God’s Gift of Peace

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
~ Numbers 24:17

A sermon on the coming King

6 For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given:

and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

and his name shall be called

Wonderful,

Counsellor,

The mighty God,

The everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.  

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,

to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

– Isaiah 9:6-7

 

Introduction

Isaiah Chapter 9 is a part of the word sent to the kingdom of Judah and King Ahaz. The northern kingdom of Israel had made an alliance with the kingdom of Syria to counter the threat from the rising Assyrian Empire. Israel and Syria wanted Judah to join their alliance, but King Ahaz refused. Israel and Syria responded by attacking Judah in an effort to remove Ahaz from the throne. God sent word to Ahaz through the prophets Isaiah that he did not need to be afraid of Israel and Syria, but rather he needed to trust God. Ahaz refused to believe God’s word and out of fear and desperation, he secretly sought help from the Assyrians. The nation that Judah trusted in became their oppressor.

The surrounding chapters describe various judgments on Israel and Judah because they would not believe and keep God’s word. These judgments include captivity and exile for both kingdom. This time for Israel and Judah was characterized by battles and bloodshed, burning, enemy threats and oppression, darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:6-7).

The peace promised to Israel and Judah appeared very different from their present reality. Where will peace come from? The peace promised to Israel and Judah will extend to all the earth, but we don’t see it now. Throughout history we have seen monarchies, empires, republics, communism, socialist states, military regimes, and more, but none of those have brought any lasting peace and security to Israel or the world. How will it come?

 

What is God’s Answer?

Men have tried to find a solution and bring peace, but their solutions have tended to only become worse problems. God’s answer is quite different. His answer is to give us a child, a Son, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). God’s answer points back to the prophecy to Ahaz two chapters earlier.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall his name Immanuel.

– Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah went on to speak of this Son who will sit on “the throne of David” ruling over David’s “kingdom” (Isaiah 9:7). This Son is identified as Immanuel and the Messiah King, Son of God promised in Psalm 2:1-12. It is his coming that will bring joy and peace when all enemies are consumed in the fire of his wrath and all their battle garb and weapons of war will only be fuel for his fire (Isaiah 9:1-5).

This Son, Immanuel, will also be named Wonderful, a name that signifies miracle. He will be Counsellor, an adviser in truth and goodness, and a teacher of wisdom. His name The Mighty God means a warrior, or champion. He is also called The Everlasting Father, or father of the ages, pointing to the founding of his kingdom when he returns to reign. Lastly here, he will be called The Prince of Peace, a chief or captain of shalom, which is peace, prosperity, security, and wellness (Isaiah 9:6).

This Son will have “the government … upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6). The kingdom he will bring is marked by abundance and unending peace. He will execute perfect judgment and justice that peace continues. He will sit on David’s throne reigning over David’s kingdom. The jealousy of Yahweh for his name and covenant will bring this King and kingdom to consummation (Isaiah 9:7). The covenant made with David so long ago will finally be fulfilled in David’s Son.

8 Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David,

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:  

9 And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth.  

10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,  

11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 

12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  

13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.  

14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:  

15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.  

16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.

– 2 Samuel 7:8-16

Israel and Judah’s peace, which will extend to the entire earth will only come through this child, this Son promised through prophetic revelation. This child, this Son, came into the world around 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem in the land of Judah.

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

– Luke 2:1-20

 

When Will There Be Peace on Earth?

If this Son was given 2,000 years ago, why is there not peace on earth since that time? Why is our life, joy, peace, safety, security, and all still threatened by enemies?

Matthew wrote of the birth of this Son as the fulfillment of the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy.

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

– Matthew 1:22-23

We have seen several names for this Son, but if we back up in Matthew 1 to verse 21, we find he has another name: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” The name, Jesus, means Savior and is connected with his purpose to “save his people from their sins.” Recall the announcement of the angel to the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

This Son is a Savior who saves his people from their greatest enemy. Men with swords, spears, guns, missiles, bombs, or badges is not our greatest danger. The greatest danger and obstacle to real peace, which is peace with God, is from our own sins. If we are ever going to see peace, we need our enemies defeated both externally and internally.

The child of promise was born and the Son was given that he might be have yet another name, the Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 52:13). The Servant was given that might save from sins by bearing sins in his own body in his death.

1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?  

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.  

9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.  

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

– Isaiah 53:1-12

So this child, this Son, was given in the first place as an offering for sin. He will bring his kingdom, which will we be an unparalleled time of peace on this earth (Isaiah 11:1-10). So between the manger and the kingdom is the cross in order to save his people from their sins.

 

Conclusion

God has given the gift of peace in the gift of his Son. His Son came to the earth once to put away sin through his own death on the cross (1 Timothy 1:15). God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is coming again to establish his kingdom on earth to bring peace to the world and blessings that have been promised long ago (Acts 3:18-21).

Will you see this peace? Will you see his kingdom and life that does not end? When the Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus told him, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). You will not enter his kingdom and enjoy his holy peace unless you are born again. Men and women are born again through faith in God’s word, the Gospel (1 Peter 1:22-25). If you will see life, you must repent and turn from your sin and trust completely in God’s gift, his Son Jesus Christ for salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and inheritance in his kingdom.

God Can Do Anything … But Fail

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
~ Mark 9:23

Can we limit God?

Nazareth was a rural, isolated community in lower Galilee on the southern border of Zebulun. It set on a high hill over 1,600 feet above sea level on the western side of a valley. It was somewhere around 400 feet above the valley floor, with a commanding view of the surrounding plain. Proximity to trade routes gave the Nazarenes some contact with the outside world, but they were mostly aloof from the main life of Israel and despised by them (John 1:44-46).

Jesus grew up in Nazareth and lived there for around 30 years before he began his public ministry (Luke 2:39). There he learned and plied his trade as a carpenter. Given the small size of the community and the nature of the family business, Jesus and his family were generally known in Nazareth. Their familiarity with Jesus and his family proved to be a stumblingblock to the people of Nazareth.

Jesus left Nazareth, was baptized by John in the Jordan, spent 40 days in the wilderness, and embarked on an itinerant, public ministry of preaching the kingdom of God and performing kingdom sign miracles. It seems he was gone from Nazareth for at least a year, perhaps longer. His fame quickly spread as he began his ministry in Galilee and multitudes of people came to see him from all regions round about.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus returning to Nazareth and going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. His fame had preceded him, particularly from Capernaum, which served as a home base for his Galilean tour. The Gospel accounts all end with the Nazarenes rejecting Jesus and Luke adds how they took him out of town and wanted to thrown him down the escarpment to the valley floor, hundreds of feet below. Of course, this was not the predetermined counsel of God and he simply passed through their midst.

Reflecting on the unbelief of the Nazarenes, Mark makes a shocking statement. He wrote of Jesus, “And he could there do no mighty work” (Mark 6:5). He “could do no,” as in, he could not? How can that be true, if all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; 14:36)?

Jesus Could Not

Mark uses the Greek word dunato, which means to be able, or capable. Mark really did write that Jesus was not able to do “mighty work,” or miracles, in Nazareth. If you begin reading Mark’s Gospel from the start and read to Mark 6:5, you will have read demonstration after demonstration of Jesus’ power to do great miracles. He commanded an unclean spirit in Capernaum and that spirit obeyed him. He took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and cured her of a disease. He healed and cast devils out of multitudes of people. He healed a leper, a paralytic, a man’s withered hand, rebuked the wind with his words so the sea became calm, cast a legion of demons out a man, healed a woman with an incurable bleeding disorder, and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. After this, he came to Nazareth and could not do mighty work there.

All the accounts reflect the unbelief of the people of Nazareth. Matthew attributes the limitation of miracles to their unbelief (Matthew 13:58), and Mark concludes the same in reflection (Mark 6:6). Luke does not mention the limiting of miracles, but does recount how their unbelief was manifested in their wrath against Jesus and their attempt to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). Luke also records Jesus’ explanation to the unbelieving Nazarenes why he would not do miracles among them, though they wanted him to (Luke 4:23-27).

Did the Nazarenes limit God and render Jesus incapable of doing miracles? Does unbelief limit God and restrain him from acting? It certainly didn’t in Egypt (Exodus 5:2). Who or what is limited by unbelief? And, in what way was Jesus not able?

A Statute of Limitations

Matthew, Mark, and Jesus’ words in Luke point to some limitation due to unbelief. If we look back in Mark, we find an explanation of unbelief being limiting. Faith, or belief, is the key to understanding parables and is put as having ears to hear (Mark 4:9). When Jesus explained the parables for the disciples, he explained how those who have (ears to hear/faith) will receive more, and those who have not (ears to hear/faith) will not receive more. In fact, those who do not have faith will have what they have received taken from them (Mark 4:10-12, 24-25). That’s the limitation of unbelief. It limits what those who are unbelieving receive. If we consider various accounts of miracles, Jesus emphasized faith was the key for them to receive (Mark 2:5; 4:40; 5:34, 36). Unbelief constrains us. It limits us and what we can receive. It does not limit God’s ability nor render Jesus incapable (Luke 17:11-19).

The text in Mark said Jesus was unable. In what way was Jesus unable to perform miracles? Jesus was not limited in power and he demonstrated that on many more occasions than we have record of (John 21:25). In Mark’s Gospel, he had just raised a girl from the dead. He had the power. Jesus was not able to do mighty works in Nazareth, not because he did not have the power to do it, but because he did not have the will to do it.

Jesus expressed his sovereign will, the will of the Father, in healing a leper in Mark 1:40-41. Mark repeatedly demonstrates Jesus acting according to will and not the dictates or limitations of men. He spoke words of command to wind, water, demons, disease, and death, and all obeyed. He healed whom he willed to heal and even in the calling of his apostles, he demonstrated his sovereign choice to call whom he would. He was not at the disposal of the clamoring crowds (Mark 1:35-38), but acted according to predetermined will.

He shows the signs of the kingdom to those who receive the kingdom in faith, not to those who unbelievingly clamor for a sign in Nazareth (Luke 4:23) or in Capernaum (John 6:26-27, 35-36). Those clamoring in Nazareth and Capernaum were not doubting the presence and power of miracles. However, they did not believe in the Messiah and thereby rejected his kingdom. They were part of an evil generation seeking a sign (Luke 11:29). Jesus reinforces this message in the synagogue in Nazareth when he describes God’s sovereign acts of miracles to Gentiles rather than Israel in the cases of Elijah and the widow of Sarepta and Elisha and Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:25-27).

Oh, the Irony!

It’s somewhat ironic that the only miracle he performed for the angry Nazarenes that day was passing through their midst without them being able to grab him. Something tells me they didn’t appreciate that sign though, the sign of Jesus departing.

Champurrado for Breakfast

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
~ Proverbs 26:11

A parable of legal marriage.

Esposita sat at her kitchen table with a small bowl of champurrado. She stared through the steam above it at the grain of the table beneath it. It had pits and marks, but they were only surface scars. The table was thick, heavy, and sturdy. Nomo had built this table. She could jump up and down on top of it and it would be unharmed, unmoved. She glanced around the kitchen and thought of how Nomo had built this house piece by piece. Every part of it was built by his hands or put there by them. How many times had he fixed that sink? Even the dingy yellow light bulb, embarrassed by the white sunlight flooding through the window, had been screwed into the socket by Nomo.

Nomo had been her husband for many years. Nomo was a nickname Normando had borne from his earliest days, after his parents finally named him. Nomo had selected a plot that was the highest spot in their mountaintop village. He cleared the land, dug the foundation, laid the pipes, and built his house. He was now ready to marry, and Esposita was the only girl in the world. She would be proud to have such a husband and live in such a house, which was the crown of the village and meticulously maintained.

Esposita remembered many good years. She had never lacked anything. She had material to make clothes. She had wheat to make bread. She had corn, beans, and rice. She had te de poleo and horchata. What more could a poor girl want? Sometimes Nomo would bring home chickens or goats and they would have delicious meat. She had never been hungry.

Nomo was always the same. She could not remember him ever laughing, though she tried to make him. He did not daydream with her or chat about nothing. Nomo spoke evenly of what was done and what was to be done. When villagers would ask Nomo how he was, he always responded, “Con vida.” If Esposita ever spoke of particularly enjoying anything, he would correct her. “We have life. It is enough.”

Esposita traced her finger around the rim of the bowl. The steam was barely there now. She and Nomo had champurrado their first morning as husband and wife. The smile she had been wearing was losing its fight and the corners of her mouth fell. Though she could not complain about what she received from Nomo, she always fell short of his expectations. She blew the steam and put both hands around the bowl. She had never given Nomo children. This was her greatest fault in Nomo’s eyes. It was a weight affixed between her should blades that made her begin to look like a swayback old burro that had borne too many heavy loads of bread to the market.

When Nomo died she had felt as though an internal knot had been untied. Not a knot, but the knot. The knot that held all the strands of her inner being together. Though her skeletal frame was as it was supposed to be, she felt floppy inside like a limp water hose with no water running through it. Her own death must be soon.

***

Espa, as she was now called, had first met Salvador at the market. All his friends called him Sali. She had set out that morning with no purpose. She would go to the market, but she had no money. She would not beg. She had never begged. She would not steal. She had never stolen. She wasn’t even particularly hungry. She could not explain why she went to the market. Espa would’ve said that she did not go to the market, but was rather brought to the market.

She came around a stall and ran into a mango. Well, she saw the mango first and then the hand that held it. She looked up into a youthful face with kind eyes and a wide smile. “Here, for you.” She did not speak. “I’m Sali. I want you to have this.”

Nothing had changed with Espa. “I … I have no money.”

Sali laughed. “I would not take it if you had it. This is for you.”

Espa took the mango. “Gracias.”

Marriage to Sali was like a dream. He was always happy and she enjoyed life more than she had ever imagined. Sali provided wonderful foods for her to make and she ate as she never had. Sali hired everything done. He hired men to build his house. He bought furniture and decorated their home with bright cheerful colors. He hired a woodworker to carve them a beautiful table that seemed always to have bread and wine on it.

Espa wasn’t sure how or when it happened, but one day she thought of Nomo. She had not thought about Nomo in many years. Thinking about Nomo began to work on her. She started making her own clothes again and left the fancy clothes Sali had bought in the closet untouched. She sought out simpler foods and made them smaller portions. She painted over the bright colors and had her old table brought in to replace the one Sali had hired out to have made. Piece by piece she remade her house until it was as close as possible to the one she had lived in for so many years.

One morning she awoke and Sali was not there. He did not come home until the next day. He would continue to leave and to be gone for longer times. After a while, Espa realized she had not seen Sali in a week, or a month. She couldn’t remember for sure how long it had been. She sat at her table with a bowl of champurrado and realized there were no signs that Sali had ever lived in this house. Everything reminded her of Nomo.

***

A rooster crowed. Espa sat up straight in the bed. It was still dark. The rooster crowed again. Her hair was stuck to her face and she was shivering. Is Sali gone forever? Will I never see him again? Why has he not come home? Why has he not contacted me? The longer she chased those thoughts the more she felt like something was pulling her together from inside her. Her breathing was faster and she had the heart of a rabbit. She ran to the streets calling for Sali. They were mostly empty. After a while, she began seeing people and pleading with them to tell her where Sali was. But they cursed her and pushed her away.

The rooster crowed and a bell rang. Not quite a bell, but a clanging that sounded like a bell. Was Sali at the door? “It’s dawn. It’s time.” She opened her eyes to look through bars at a brown face with a walrus mustache. His name was Severo.

“Where is Salvador?” Espa sat up in the cot.

Severo tilted his head. “Who?”

“Salvador. My husband.” Espa stood up.

“Salvador?” Severo spat on the ground. “There is no Salvador. You were married to Nomo. You killed him three months ago and today is your hanging.” Espa collapsed to the floor, choking and sobbing. “Your grave is ready. You will be buried with Nomo.” Severo set a bowl on the floor inside and closed the barred door. “Here’s your champurrado. I will be back in thirty minutes.”

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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