I suspect many of us at present find it hard to watch the news – you may, indeed, have given up on it altogether. There seems to be so much violence, so much instability, so many reminders that peace in this world is fragile and hard to maintain, however sophisticated we consider ourselves to be.
How we need today’s passage, which picks up where yesterday’s left off. Isaiah has another great vision of the peace that God will ultimately bring to this fractured world. Admittedly the context is set more in terms of a victory for God’s people: nevertheless it is equally clear that, in this vision of a healed world, there will be no more need for armies or violence – blood-soaked boots and clothes will be burned and done away with forever (v5).
But this vision in ch9 goes a step further than ch2 – there will be a focal point for this new era of peace. A child will be born who carries divine authority, who will usher in and oversee this restoration of all things. And this child will have wonderful names, including perhaps the loveliest of all, certainly the most appropriate for this week: the Prince of Peace. Or, to use the original word, the Prince of Shalom.
Shalom is now translated peace, but its meaning is much broader than our traditional definition. It means completeness or wholeness, the sense of everything being put right, perfected. This kind of shalom is much more than merely the absence of conflict, it is an active state of complete wellbeing. (For a deeper exploration of shalom, watch this great video – four minutes of your life well spent.)
This is the destiny which God intends for his world. And he will achieve it through the son which he gives (v6). Jesus is the Prince of Shalom. No wonder the angels cry out at his birth: ‘on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests!’ (Luke 2:14)
May today’s passage give us renewed faith – even a little mustard seed of it – to pray for our world. Let’s also give thanks that, above and beyond our human leaders, there reigns a greater, divine leader, one whose vision for the world is ultimately to establish complete wellbeing for all people, and whose vision will one day come to pass: Jesus, the Prince of Shalom. And may that divine shalom be ours today – the shalom that transcends all understanding.