He Shall Be Called: Prince of Peace | Isaiah 9:6-7
Brian Hedges | December 19, 2021
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 9. We’re going to be looking in a few minutes at verses 6-7.
Shortly after I moved here and became the pastor of this church, one afternoon I came into the church discovered several inches of standing water in the west wing of the church basement. There had been a leak in the boiler, and it had gone on long enough nobody had found it, and when I found it there was considerable water damage. Of course, this raised all kinds of problems. We had a mess on our hands. There was going to be mold and all kinds of environmental concerns.
So we did what most people in this area do when they have fire or water damage; we called a company to come in and help clean up the mess. The company we called was First Response. Have you ever seen a First Response truck driving around South Bend? The sign on the side of their truck says, “Disaster Restoration Specialists.” Based on their website, they specialize in the “assessment, mitigation, restoration, and reconstruction of property damage caused by water, fire, smoke, or mold.”
They did a great job and helped us get that basement into shape, and of course we’re currently remodeling that basement again, 17, 18 years later.
I think that’s a great illustration, actually, of the problem we have in the world, because the world is also a mess. If you read the headlines of any news page you’ll see the evidences of moral decay, international conflict, social injustice, political corruption, domestic abuse, environmental degradation. You could say that we live in a disaster zone, and what we need is a disaster restoration specialist.
That’s exactly what the triune God, the God of the Bible, is. The Scriptures tell us the good news of God’s saving plan; it’s a rescue plan, a plan to clean up the mess that human beings have made of the world.
One of my favorite statements of the gospel is a single sentence by the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck. You’ve probably heard me read this before if you’ve been coming for any length of time, but I think this is a wonderful summary of the gospel. He said, “The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.” What a beautiful statement of the gospel.
That’s really what we’ve been looking at from various angles over the past four weeks, during Advent, as we’ve been digging into the titles of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7. So far we’ve considered how the Messiah is the Wonderful Counselor, he is the Mighty God or the divine warrior who comes to conquer evil. Last week we saw that he is the Everlasting Father; we talked about the fatherly care the Messiah has for his people. Today we look at the fourth of these titles: Prince of Peace. We’re going to begin by reading Isaiah 9:6-7. If you want to follow along you can read either on the screen or in your own copy of God’s word. Hear the word of the Lord.
“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.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
This is the word of God.
I have three points this morning, in which we’ll ask several questions about this passage and about peace:
1. What is peace and why do we need it?
2. Why is Jesus the Prince of Peace?
3. How do we live in the Kingdom of Peace?
Or you could say we’re going to begin by talking about need (our need for peace); then we’re going to talk about the gospel solution, how Jesus is the Prince of Peace; and then the third point will be all application. How do we live as citizens in this kingdom of peace?
1. What is peace and why do we need it?
I think the place to start is with an understanding of this word, peace. The Hebrew word is the word shalom. Shalom carries the idea of flourishing, of wholeness, of wellbeing. It’s peace in the fullest sense of the word. It’s not just the absence of conflict, it’s not just the end of war or the end of animosity; it’s actually full flourishing, peace and wellbeing in every dimension of creation, in all the different dimensions of our relationships. It is the peace that comes from living under the gracious smile of God.
Do you remember the blessing of Aaron in Numbers 6:24-26? “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
When we are in right relationship with God, when the face of God is turned toward us in blessing and in grace, the result is peace.
My favorite definition of shalom comes from a theologian named Neil Plantinga, who wrote a wonderful little book called Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. He defines shalom like this. “Shalom is the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
When theologians talk about shalom, they actually break it down into several dimensions. Shalom covers all the dimensions of our being as creatures made in the image of God. You can think of it in this way: you can think of the spiritual dimension, the psychological dimension, the social dimensions, and the material dimension.
Spiritually, shalom has to do with peace with God, a right relationship with God, being in right relationship to him so that we are friends of God, not enemies of God.
Psychologically, shalom is the wholeness and the wellbeing of our souls. It’s peace within ourselves, so that rather than having divided hearts that are fraught with sin and stress and anxiety and guilt and fear, we are psychologically whole.
Social wellbeing has to do with relationships with other people. You might think of harmony in families, you might think of peace in communities; and then, more broadly than that, you think about peace between races and ethnic groups and peace between nations. You think of flourishing communities made up of diverse people.
Then materially, this is peace in the whole created order. This would have to do with our physical wellbeing and with our lives as created beings within a created world.
That’s shalom. That’s what peace is. Now, why do we need it? The obvious answer is because what we currently have is exactly the opposite. What we have in the world is the opposite of that chart. Spiritually, outside of Jesus Christ, every human being is alienated from God, an enemy of God, under the wrath and the judgment of God; separated from the Creator. Psychologically, we are broken and divided up in our hearts, in our inner beings, by guilt and fear and anxiety and depression. Socially, our world is marked by tribalism, by violence, by injustice and oppression. Materially, we see the physical problems of disease, sickness, death; and then, on the broader scale, we see things like tornados, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis. To summarize, we could say this: we were created to be the friends of God, but we’ve become his enemies. We were created to live in harmony with one another and with our world, but instead we are divided into tribes and groups and parties and factions. In other words, the world is a mess. The world is a disaster zone, and what we need is a disaster restoration specialist.
That’s what God is. God comes to bring order into the chaos, to clean up the mess, to bring peace, to bring shalom where there has been sin and division and death and destruction.
How is it that he does that? He does that through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. That leads us to point number two.
2 Why is Jesus the Prince of Peace?
Let’s dig into that title for a minute. Why is he called Prince of Peace?
First of all, the word Prince. That’s obviously a royal term. It has to do with royalty, with kingship. It’s a title of royalty. This whole prophecy tells us of the Davidic king, the one who will come and sit on David’s throne forever. Of course, it’s connecting to the promise, the covenant that God made with David, that “one of your sons will be on the throne and will reign forever and ever.” Well, this promise made to the people of God through Isaiah is a promise that this person will come, this ruler, this Messiah, this king, and he will be the Prince of Peace.
When we look at the passage, you see that it’s full of these royal things. In verse 6, “The government shall be upon his shoulder.” That means that he will wear the mantle of authority, he will have sovereignty. He will be the ruler.
Then verse 7, “Of the increase of his government there will be no end.” This means that his kingdom will be both extensive and everlasting. It will increase and it will never end.
This is one reason we know that this prophecy has to refer to the Messiah, to Jesus, and not just to Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz. Hezekiah was certainly a better king than Ahaz, but his reign certainly did not live forever.... This is a prophecy of the Messiah, the Christ who will come and who will rule.
What is the fruit of his reign? It is peace, justice, and righteousness “from this time forth and forevermore.” The Prince of Peace.
When we think about Jesus, everything about Jesus’s incarnation, his life and ministry, his work on our behalf, is for the sake of peace, of restoring shalom. Just think for a minute about the life of Jesus, beginning with his birth. Do you remember what the angels declared to the shepherds when jesus as born in Bethlehem? You have it recorded in Luke 2:13-14. “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’” The incarnation of Christ was for the glory of God and for the restoration of peace and of shalom.
Or think about Jesus’ life. What is it that Jesus did in his earthly ministry? If you look at Luke 4, it’s an important passage. It’s when Jesus first begins preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. What’s so interesting is that he reads from Isaiah and he says that the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in his life.
Luke 4:16-21: “He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as was his custom he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written [this is from Isaiah 61], ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”
What is Jesus doing? He is fulfilling the prophecies of the Messianic king, the anointed deliverer who will come and who will bring an end to oppression, who will bring justice, who will bring liberty to the captives. When you look at Jesus’ life and ministry you begin to see just what that entails, because what does Jesus come and do? He comes and he starts healing people of sickness and of disease. He begins forgiving people of their sins. He starts casting out demons, liberating people from the oppression of Satan, the evil one. He comes to deal with the very root of the problems of our world, the root problems of sin, and in so doing he is bringing God’s peace, God’s justice, God’s shalom to the world.
Then think for a minute about Jesus’ death. Do you remember how the prophet Isaiah also uses the image of the servant of the Lord? There are really three Messianic figures in the book of Isaiah. There is the Davidic king, the Messiah, from Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 11; but there is also the suffering servant of Isaiah 53; and then the anointed deliverer of Isaiah 61. These are three different figures, and they all come together in Jesus Christ. It’s important that we connect this to Isaiah 53. Listen to these words about the suffering servant. “But he was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
How is it that Jesus brings shalom? He brings it by losing it himself. He brings peace by suffering as the substitute and the representative for his people, by bearing our sins on the cross, so that his death was the price of our peace, the cost of shalom.
This is what Paul teaches as well in Colossians 1:18-20, speaking of Christ. “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” and listen to this, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross.”
There is no peace without the cross. It is only through atonement that shalom can come to the world.
Several decades ago there was a missionary named Don Richardson, who went to the Sawi people in New Guinea. The Sawi were a tribe of violent headhunters and cannibals. They applauded the highest form of treachery, which for them was to fatten their enemies with friendship, deceiving them, and then these enemies would become victims who would be slaughtered and eaten. Their greatest heroes were those who were the most ruthless and treacherous in the betrayals of others.
When the missionaries began to tell them the stories of Jesus, the stories of the gospel, you know who they saw as the hero of the story? Judas, because of Judas’s treachery and his betrayal of the Lord Jesus with a kiss. So the missionaries were struggling. How in the world could they connect the gospel to these people? How could they make the gospel tangible and understandable and communicate the glory of that to them in their culture?
This is what they discovered. They discovered that in the Sawi tribe there was an ancient tradition that when two tribes in that culture were at war with one another, one way that they could establish peace between the two tribes was if the chief entrusted his firstborn son, his baby child, entrusted it to the keeping of the warring tribe. By sending the child over, it was something like a peace offering; in fact, they called the child a peace child, and as long as that child lived there would be no war between the two tribes.
Don Richardson began to see the analogy to the gospel and began to present Jesus Christ as God’s peace child, sent from heaven to earth to establish peace, to bring reconciliation between God and man. Many of the Sawi people came to Christ.
Christ is God’s solution to the problem of sin and evil and brokenness in the world. He is the way of bringing peace to the world.
Are you at peace with God this morning? Do you know that your sins are forgiven? The Scriptures are very clear that the only way to be right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. As an old hymn-writer put it,
“Peace of conscience, peace with God,
We obtain through Jesus’ blood.
Jesus’ blood speaks solid rest;
We believe and we are blest.”
He is the Prince of Peace, and he brings peace through his incarnation, through his ministry, through his death, and then his resurrection. Do you remember what Jesus said over and over again to his disciples after he rose from the dead? Read John 20; you have it three times. He says, “Peace be with you.” His resurrection declared that God had brought a solution to the problem of sin and death, it declared peace to the world.
Then you have his return. This is what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for the day when Jesus comes back to bring a consummation to peace, right? To bring peace to consummation in our world.
There are echoes in the book of Revelation of the very end of Isaiah, which talks about a new heavens and a new earth, a place in which righteousness will dwell, and this new Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:17 says, “Behold, I will extend peace to her [that is, to Jerusalem] like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream. And you shall nourish and shall be carried on her hip and bounced upon her knees as one whom his mother comforts; so I will comfort you. You shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Read Revelation 21-22 and you see the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth and a river running through it. There’s a new heavens and a new earth. What is it? It is shalom; it is God’s peace coming to earth once and for all.
I love those words of Isaac Watts that we sing during this Advent season:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
That’s what we’re hoping for; cosmic restoration of the devastation caused by sin. He is the Prince of Peace.
3. How do we live in the Kingdom of Peace?
The final question is, how do we live in the kingdom of peace? Here’s where I want to get practical for the last 13-14 minutes. What does it mean for us? How do we live under the reign of the Prince of Peace? How do we live in the kingdom of peace? Paul in Romans 14 says that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is about peace—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. How do we live within that kingdom?
I want to give you quickly a summary of the Christian life, how to become a Christian and how to live as a Christian as it relates to the kingdom of peace.
(1) Number one, be sure that you’re at peace with God. That’s first; be sure you’re at peace with God. How do we come to be at peace with God? Through the cross, through faith in Christ, right? Justification by faith. We read it earlier this morning in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Just examine yourself this morning. Have you reckoned with the fact that outside of Christ you’re actually an enemy of God, not a friend of God, and that you cannot establish friendship with God, you cannot be reconciled to God on the basis of your morality, on the basis of your law-keeping, by cleaning up your life, by being a good enough person? That’s not what does it! Instead, you have to take your place among all the other sinners. You have to acknowledge, “Lord, I confess myself a sinner, and I deserve your wrath, I deserve your judgment; and I’m trusting not in myself, I’m trusting in what someone else did for me. I’m trusting in Jesus.” You’re depending on Jesus and his death for your sins, his resurrection from the grave, so that through faith in Jesus Christ there is a new verdict on your life, the verdict of “not guilty.” Justified, not because of what you’ve done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done. Are you at peace with God? Have you experienced this?
Listen, if you’re just investigating Christianity for the first time or maybe you have a renewed interest in Christianity, here’s what I want you to do. Read the book of Romans, 16 chapters—take a chapter a day, and for 16 days read the book of Romans, and you will get the heart of the gospel, because it describes how the whole world is under condemnation and no flesh can be justified by the works of the law, but God has made provision through faith in Jesus Christ, Christ dying for our sins and coming to live in our place and then being raised from the dead—there is provision. If you will trust in that work of Jesus Christ, you will be united to him by faith. Your life will be changed, you will receive the Holy Spirit, and you will begin to live in a new way, as a citizen of God’s kingdom. Are you at peace with God? That’s first.
(2) Number two, learn to live by faith. Faith is not only what begins a Christian life, faith is how you live the Christian. You don’t move on from faith, you learn to walk by faith day by day. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
It’s really interesting that in the Hebrew language, when Hebrew authors wanted to emphasize something, they didn’t put it in italics or bold print, the way we do it today. If you want to emphasize something, you put it in bold print. That’s not what they did. Instead, they would intensify something by repeating the word. They would say the Hebrew word twice.
That’s what you have here in Isaiah 26. “You keep him in perfect peace.” Literally, “You keep him in shalom shalom.” It’s peace to the greatest degree. “You keep him in perfect peace.” How? “Because his mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts in you.”
What does this mean? It means learning to walk day by day with our eyes on God as our Father, with our trust in him and in his promises, in his care for our lives. It’s learning to walk by faith.
In the same way Paul says in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” How are you filled with joy and peace? Through believing, trusting in God, in his promises, in his fatherly care, walking with him by faith day by day.
(3) Number three, walk in the Holy Spirit. Paul talks about walking in the Spirit, right? In the passage I just read, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
You remember Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace—” Where does peace come from? It’s not something you just work up, it’s something that comes to you through the power of the Spirit, through the ministry of the Spirit in your life.
That’s really encouraging, because what that means is that there is a power that is greater than any resources we have in and of ourselves. There is a supernatural power, a person, a being, who brings to us God’s peace in a supernatural way as the Holy Spirit floods our hearts and our minds with the peace of God.
This is why this peace is not just something objective, a new relationship with God, but it’s something that we subjectively experience in our lives, so that even in the most overwhelming, difficult, stressful circumstances we can be at peace.
This is why martyrs can go to the stake. They’re being burned to death, and as they are they’re singing praises to God. That’s supernatural! God has to do something for that to happen. What he does is he gives the Holy Spirit so that we can be filled with peace no matter what our circumstances. Walk in the Spirit.
(4) Number four, saturate your mind in Scripture, because the Scriptures are the instrument of the Spirit. The Spirit works through the word of God.
Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” You are not likely to have deep reservoirs of peace in your heart and in your life if you are not filled, saturated with the Scriptures.
I emphasize this every year, or one of our elders does. Every year we come to the end of the year, the beginning of a new year. Get a plan for reading your Bible. Get a plan for Bible intake. You will not be a strong Christian, you will not be a Christian full of peace, if you are not in the word of God.
That means more than just coming to church a couple of times a month or even every week or even a couple of times a week. It means that you are daily feeding on the word of God for yourself, that you are reading it, meditating on it, applying it to your life; that you are in the word in such a way that it is changing your motivations and your desires and your ways of thinking.
The psalmist says this leads to great peace. “Great peace have those who love your law.”
(5) Then number five, develop a prayer life. Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Brothers and sisters, I don’t think I can emphasize this one enough. What I’ve found in my own experience as a Christian is that I can actually be spending plenty of time reading the Bible, but if I’m not in connection with God through prayer, there will not be great peace. The Bible is crucial, but prayer is where things really come together so that the truths of the Scriptures are applied by the Holy Spirit in your heart and in your life.
I’ve seen over and over again in my life that when I have gone through stressful, difficult circumstances, when I am praying through them, there’s peace; and anytime I’m filled with anxiety and turmoil and all these kinds of feelings and emotions, I can almost always trace it back to a lack of prayer, a lack of committing it to the Lord in prayer.
Do you remember the words of the old hymn-writer? Oh what peace we often forfeit, / Oh what needless pain we bear. Why? All because we do not carry / Everything to God in prayer.
How’s your prayer life? If you don’t have peace in your heart, a sense of peace guarding your heart—that’s the idea here in Philippians 4, peace that guards you like a garrison, like a fortress that fortifies your heart and your soul, and it’s peace that’s beyond understanding, it surpasses understanding—you haven’t just reasoned yourself into this, but you experience this peace—it comes through prayer. How’s your prayer life?
(6) Then finally, there’s one more thing, and this is where we take it on the horizontal level. Everything so far has been about peace with God—objectively, your relationship with God, and the subjective experience of the peace of God in our lives, but here’s number six: Become a peacemaker. This is where you take it horizontal, where you are establishing peace, you are pursuing reconciliation and harmony with others.
You remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Paul takes that very idea and he applies it in Romans 12:16-18: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty [or arrogant], but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight; repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Just think for a minute about your own relationships. Is there a broken relationship in your life? Is there someone with whom you could be at peace if you made the first move? Maybe there’s a family member that you are estranged from. Maybe it wasn’t all your fault, but you weren’t sinless in it. A broken relationship, and there’s bitterness, there is hostility, or there is distance, you’re not speaking with each other, or it’s very cold. What if you made the first move? What if you reached out? You took ownership for what you have done wrong, you sought forgiveness without any expectation for them to do anything in return, you sought forgiveness to restore the relationship, to live at peace.
Maybe it’s a father or mother, maybe it’s an estranged son or daughter or sibling. How do you restore relationships with others?
Maybe it’s in the church. Maybe there’s someone within the church, a fellow brother or sister, where there’s brokenness in the relationship. How can you restore that?
Then think even more broadly than that. Are you a peacemaker in society, in your neighborhood, in the world? Here’s a practical thing. Does your online discourse, your posts on social media, do they promote peace, or do they promote division? Be a peacemaker. That’s part of what it means to live under the reign of the Prince of Peace, to live in the kingdom of peace.
Brothers and sisters, the world is a mess, but Christ as the Prince of Peace has come to clean up the mess. One of the great privileges of the gospel is that he enlists us into his service. He first establishes peace with us, reconciling us to God through his death and through his resurrection. Then he begins to change our lives from the inside out, so that we become ambassadors of his kingdom and we become a part of this restoration project.
Are you walking with the God of peace? Are you pursuing peace in your life? Are you at peace with God? Look to Jesus Christ this morning. Let’s pray together.
Gracious Father, we thank you for your word, we thank you for the good news that it is possible for sinners such as we are to be reconciled to you and to live at peace with God through what Jesus Christ has done. Thank you for the sacrifice of Christ, thank you for his atoning work, and thank you that we can have the experience of shalom now, in this present moment, as well as the hope that someday this whole world will be enveloped in the peace that you bring.
I pray, Lord, that as we come to the Lord’s table this morning that we would view these elements as the symbols and the signs of Christ’s body broken and his blood shed for us so that we could be at peace with you. May we view the table as well as the symbol of our unity with one another, as we love one another, are reconciled to one another, together partaking in the body and the blood of Christ.
Draw near to us in these moments, and Father, for anyone who does not know Christ, may these be moments of moving towards through faith in him. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.