Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. - Isaiah 40:9
The bad news seems endless: another horrendous terrorist attack, another mindless shooting, still more refugees flee, old wars heating up, new ones beginning, fresh evidence and dire warnings of global warming, nuclear proliferation, increasing military spending by nations amid threats and competition for strategic superiority, not to mention warnings of other imminent disasters, such as the end of our antibiotic protection against death-dealing microbes. This relentless drumbeat of bad news is leaving many of us feeling fearful and more inclined to protect ourselves than help others. Instead of welcoming those fleeing murderous and even genocidal violence in Syria or Iraq we demand that not even a small portion of this suffering multitude be allowed sanctuary in our country, even though they go through a thorough process of background checks lasting from 18 to 24 months! Could terrorists hide among them and gain entry to our country? There is a remote possibility, but it is far more likely they would come here on tourist visas as the nineteen 9/11 attackers did. Those of us who trust in God and what He has taught us in the Scriptures have an antidote to this spirit of fear and an answer to the problems facing humanity. We have so much to give us hope and spur us to positive action!
Soon we will be celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, a wonderful part of “the greatest story ever told”. Shortly after His birth in a stable, the Holy Child was taken by His mother and father to a foreign country because they were being pursued by a murderous Middle Eastern ruler. (That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?!) The Apostle Matthew tell us that this was to fulfill one of the prophecies about the Messiah: “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (2:15; quoting Hosea 11:1) This is but one of a multitude of prophecies concerning the Messiah’s birth, life, death and resurrection that were fulfilled by Jesus. But what people often overlook is that these prophecies of the Messiah’s first coming (there are also prophecies concerning His second coming, yet to be fulfilled) are often accompanied by prophecies of what will be the eventual consequences of His first coming. Let’s take a look at one of these that is often quoted during the Advent season.
Most of us are familiar with the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 – “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Indeed, Jesus is today called by all these wonderful titles but verse 7 says what will be the consequence of His coming: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” His peaceful government over men’s hearts will increase forever! This will not be by military conquest or governmental coercion. Jesus taught the way of peace and provided a perfect example of how He would overcome His enemies and make them His friends: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” John explains what this meant: “But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” (John 12:32-33)
Sadly, I have no space in this brief article to go into even a small portion of the many prophecies connecting Christ’s first coming with the eventual conversion of the world to His government of peace but they conclude unanimously in one final outcome to occur before His glorious return: peace will overspread the earth as the great majority in every nation freely choose to obey Him. This will be accomplished by God’s power as we become bearers of the good news, the gospel, lifting up our voices without fear. Instead of seeing refugees as a threat, we can see them as God’s invitation to share with them the good news, by word and deed. And it also means taking responsibility for the task Christ gave us before He ascended into heaven – to make disciples of all the nations by helping them to trust in God and do all that Jesus has commanded us, including loving even our enemies as Jesus loved us while we were still His enemies. (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 5:8)