Bible Materials

Jesus, Prince of Peace

by pastor   01/30/2023   Isaiah 9:1~7


Jesus, Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:1-7, Key Verse 9:6

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Today’s passage is a message from the prophet Isaiah, who lived about 700 years before Christ. Isaiah gives a message of hope for the people of Israel, who have been crushed under the heel of oppressors. Isaiah’s message is a prophetic description of the kingdom of the Messiah, which has come to us in Jesus Christ. This passage is a Christmas passage because it tells why the birth of Jesus is such great news. In short, it’s because Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Let’s pray to rejoice in the greatness of Jesus and his kingdom this Christmas as Isaiah foretold it. The message has three parts.

I. A light for the land of deep darkness (1-2)

Look at verse 1. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—” This is a message for people who are in distress. Are you currently suffering from any distress? Is your distress making you gloomy? They say that stress is the number one killer of Americans. A lot of people feel extra stress in the holiday season because of all the busyness at the end of the year and all the things they have to finish, like final exams. On top of all that, the days are very short and it gets dark very early, which can indeed make us feel gloomy. Well, Isaiah is talking to people who are distressed far beyond that. It’s kind of like how the people in Ukraine now are going through distresses that we cannot even imagine.

It says, “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.” Where are the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali? There is kind of a lot of Bible history behind that, but it’s worthwhile to understand. Zebulun and Naphtali are the names of two of the sons of Jacob, who became the heads of two of the twelve tribes of Israel. If you read the book of Joshua, you’ll see how the land of Canaan was divided up among the twelve tribes after Israel conquered it under Joshua’s leadership. The territory of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali was more in the north of Israel.

Later, in the time of king David, the tribe of Judah became dominant. Judah’s territory was in the southern part of Canaan, and that’s where the capital of Jerusalem was established. So the northern tribes’ territory was considered more remote. Then, after Solomon’s time, the north and the south had a rupture and Israel was split into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom began to be called Israel and the southern kingdom was just called Judah. After this, the southern kingdom did a better job of holding on to God’s purpose for Israel (though not that good of a job.) The Northern kingdom of Israel fell pretty quickly into idolatry and other kinds of wickedness. To make a long story short, God punished Israel for forsaking him. Northern Israel was invaded by the Assyrian Empire, and its capital, Samaria, was overthrown in 722 B.C. That is how the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali were humbled and plunged into deep distress and gloom. They seemed to be cut off from God’s promise.

However, God actually had not completely cut off the northern tribes. His purpose in punishing them was redemptive, and he still had a place for them in his plan. Isaiah gives God’s gracious promise that “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” He predicts that in the future God “will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.” Here we see some place names that are more familiar to us from the New Testament. The lake of Galilee was in these northern regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. Because Jews there were mixed with people of other nations, it began to be called “Galilee of the Nations” or “of the Gentiles”. So how did God in the future honor Galilee? By making it the home of Jesus, the Messiah. Though Jesus was of the tribe of David, his earthly parents’ hometown where he grew up was Nazareth in Galilee. The twelve apostles were nearly all Galilean Jews as well. Jesus carried out the majority of his ministry in Galilee, not in Judah and Jerusalem.

Why did God choose Galilee to the be place for the Messiah’s ministry? There are several things we can learn from this. First, it shows that God favors the humble. We know that Zebulun and Naphtali were humbled because of their sins. But being disciplined for our sins is in fact a sign that God loves us. When we know it’s our own sins that have brought us low, that’s when we are closest to receiving God’s grace. Second, God’s honoring of Galilee shows that God has his eye on the outsiders and has a place for them as well. You don’t have to be from somewhere important or have gone to the most prestigious college to be very important in God’s work in history. Finally, Jesus being from “Galilee of the nations” is a hint that his message was intended not just for the Jews but ultimately for all nations.

Next, Isaiah uses a beautiful symbolism to describe the grace that will come to the distressed people. Look at verse 2. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” The symbols of darkness and light highlight the spiritual aspect of what Isaiah is saying. What does it mean in our lives when we are walking in darkness?

Darkness is simply the absence of light. Light is what illuminates everything so we can see where we are and where we are going. When we are walking in darkness, it means that we are without knowledge for our life, without purpose and direction. People walking in darkness don’t have any hope for the future because they can’t see their way forward. Walking in the darkness, we are very anxious, because we could stumble and fall at any moment.

It is sin that plunges us into that darkness. When we do things that degrade the image of God in us, we block out God’s light that could lead us to better things. But what good news that God provides a light to dawn on people in darkness. The light is Jesus, and we come into his light through repentance and faith. It can be painful to come into the light when we have nothing good to show about ourselves. Light also exposes the sins we have committed in the darkness. But when we confess our sins, exposing them to the light, and forsake them, we can be free and walk in the light. But Jesus promised, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12) This Christmas, let’s meditate on how Jesus’ birth brought a great light to us, and maybe have a small new decision and action to come into the light.

II. The joy of victory and peace (3-5)

In the next verses, Isaiah goes on to describe what God will do for his people, in ways that are most relevant to their situation and that help them concretely imagine the joy of it. Look at verse 3. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.”

God promised to enlarge his people’s nation. Why was this good news? The nation of Israel had been shrinking a lot in Isaiah’s time, starting from the time when it was split into two. It made them feel poor and vulnerable, and like they were on the decline. So enlarging the nation is a promise to restore their fortunes and security. But the real nation that is being spoken of here is the kingdom of God, that spiritual nation made of people from every earthly nation who trust Jesus. They form one people, the people of God. God has promised that this nation will expand and grow forever, even as nations of the earth appear and disappear.

God promised to increase his people’s joy. Isaiah uses two powerful images to make us feel what kind of joy God’s grace grants us. First, verse 3 says “they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest.” The harvest is a joyful time because people can visibly see that God has provided for their needs abundantly from the earth. We can experience such harvest-time joy when we have faith that in Jesus, God has provided fully for our eternal security. We can also rejoice to know that God has provided an abundant harvest of souls who will believe the gospel, inherit eternal life, and live in God’s kingdom forever.

Verse 3 also says God’s people will rejoice in him as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder after a great victory in battle. Of course, winning a victory feels very good, and finding great rewards afterwards is exciting. I remember that when my brother and I were children, we would get so excited to see all the presents wrapped up under the Christmas tree, and when we finally got to tear into them on Christmas, we felt like warriors dividing the plunder. But that joy was always short-lived. Plus, when earthly plunder is seized, somebody is the winner but somebody else is the loser.

Then what kind of victory is Isaiah really talking about here? Verse 4 gives us more insight into the spiritual meaning. “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” Isaiah gave the people of Northern Israel the promise of being released from the oppression of the Assyrian Empire. He said it would be like when Israel was freed from the oppression of the Midianites using only 300 men under the leadership of Gideon. You can read that in the book of Judges.

In general, the joy God gives his people comes from how he delivers them from their oppressors, giving them freedom. Do you have an oppressor? What yoke is burdening you, weighing very heavily on your shoulders? Is it the anxiety of finding a job? Or maybe the yoke of having a job? Many people are silently suffering under the heavy burden of a health problem, or the troubles of someone close to them. But the Bible teaches that the real oppressor of all people is sin. Being controlled by sinful desires is the heaviest yoke of slavery, which prevents us from living as God created us to.

That’s why the greatest source of joy is the news that God has shattered this yoke of sin that always burdened us. That’s what Jesus has done for us. Jesus broke the bar of our sins by becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sins. As Jesus carried the cross on his shoulders, he was really carrying the weight of our sins, in order to take them all away through his atoning death. When we receive the forgiveness of our sins by faith in Jesus, we become spiritual victors and experience the joy of true freedom.

The result of this liberation is also peace. Look at verse 5. “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” This verse describes the destruction of the instruments of war to signify the beginning of a time of peace. Of course, that has not happened in this world yet. Soldiers’ boots are still being manufactured in large quantities, and too many garments are getting soaked with blood in destructive wars. But starting in our hearts, Jesus’ kingdom is growing steadily and surely alongside the events of world history, and it is a kingdom of peace. Jesus chose us to be instruments of his peace while we live in this still-sinful world, to show the world what it’s like to live as citizens of his peaceful heavenly kingdom. It doesn’t mean we should never fight in wars when justice requires it. But we should know that a world of soldiers’ boots and blood-stained garments is going to pass away. We must set our hearts on the eternal kingdom of freedom and peace. Let’s receive by faith the victory over sin that Jesus won for us on the cross, and have peace in our hearts, a peace that can work to bring God’s kingdom on earth.

III. The greatness of Christ’s government and peace (6-7)

How would God bring about all these wonderful things? Of course, we know that it’s through Jesus the Messiah. But Isaiah understood that as well. Let’s read verse 6, our key verse. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Just like in the gospels written hundreds of years later, Isaiah identifies the beginning of the Messiah’s kingdom with his birth. Jesus’ birth deserves to be celebrated as we do because it is the point of incarnation, of God taking on human flesh to dwell among us, as John’s gospel says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)

Isaiah describes the role the Messiah would take by saying, “the government will be on his shoulders.” What does that mean? It means Christ is the one person to take responsibility for both bringing in God’s kingdom and also ruling over it. When nobody else could do it, Jesus shouldered the responsibility for ushering in God’s kingdom all by himself.

The government will be on his shoulders” is just one of the incredible expressions Isaiah was inspired to use to show us the multifaceted glories of Christ. After that, there are four titles given to Christ in our key verse. Let’s briefly think about what it means to us for Jesus to be each of these things.

First, “Wonderful Counselor”. We normally think of kings of the earth as having counselors and getting advice from their counselors. But Jesus is himself the wisest of all, so he himself is a wonderful counselor. Jesus wisely counseled his disciples. When I think about wise advice from Jesus, I especially think about Jesus’ directions for how to deal with sticky issues of sin in the church, recorded in Matthew chapter 18. Best of all, Jesus’ counsel is available to each of us. Everyone needs counsel in their lives. In order to make it through life, we need sources of wisdom beyond just ourselves. So it’s very great news that Jesus’ wonderful counsel is available to each of us personally, through his words, and also through the Holy Spirit whom he sent to live in us.

Second, “Mighty God.” We know that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, and that God’s fullness dwells in him. Here, the word “Mighty” is used specifically to highlight the power of God, especially power when it comes to fighting battles. Jesus showed his might over the forces of evil when he commanded 6,000 demons to come out of a man and they obeyed. People want to live in a nation with a strong ruler because that ruler can protect the nation with their strength. Because Jesus is Mighty God, we have the strongest defense and protection. Though we are personally lacking in strength in many ways, as members of Jesus’ kingdom we can know that all the mighty power of God protects us.

Third, “Everlasting Father.” As the previous title highlights Christ’s power, this one highlights his love. Jesus taught us that we can come to God and trust him as our heavenly Father. Fatherly love is one of the most supportive kinds of love, and Jesus used that as a model of God’s love for us. Of course, earthly fathers’ love is not perfect, and also earthly fathers are not everlasting. But as our everlasting father, Jesus will take care of us with perfect fatherly love forever.

Finally, “Prince of Peace”. Here, “prince” is used as a title for a ruler of a nation. We already saw in the earlier verses how the Messiah would bring freedom and establish peace. Bringing peace is such an important part of Christ’s job that he is called the “Prince of Peace.” What an amazing title. Has any earthly prince or king ever deserved this title? At best, some rulers have presided over times of relative peace, but they can’t take all the credit for creating that peace. Nations of this world try to have peace by being strong enough to deter attacks from enemies. Most kingdoms were established with injustice and wickedness, shedding other people’s blood. But Jesus shed his own blood to establish a kingdom of justice and righteousness. This is how he alone is able to create true peace. When we are ruled by the Prince of Peace, we can have true peace in our hearts that doesn’t pass away.

These four titles, “Wonderful Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, “Prince of Peace” help us understand some part of Jesus’ greatness. They show how Jesus can be everything to us. Finally, let’s see how Isaiah summarizes the kingdom of the Christ. Look at verse 7. “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” The greatnesses of Messiah’s kingdom would not be so great if they were only temporary. But thank God that this is a kingdom that will never pass away. Jesus will reign on David’s throne forever, with no one to ever replace or succeed him. His kingdom will also keep increasing forever, not by robbery and plunder but with peace and righteousness.

The verse and the passage ends by saying, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Why is this important to know? This is our assurance that all these promises will come true. We have important roles to play in bringing God’s kingdom; if a little bit of God’s zeal lives in us, then we should also be working to bring true justice and peace into this world. But if it ultimately depended on human faithfulness, the kingdom would never come. The good news is that God himself is zealous to bring his own kingdom. He isn’t going to be careless about it; God isn’t going to lose interest and get lazy and accidentally let the progress of his kingdom be stopped. Because God does not change, his zeal is truly unflagging. He is burning with desire to bring his kingdom, and nothing can stop it. This is the root of our confidence.

Thank God for giving us Jesus and also for giving us Isaiah’s spiritual illustrations of Jesus and his kingdom so we can appreciate his glory better. May God bless you with the glory of Jesus’ heavenly kingdom growing brighter and stronger in your heart this Christmas.


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