“For a child had been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
The second week of advent is focused on peace. Isaiah 9:6-7 is often quoted during the advent season emphasizing the peace that Jesus will bring to his followers. Yet I think we often read this passage through our contemporary understanding of peace and get a slightly distorted view of what this passage is all about.
We often talk about peace today in two different contexts. One is the peace that comes from the absence of war. The other way I often hear the word “peace” being used is when people talk about themselves “being at peace.” It is this meaning that we often apply to various biblical passage when they are talking about peace. We see the prophecy in Isaiah 9 about the child being named the “Prince of Peace” and we can often assume this means that we will receive personal, emotional peace.
While I don’t want to deny that our relationship with God will bring us this kind of peace, this isn’t exactly the kind of “peace” that Isaiah is talking about it. Isaiah 9:6-7 is actually filled with war language. It’s about how there will be a kingdom that will be a peaceful kingdom, but it’s only peaceful because all the enemies have been defeated. If we take a look at all the different descriptions found in these two verses we can see how this picture emerges
Wonderful Counsellor: When we hear the word “counsellor” today we usually think of someone we can sit down with and talk about our feelings. This is not the kind of counsellor mentioned here. The “wonderful counsellor” here is the someone who is very good at military strategies. He is able to give good counsel on the battlefield in order to win the battle.
Mighty God: There are a couple of ways that this can be translated, one is “God is a warrior” or “God is Mighty”. The other way is to translate it as as God empowering his warrior on the battle field. Either way, the picture that is presented here is someone who is mighty in battle.
Everlasting Father: We can again fall into the trap of interpreting this phrase in 2018 instead of its original context. Isaiah here isn’t talking about having a loving father figure. Rather, the term father is being used for someone who is a protector of his people. Just as a father was a protector of the household, here the father is one who is going to protect the nation from its enemies.
Prince of Peace: The peace that is being talked about here is the peace that comes from the absence of war. The “Prince of Peace” is recognized as the person who has defeated all the enemies and because of their defeat there is now peace in the land.
So going through all the titles in this passage we can see a common theme: this son that will be born is going to bring about a kingdom of everlasting peace through his victory over the enemy. This is the peace that we can celebrate during this week of advent. That Jesus has defeated the enemies. He has brought to us an everlasting peace. Even the last enemy, death itself, has been defeated because of the resurrection of Jesus.
So this week remember the peace that Jesus has earned us. By defeating the enemy we can now live in peace.