Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness 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 for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this..
As we reach the end of 2023, there’s a terrible poignancy to these verses. Has lasting peace ever felt like a more distant possibility? The idea of burning all the warriors’ boots and bloody uniforms in one giant joyous bonfire seems like a remote fantasy in a world where the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is explosive, Russia continues to bombard Ukraine, and the Yemeni civil war rages on.
As I write, there are 32 countries involved in armed conflict of some kind – whether terrorist insurgencies, civil wars, ethnic violence, or invasion. Historians largely agree there has never been a period of human history free from war. Can we hope for anything different?
In this passage, Isaiah voices an almost universal yearning for a time when of ‘peace there will be no end.’ War brings food insecurity, fear, grief, pain, and trauma. For the victor, there may be an enlarged nation and plunder to add to the coffers, but at what cost?
These powerful verses held out a beacon of hope to the beleaguered Israelites: lasting peace was coming. It wasn’t something any political leader or party would be able to bring about. Hundreds of thousands taking to the streets for anti-war protest marches would prove surprisingly ineffective. The world wouldn’t follow a trajectory of self-improvement.
Peace would be established by a child to be born – Jesus Christ – whose coming heralded a new era of peace between humans and God. As the promise of the Son of God born to us was fulfilled, so one day will he establish a kingdom without end in which peace reigns: he is the Prince of Peace. Have faith and hold onto hope because the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
In the meantime, if you’re not directly affected by war at present, ask him how you can support those who are this Christmas – whether that’s by providing for refugees in your town, donating to aid agencies, or even working directly on foreign policy.
Let’s pray for those in places where bombs fall like hail, landmines are planted like crops, and the crackle of gunfire drowns out birdsong. May God’s presence be with those trying to survive in hellish conflicts and the Holy Spirit help them hold on to what is to come – an eternal kingdom of peace.
Director of Communications, A Rocha. Jo and LICC have teamed up to adapt her 2021 Advent book, The Whole Christmas Story, into a 25-day devotional journey that connects the whole story of Christmas to the whole of our lives.
How can you share the promise of peace with your frontline? Join the conversation below.