Merry Christmas! This week, Edmond Vanderpuye meditates on the prophetic titles ascribed to the child whose birth we celebrate today and whose reign shall endure forever. Edmond writes to us from Ghana.
Located in West Africa, Ghana was among the first African countries to throw off the yoke of European colonialism, gaining independence in 1957. Around 71% of Ghana’s 32 million people identify as Christians and 20% as Muslims. Long recognized for its political stability, religious tolerance, and mineral resources, Ghana currently faces economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian War. Pray with us for those in need of help and hope amid surging inflation (over 50%), as costs of housing, water, gas, and electricity swell by 79%.
Edmond is pursuing a PhD in Theology and Development through the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in the UK. As Executive Director of International Needs Ghana, a holistic development ministry, Edmond is researching sustainable models for Christian social enterprise. In a recent Global InSights piece, Edmond ponders, “Why are Social Enterprises Key to Fulfilling Jesus’ Mission?” Edmond and his wife Nana have four children.
Edmond shares the following devotional and prayer requests:
A beautiful aspect of Ghanaian culture is the traditional chieftaincy. It is a recognized form of political governance in Ghana. As leaders of tribal groups, chiefs are usually selected based on defined criteria. They play an important role in mobilizing tribes and addressing their people’s welfare.
When chiefs are installed, they are given titles, usually in the local language. The titles convey the qualities of the person being named as chief. Among the Akans of Ghana, examples of such titles include Daasebre (courageous), Ɔdeneho (the strong one), Ɔsaagyɛfo (redeemer), and Otumfuo (omnipotent). Chiefs aren’t born with these titles, which are only accorded to them during their installation as chiefs.
Consider this naming practice in relation to Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of a child and the giving of a son who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This Christmas, we cannot fail to notice a world in chaos, still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The global economy is suffering the repercussions of the Russo-Ukrainian War, with rising inflation and energy costs in most countries, disrupted supply chains, and geopolitical shifts. Leaders worldwide are struggling to respond to socioeconomic and political challenges. It is against this backdrop that we reflect on Isaiah 9:6-7 to inspire hope and joy despite our circumstances.
A Context of Uncertainty
In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read this familiar prophecy regarding the birth of Jesus: “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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Here, Isaiah is speaking to the southern kingdom of Judah before the Babylonian exile. Judah had to decide on a military strategy to overcome their enemies. Yet, they were feeling powerless and afraid to advance. As their enemies only seemed to grow stronger and tighten their grasp, they didn’t know if God was for them or against them, or if He had simply abandoned them.
Among Isaiah’s prophecies about Judah’s future defeat, exile, and return, there is this vision of a child who would represent God’s presence, embody His characteristics, and govern His people.
The Promise of Change
In Isaiah 9, God promises that God’s people would move from gloom to glory, from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, from oppression to a broken yoke. But what will happen after liberation? Who will be the ruler then?
The government will not fall upon us. Rather, the government will fall upon the shoulders of the One described in Isaiah 9:6. Everything hangs on the kind of ruler He will be. The rest of the verse tells us that He will be the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). God is a counselor. He takes counsel in His own will, and everything works together according to the counsel of His will.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Rom. 11:33-34). God’s counsel is never improved upon by us. He knows what is wise. We are not God’s counselor. Rather, God is our counselor: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psa. 32:8). God’s fatherly counsel comes to His people as we trust Him.
Jesus is not only a wise governor, but also a very strong governor. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).
God “has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:2b-3a) In Colossians 1:16, we also learn that all things in heaven and on earth were created in Him, through Him and for Him. In other words, Jesus is the Mighty God who upholds the universe by His power.
This is the most surprising one, that Jesus the Son of God would be called Father. What are we to make of this? In Isaiah 53:10a, we read: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.”
In other words, when Jesus dies for sinners, even though God the Father is uniquely the Father of all, Jesus becomes a kind of father to those whom He forgives and brings into being as God’s new creation. In John 14:18a, Jesus says to His disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans” or as fatherless ones. So, there is a sense in which Jesus is a father, as He restores our relationship with God the Father.
Prince of Peace
Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
In Isaiah 53:5, we learn that “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” So, there’s a healing peace with God that comes through Christ bearing our transgressions. As Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 2:14-16 offers the fullest statement of His peace working through the cross: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Jesus, the great peacemaker, reconciles us to God and to one another.
As I conclude, I invite you to reflect on the words of David Guzik about the government God promises both ultimately and right now:
“What might such a government look like? First of all, it would look like its king.
- Politicians of this day look for what they can get from you. Jesus looks for what He can do for you.
- Leaders of this day surround themselves with servants. Jesus surrounds us with His servanthood.
- Leaders of this day use their power to build their empire. Jesus uses his power to wash our feet and make us clean and comfortable.
- Leaders of this day trade their influence for money. God so loved that he gave…
- Generals of this day need regular wars to keep their weapons and skills up to date and insure their own advancement. Jesus brings peace and rest to hearts.”
Beloved in the Lord, we will be governed by the Wonderful Counselor, who is infinitely wise. We will be ruled by the Mighty God, who is infinitely strong and whom no one can defeat. We will be led by the Everlasting Father with fatherly care and provision. Under the Prince of Peace, the whole world will be transformed into a place of righteousness and peace. How are you participating in this transformation?
Call to Prayer
1. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child and the gift of God’s Son in these very challenging circumstances, pray that people who are distressed and persecuted will remain hopeful.
2. Pray that the Lord would grant us fortitude as we make sense of the chaos in our world, so that we can see how Jesus becomes the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6-7 in our lives.
3. Thank God for my successful pre-viva. Pray for clarity of thought and expression as I work through finalizing my thesis for submission and examination.