Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A "Prince of Peace" Who Doesn't Bring Peace

In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah. 

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.

These words describe Jesus, who is called, Christ, the Savior of the World.  However, Jesus seemingly contradicts His title of Prince of Peace in Matthew 10:34-36

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
   " 'a man against his father,
      a daughter against her mother,
   a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
    36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.

How is it that the Prince of Peace does not come to bring Peace?  As is stands today, Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace, but yet He Himself tells us that He did not come to bring Peace, but a sword  How can both of these things be true?

Jesus came to this world as a man.  He operated in this world as a man.  But to leave His description there would be to fall eternally short of who Jesus truly was, and is.  Jesus was a man, but He is also God… God in flesh.  John 1:1-2,14 explains this to us.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[d] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The “Word” referred to in this Scripture is Christ Jesus.  He is God(Almighty and All-Powerful) and with God(Yahweh, The Lord, Jehovah, The Father) simultaneously.  They are separate, but one in essence(properties, attributes, and desire).  Colossians 6:9-10 also speaks of the unity of Yahweh & Jesus.

 9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

God(Yahweh) is a Spirit, not a body, nor a man. (John 4:24, Numbers 23:19).  But all of who and what Yahweh is(properties, desires, and attributes) was in bodily form in Jesus, who is head over all things.  Yahweh is God(Supreme, Almighty, Most High).  The fullness of who and what Yahweh is was wrapped in flesh, in the body of a man, in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was a man(body/flesh).  But He was also God(Supreme, Almighty, Most High).

Establishing Jesus as God brings us a step closer to answering our original question.  How can Jesus be both the Prince of Peace, and yet, not bring Peace?  If Jesus is God, and shares in all of Yahweh’s properties, attributes, and desires, then everything associated with Yahweh may also be associated with Jesus.  And everything attributed to Yahweh may also be attributed to Jesus.  If we can associate and attribute God with Peace, then we can do the same to Jesus.  Now that we know Jesus is God, what makes Him the Prince of Peace?  We find Yahweh being referred to as “Peace” in Judges 6:23-24

23And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
 24Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom… 

Jehovahshalom is translated as “Jehovah/Yahweh/God is Peace.”  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary tells us that Peace is silence or calm.  Peace is freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts and emotions.  Peace is harmony in personal relations.  Peace is an agreement to end hostility between parties that have been at war or in a state of enmity.  Peace is what Gideon called Yahweh after Yahweh had spared his life where Gideon should have died.  Yahweh told His servant Moses in Exodus 33:20 that “No man may see my face and live.”  Yet, in Judges Chapter 6, Yahweh appeared to Gideon in bodily form.  Gideon saw His face.  Rightly, Gideon should’ve died.  But despite this, Yahweh speaks a calming word to Gideon, “Peace be unto thee, fear not: thou shalt not die.”

Yahweh brought calm and silence to a man who was yelling out in fear concerning what had just taken place and made him worthy of death.  Yahweh freed Gideon from the oppressive thoughts and emotions that told him he would now die.  Yahweh restored the harmony in the relationship between He and his chosen people, Israel, which Gideon thought was now surely lost, as Yahweh had allowed Israel to be oppressed by the Midianites.  Yahweh had assured Gideon that there was not hostility between them, although Gideon was a Hebrew, the very people who continued to prostitute themselves away from Yahweh, and had brought down correction that had the entire nation, including Gideon believing that Yahweh had forsaken them.  Yahweh had assured Gideon that he would not die.

Yahweh had brought true peace unto Gideon.  This was not a Peace that would see Gideon free from war and hardship.  In fact, Yahweh’s visit to Gideon was to commission Him to go forth in battle against the Midianites.  This was not a peace that said that everything will go right for Gideon throughout the remainder of his life.  This was a blessed guarantee that Yahweh would be with Him in all things, and that Yahweh had ultimately granted him victory over all that opposed him.  This was a reassurance that though things may seem as if Yahweh has abandoned Him, Yahweh will carry Gideon through to the end.  Yahweh had not discharged Gideon from duty, but He sent him forth, with assurance of victory.  Regardless of what Gideon may encounter, he was to know that God was for Him.  And that is greater than all of the world against him.

This very message is the ultimate message of Christ to all those who will believe in Him.  In the tenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus is commissioning His disciples to go forth and preach to the lost sheep of Israel.  The disciples had seen the persecution and disapproval of Jesus by the religious authorities and their followers.  They had no reason to expect better treatment.  For Jesus to be carrying the message of God, the way He was received would cause many to question His authenticity.  If Jesus was truly bringing God’s message, why were those who should certainly know the voice of God rejecting Him?  Jesus promised His disciples that they would see no better treatment than He.  In verse 16 Jesus says,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves…”  

 In verse 22,

All men will hate you because of me…” 

In verses 24-25

24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,[c] how much more the members of his household!”

Certainly hardship and difficulty lay ahead for Jesus’ followers.  This type of adversity would lead many to believe that the men who endure this manner of tribulation can not be servants of God.  But just as The Lord sent Gideon forth, in the midst of adversity, with assurance of victory, Jesus does the same for His followers in verses 28-33,

28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
 32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Gideon was assured that he would strike down the Midianites as one man.  The war between Israel and Midian would not endure.  However, the war between light and dark, death and life, good and evil shall thrive.  Ultimately, one shall completely vanquish the other.  Darkness, death, and evil shall no more be heard from in one million years than the dinosaurs are heard from now.  But despite the length of the battle, victory has been pre-appointed by a Sovereign Lord.  Things may not always seem as though the Divine Decree has gone forth.  Times may come during which the Word of God seems to be of no-effect.  But believers in Christ are to rest assured that every supposed advance of the Enemy is actually a step toward the ultimate victory that God has spoken from the beginning.

As Gideon completely destroyed the Midianites, so has the work of Christ completely removed all that stands between man and a right-relationship and standing before God.  Jesus was sent to this world as “The Sacrifice” that would be the once and for all atonement for the sin of all who believe in Him.  In the sacrificial system, an animal was used as a substitute for a man or an assembly.  What happened to the animal(Death) was what should rightly happen to the person or people.  However, the animal took the punishment it did not deserve in order that men should be free of the guilt they stood under.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the ultimate sacrifice for man.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of this hundreds of years before it takes place in Isaiah 53:9

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.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary tells us that to “chastise” is to severely punish, or to censure, which is to judge, blame, or condemn sternly.  The guilty, severe punishment of condemnation that was upon Christ, brought us Peace.  This restored peace was concerning our relationship with God.

Jesus Christ offers true peace to all who follow and believe in Him.  Just as God told Gideon that He would be with him despite how things appeared, Christ frees the minds and hearts of His people from disquieting and oppressive thoughts and emotions by letting them know He is with them, regardless of how things look.  Just as Yahweh was with Gideon, Jesus will be with His people.  In Matthew 28:20, Jesus commissions all of His followers and leaves them with this parting note,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The blood of Christ is the decree that ends the hostility and enmity that has separated God and man, and restores the harmony of their relationship.  Isaiah refers to Jesus prophetically as “Mighty God”, Everlasting Father” and “Prince of Peace.”  I believe this is done intentionally to show that Jesus “Is God”(Supreme and Almighty), but also “Of God”(begotten and Son).  The term “Prince” refers to an heir.  One who will eventually take over as King.  But Jesus is, and always has been King of kings and Lord of lords.  How can the King also be the Prince?  He must be equivalent with the King, and also born of the King.  The reign of Jehovah/Yahweh will never end.  Thus, the reign of Jehovah/Yahweh and that of Jesus must be one and the same in order for Scripture to be fulfilled concerning Jesus in Isaiah 9:7,

Of the increase of his government and peace
       there will be no end.

Just as in the time of Gideon, Jesus also speaks to His people, “Peace be unto you, fear not, you shall not die.”  Though because of the fall, we all rightly deserve death, Christ has died our death for us, thus ushering us into eternal life.  Certainly many of Jesus disciples have died, just as Jesus Himself died.  But the Apostle Paul tells us in the New Testament that “To die is gain.”  The death Jesus refers to is the same spoken of in John 3:16,

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

All men must die.  But all men do not perish.  Though we die a physical death, we are spiritually alive, even beyond the grave.  To perish is to die spiritually, and to await a final judgment of “Guilty” from Christ on the Day of Judgment, when all who have received the same verdict, along with Satan and death will be tossed into the Lake of Burning Sulfur.  This is the second death.  Though a man in Christ will certainly die physically, he will never see a spiritual death.  He will never perish, but will go to be with Christ, where He is.  In John 11:25 Jesus explains,
“He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”  

 And in John 14:2-3,

“I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

By the hand of Gideon, God brought a peace to Israel that released them from the burden, bars, and chains of Midian.  But by Jesus Christ, God has released all who will believe in Him from the burden and chains of Sin & Death.  God is King, and God is Peace.  Jesus is God, and of God.  Both King, and Prince.  And without question, He is Prince of Peace.

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