War is a terrible side effect of living in this fallen world. Had sin not entered the world, there would have been no World War II, no Vietnam, no Iraq or Afghanistan. I saw a statistic this week that floored me. It stated that 40 MILLION people died (civilian and military) in World War II alone. Another statistic estimates that 160 million people died in the twentieth century due to military conflict. These numbers are sobering and a stark reminder that we are not in Eden any longer.
Any reading of the Old Testament helps us understand that God does use war (inside this sinful world) to advance His purposes. I am not quoting statistics here to say that all war is “wrong,” but what I am saying is that all war has a huge cost . . . and I am not just referring to an enlargement of the national debt.
Given the prevalence of war, and its destructive toll on humanity, it is not surprising that people (since the beginning of time) have longed for a day when peace would last. In many ways, the world is like a giant school yard full of insecure bullies who abuse their people with violence to secure their own position. People have always longed for a day when the bullies would be stilled, but is that day ever really going to come? God says it will. In fact, God issued a prophecy through Isaiah in Isaiah 9:1-7 declaring that the bullies of the world would one day be replaced by a most peculiar leader. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah prophesied this:
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will soon be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in the darkness will see a great light – a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow. Israel will again be great, and its people will rejoice as people rejoice at harvesttime. They will shout with joy like warriors dividing the plunder. For God will break the chains that bind His people and the whip that scourges them, just as He did when He destroyed the army of Midian with Gideon’s little band. In that day of peace, battle gear will no longer be issued. Never again will uniforms be bloodstained by war. All such equipment will be burned. For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us. And the government will rest on His shoulders. These will be His royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!”
This prophecy is one of the most famous in all of the Old Testament . . . and for good reason! What a blessed hope it promises. From the land of Galilee, a small rural province in northern Israel that often drew the first attack from invading armies because of its northern exposure, a leader would emerge that would bring glory and peace to God’s people. This leader would be a bully-buster who would establish peace on the earth and eliminate the need for trillions of dollars to be spent on national defense. Surprisingly, though, the leader who would quell the bullies would not be a bigger bully, but a child. What a contrast! The mighty Assyrian army (in Isaiah’s day) could be stopped by God working through a little child. The terror of Al Qaeda could be silenced from the crib of Bethlehem’s manger. This child, of course, was Jesus who would grow up and reveal Himself as Mighty God. 700 years after this prophecy was given, Jesus would be born as a child, clothing Himself in humanity, to set in motion a plan to bring lasting peace to the earth.
What is amazing about reading this prophecy from Isaiah at Christmas time, though, is that the accomplishment of this prophecy has not yet fully taken place. The gifts of Isaiah 9 are still wrapped under the Christmas tree of Christ’s second advent. When Jesus returns to the earth at a future time, He will put an end to war and He will rule the world in peace. One day war will cease, and the bullies will be stopped. The One who was born a Child will return in glorious triumph and shine His light throughout our world. That is one present I cannot wait to be unwrapped.