiah those words. As sinners we are governed by whatever our particular ‘major’ sin is. Alcoholics are governed by the need to obtain their next drink; drug addicts are governed by the need to fund their next fix; terrorists are governed by their need to kill and maim in order to get across their particular political point. We may not be individually governed in such drastic ways, but it is true to say that all sinners are governed by the wrong things in their lives.
Now consider those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Alcoholics and drug addicts are no longer governed by their desire for booze and drugs, they are governed by God. Those who care for orphans and abandoned children by adopting or fostering such needy young people are frequently governed by God. Think about those who willingly open their Bible to read and study God’s Word. Who do you suppose is governing their lives? What about those who give up well paid careers in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with as many as possible? Surely they too are governed by God. We can see government in various ways; as the power that runs the country or the Power that runs our lives. When Isaiah prophesied that this baby would have the government on His shoulders I suspect that he meant the government of individual’s lives rather than the big government that we see playing a huge part in our lives every day.
Having given us a clue as to what the baby boy would do, Isaiah moves on to give him four names or titles: “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Those are extraordinary titles to give an as yet unborn baby and yet this was no ordinary baby, this baby was to be the Saviour of the world.
Isaiah tells us that this baby “will be called”. He isn’t specifying names as such rather a series of titles or descriptive names that help to identify the role that this baby would have. The first of these is “Wonderful Counsellor”. This isn’t a Councillor in the sense of someone who serves on a City or Parish Council and administers civic affairs rather this Counsellor is someone who can help with our problems. Much of Pastoral work involves counselling, helping people with the numerous problems that they face or have faced in their lives. Jesus was and still is the greatest Counsellor ever. He came to help us come to faith and resolve the constant hostility that existed between us and God. That was some problem to deal with but it is the major problem that Jesus came to resolve. Remember that following His ascension Jesus now sits at the right hand of God and He is able to intercede on our behalf with our Heavenly Father as and when the need arises. The role of intercessor is just one of the roles that a Counsellor may need to undertake but is also the role that Jesus came to fulfil. Without Him at our side acting as a “Wonderful Counsellor” we would be totally and utterly lost.
The second of these four titles is “Mighty God”. That is quite a title to give to a new born baby especially as the first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:7). However, since this baby was to be the Messiah it follows that He should be given an appropriate title and there can be nothing more appropriate than “Mighty God” since it served to confirm the deity of the Messiah. We know from the birth narrative that Jesus was the Son of God and so it seems reasonable that He too should be known as God. If He was not God then it would have been totally wrong for anyone to worship Him or bring Him any glory. The prophet Jeremiah quotes God’s words when he says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and who heart turns away from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5).
The third title given to this baby is very interesting indeed since Isaiah tells us that He will be the “Everlasting Father”. This does not mean that He is the Father in the Holy Trinity, rather, the original Hebrew carries with it the thought that the baby would be the source or author of all eternity, He is the Creator Himself. That may seem a bit complicated but it is all related to the Holy Trinity, that combination of deity that we know as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The fourth and final title, and possibly the most important of all, is “Prince of Peace”. Jesus was to be the One Who would bring peace, especially peace between God and mankind. In Isaiah’s time there were many who saw a Prince as being a great Army Commander, someone who would lead a great Army in a war. The difference with this particular Prince is that He didn’t come to bring great military victories but rather to bring peace, God’s shalom that Ray spoke about a couple of weeks ago. Jesus didn’t come as a Prince of war but as the “Prince of peace”. Last week I spoke of the hostility that exists between God and mankind and it is that hostility that Jesus as Prince of peace came to resolve. It is a hostility that exists between God and anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and so without Jesus that hostility will never be resolved and ended since it is Jesus Who brings that peace. Notice what Isaiah says in 9:7, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” In Isaiah 11:2-3 the prophet goes further when he has this to say, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord — and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Those words serve to confirm the divine nature of this baby; He was God’s Son and He had come to share God’s wisdom with the world, to act as a Counsellor in the world and to bring peace to the world by ending the hostility between God and mankind. Once that hostility between our Heavenly Father and ourselves has been resolved it will never be defeated and will remain for all eternity.
We know from studying this passage in general and 9:6 in particular, that the baby boy was Jesus; He was to be the Prince of Peace. Paul indicates as much when he says of Jesus in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace”. It is Jesus Who brings us the peace that we seek and He was born to do that as the “Prince of Peace”. It was no accident or coincidence that Isaiah gave Him that title since he knew from God exactly what was going to happen. He may have recorded God’s words more than 700 years before they were implemented but as one of God’s faithful servants Isaiah knew that they would be fulfilled. When we move into the New Testament we can read in Luke’s gospel a short and simple verse that tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy was indeed fulfilled in Bethlehem. Luke writes, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
Jesus was the baby born that day and He was born to bring the peace that is available to all who place their faith in Him. Unfortunately modern Christianity and many in the world today don’t seem to want to know the “Prince of Peace” since they only want to continue to sin in peace.
It may be a sad thing to say but it seems that far too many people don’t want the peace that Jesus came to bring. They would rather continue to sin, deny God and blaspheme whilst seeking something, anything to explain life. They seek solace in drugs and alcohol; they seek answers in so called new age philosophies; and they seek solace in anything new or out of the ordinary. Jesus Christ is the One Who can bring the peace and solace that millions seek and yet He is ignored and derided at every turn.
Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” and those who seek Him and place their faith in Him will be rewarded with the greatest ever peace in their hearts that they will ever know. Seek Him while He may be found.