Archive for Jesus
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV 1984):
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.
7 Of the increase 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 prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of Christ. He already had done so in chapter 7, speaking of the Christ-child as a sign, born of a virgin. Instead of a sign in chapter 9, however, we see the child coming as a gift of grace.
Some people seem to interpret the next phrase as a kind of theocratic proclamation. On the one hand, such a view is not altogether wrong. Christ is indeed Lord of all, and even now we ought to echo that classic mantra, “No King but King Jesus.” However, the “government [being] on his shoulders” is not some sort of “Jesus takes control of the state” like Atlas bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Rather, the insignia of kingly office at the time of Isaiah was placed on the shoulders, and, thus, declares the kingly nature of the coming Christ-child.
Still, what kind of king is he? What we understand from Jesus saying that his kingdom is “not of this world” should cause us to reinterpret this passage as prophesying the coming of the Kingdom of God itself – God’s active work in the world that he calls us to join. The rest of verses 6 and 7 show the character of that kingdom-work.
The four names he shall be called ought to frame our thinking, since naming in the Bible is intended to be character-driven. All of the names describe Jesus, of course, but I would speculate that the first three could also be interpreted as allusions to the Trinity. “Counselor” names the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26), “Everlasting Father” obviously names the Father, and “Mighty God” intends to reference Jesus. Perhaps “Mighty God” is significant for two reasons. First, it demands accession to Jesus being fully divine yet fully man. Second, it declares the entirety of his work as mighty. Why is it mighty? True power is not found in power over others, but power under. Jesus’ power is displayed through his unconditional love and service. This makes him powerful. “Prince of Peace” further describes his work of reconciliation of God and man, and of course reminds us that our joining his work brings us peace and requires us to be of peace as well.
In the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), and Isaiah says that his work, bringing peace, shall see no end. The fulfillment of the throne of David is not in a worldwide empire but in a cross that serves the entire world. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of the Kingdom work and message. Justice is thusly satisfied, and righteousness is thusly displayed, from that time on and forever.
God the Father, the Lord Almighty, is zealous for his Son and works to accomplish everything. The excitement in the words of this proclamation is palpable, and for me always brings to mind the glorious Messiah oratorio of George Frederic Handel. These two verses foreshadow our Savior’s work, and how different it shall be than any of the earthly kings and kingdoms that Isaiah experienced in his day. While those who desire earthly power shall pass away, Jesus’ incredible Kingdom is established “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16) God has graciously called each one of us into this work, giving us dignity and making us mighty as well, when we live in submissive synergy to his call.
This post is written in honor of my grandmother, Frances Horn.
Christians carry around much of their theology within the songs that we sing. That is why the content of our church music is so important. You may forget that sermon twenty years later, but the songs we sing have far greater temporal reach.
Consider the great themes of the classic Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”, and what kind of implications this must certainly have upon a Christian’s political stance.
“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!”
Imagine what Christians would look like if we were to truly believe these things:
His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Are we peacemakers? Do we reflect the love of Christ?
And in his name all oppression shall cease. Perhaps if we did believe in peacemaking, we’d actually be the catalyst for stopping aggression.
We ought to stop and think about those special lyrics every once in a while. This Christmas season, I hope we all reflect on our own place in God’s great work redeeming the world through the Christmas music we sing.
(This is part six of a series liveblogging Tim Suttle’s book, Public Jesus. You can read the introduction to the series here, my post on the first chapter here, and a discussion on Suttle’s Introduction here. Each chapter will be liveblogged.)
Have you ever read a novel so captivating that you find yourself lost in another world? Watched a film so enthralling you were literally on the edge of your seat? Heard a sermon or lecture that challenges your way of thinking, not in a confrontational way, but in a way so refreshing you find yourself not caring that it just questioned everything you’ve previously believed? If you’ve tasted of this kind of “languaging”, you will have a sense of the Christian vocation.
Artisans of written word and the craftsmen of stories know intimately the power of language. Language can be a weapon or an instrument of peace. It can tear down or build up. It can unite and divide. It can reject and accept. We are communicators swimming in the ocean of language, yet many of us often fail to recognize how poorly we use our language in ways that honor God.
While we certainly have the power to shape our language, it is also true that language shapes us as well. Without getting too philosophical about it, a simple example will do. Libertarians often stop an argument between a conservative and a progressive by saying, “You both are framing the argument in the wrong way.” The key here is framing. (By the way, I’m not claiming libertarians don’t poorly frame arguments.) In the same way our simple debates are shaped by the words we use, language itself is so deeply rooted that it affects our world view.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, followers of Christ ought to be willing and able to do what Jesus did: use the power of language to describe a different vision of reality. When we do, Tim Suttle believes that “God just appears and happens in the moment and leaves us forever changed.” Most of us tend to ignore nuance and look at the world in binary: conservative/progressive, rich/poor, black/white, attractive/unattractive, and so on. But think about what Jesus did; he sided with the unclean, the outcasts, earning himself the title “friend of sinners.” Somehow, Jesus was able and eager to say “yes” to those on the “wrong” side. In doing so, he was able to communicate a vision more radical than a mere elimination of “them” (the bad ones). He came into the world to redeem it, to rescue it, to bring it new life.
Suttle’s chapter on “languaging” God could be condensed into this: “The Christian’s most sacred vocation when relating to another human being is to try to become the conduit through which that person comes into contact with the risen Savior. As we relate to one another, God can ‘happen’ to us over and over.” The whole point of the incarnation is that “God can happen to anyone, anytime, anyplace…” When we pay attention, we can be a part of that. But that’s the hard part, this paying attention business. Without being hostile, we often treat those unlike ourselves indifferently, being inattentive in an equally dehumanizing way. The first step to languaging God is to refuse to ignore the world around us.
There are two things we’re supposedly not to talk about in polite company: religion and politics. Why? It’s divisive, almost inherently so. Good dialogue about such topics takes time. Discussing controversial topics thoughtfully is an art, and takes patience. It takes little time to rouse the passions of the opinionated. It takes gracefulness and humility to dialogue meaningfully. This is why how we speak and how we listen is so important.
Instead of using our words to divide, we ought to use them to embrace. Do we frame discussions in such a way that tilts the conversation our way? Or do we use grace and humility to hear out the other person? When we look into helping those in need, are our words and actions showing them pity or love?
When we become artisans of a new way of speaking, we language God to our world in a way that honors God and respects our neighbor. In this way we bring peace while we preach peace, something both libertarians and Christians are passionately committed.
Recapping the interesting and significant news and articles of the past week.
American Christians should be concerned about drugs not because the drugs themselves harm (some do, and some not so much), but because the United States government uses drugs as an excuse to wage total war on the American people. Anthony Gregory recently published reasons why the Right should oppose the drug war at AmCon Mag.
I’m also excited to announce that our very own Laurence Vance is releasing a new book about the drug war on September 30th. He is sending me a copy with haste and I look forward to telling all of you about it soon.
Rand Paul, to me, is somewhat of a mixed bag, but sometimes he really surprises me. For instance, at the recent Values Voter Conference he clearly argued for a non-interventionist foreign policy, even saying, “I don’t believe Jesus would have killed anyone.” Kudos to Rand for sticking to the peace message here.
I would be remiss to point out, though, that one can also be a Christian nonvoter like Jim Fedako. Whatever you choose, do so knowing why you do it.
Did you know that the Federal Reserve now has police powers? And that they’re buying massive amounts of ammunition? So much for being a “private” institution (as if it ever was one)!
How about another infographic? Here is one on online piracy that is… very informative!
And now for you’re moment of Zen…
The chemist in me found this very, very funny.
Have you been to LCC recently? If not, here are a few posts you may have missed:
- Painting Government Into a Corner
- Dealing with Colossians 3
- Lies, Damn Lies, and the Republican Party Platform
- Do you still have a 9-11 Mentality?
Have something you want to share? Please let us know in the comments. I read every comment and respond to most of them. Thanks for your support!