“… and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6 – Read verses 6-7)
A letter to the editor began, “Imagine a government that made promises and kept them.” The writer’s frustration highlights the fact that human governments are notorious for making promises and not keeping them. Sometimes it is because they discover things are more complex than they imagined. Sometimes because they never intended to keep their promises in the first place.
Any promise is only ever as good as a person’s ability to deliver on it. That is true of promises made in politics, advertising, or anywhere else. It is true of God’s promises too.
Advent and Christmas are seasons of wonderful Gospel promises. We hear the God’s good news of the Saviour’s birth proclaimed in words that promise love, joy, peace, hope, and goodwill.
As these promises come to us, our human hearts may fail us in either of two ways. We may fail to trust that God’s promises can become real for us; that the Saviour can bring the love, joy, peace and hope we so long for. Or we may outwardly celebrate these promises while inwardly resisting God’s gracious rule over our entire lives.
The words of God spoken through Isaiah don’t just bring us promises to celebrate, but also assurance that the One who comes with his promises is able to deliver on them.
Isaiah’s promise that his name “shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is flanked by verses that proclaim his sovereign power to deliver what he promises. God says, “the government shall be upon his shoulder,” and, “of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” He concludes with the exclamation, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
What does he mean by, “the government shall be upon his shoulder”? When I was very young, I used to think that this referred to the earthly authorities giving Jesus a hard time. Only later did I realize that this passage points to a different “government” – to the authority and power he gave to his only Son.
Jesus is the One to whom God gives strength and authority to uphold all things and establish the eternal rule of God in the hearts of people.
The Saviour’s coming, his earthly life, his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection were all part of a gracious plan to bring his eternal kingdom to us. His cross points to a spiritual kingdom, a new righteousness and eternal peace which we receive by faith.
That our Saviour has the power and authority to deliver on his wonderful promises is the source of our greatest hope. Our hope rests securely on the shoulders of him who has absolute power and authority to deliver on his promises.
There is never any need to doubt whether these promises can become reality for us. Nor is there reason to outwardly celebrate these promises while inwardly resisting God’s gracious rule over our entire lives.
The promise of forgiveness of sins, new life and eternal salvation come to us on the shoulders of the One who came to shoulder our sin so we may share in his victory.
Promises like, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying a heavy load and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28) also call us to trust that he really does have the ability and desire to deliver on his promise to ‘shoulder’ our heavy loads every moment of our lives.
God’s promises bring such hope only because “the government is upon his shoulders.” That is, he rules all things and has the power and authority to deliver on his promises.
Where do you need to hear the precious promises of Christ the Saviour most clearly right now?
How can the truth that this Saviour has been given power and authority to deliver on all his promises inspire you to greater trust in him?
May the sovereign power of God in Jesus make the Advent and Christmas celebration of his promises of love, joy, peace, hope and goodwill all the sweeter for you.
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania