Monday 14 December 2015

Bible Book:

"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 of hosts will do this." (v. 7)

Isaiah 9:2-7 Monday 14 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 145:1-7


These verses from Isaiah are most commonly understood byChristians as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus. Its originalcontext however is the Syro-Ephraimitewar and the depression of the Israelites as a result offoreign domination - in this instance by Assyria.

The writer is attempting to speak a word of light and hope intowhat seems like a deathly dark and hopeless situation. Threedistinct images, the yoke, the rod and the staff, are used as a wayof stressing the extent of the suffering of the people. The onlyhope of salvation is clearly linked to victory over the oppressorthrough the rise of a powerful leader in much the same way thatGideon was raised up by God to save the Israelites from theMedianites (Judges7).

The sound of the marching army, amplified by special sandals andthe use of garments, rolled in blood from past battles, weredeliberate scare tactics used by Assyrians to intimidate theirenemies. Peace will therefore only be assured after battle has beenwon and the sandals and uniforms of the enemy are burned to preventthem ever being used again.

The seeming contradiction between the expectations of theIsraelites and of the Christians concerning the nature and purposeof God's Messiah is partially resolved in the final verse of thissection. The writer knows only too well that the end of allsuffering and the peace, which Israel so longs for, even if it isenvisaged in the language of victory in battle, will nonethelessonly come about by the miraculous intervention of God. It is Godwho will provide the son that will be given.

The challenge for Christians who simply want to read the text asprophetic of Christ's birth is the absence of the promised peacefor the kingdom of David. There is, as yet, no sign of the justiceand righteousness that are to be the hallmark of the reign of theprince of peace. Ultimately therefore, both interpretations must beheld together in the "Amen" of the final verse. "The zeal of theLord of Hosts will do this."

To Ponder

  • Can peace ever be achieved without people fighting for it? Whatother options are there?
  • What would convince you that the reign of God really is athand?
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