The Politics of Advent – Part 1

“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. 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.” – Isaiah‬ ‭9:6-7‬

Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and with a slight modification of this sentiment, Doug Wilson said, “the unexamined holiday is not worth celebrating.” I agree with both ideas, which is why I prefer to examine life and its traditions continuously. For me, a thing has to make sense before I’m okay with it. 

Some see this as doubt or something like doubt, but I assure you it’s not that at all. This examination process is the precursor to a more concrete or established faith. 

Faith, according to the Bible, has both assurance and evidence (Hebrews 11:1). Examinations like what we are doing with Advent make sense of what we do—they provide the assurance and evidence we need to walk by genuine faith.

Dallas Willard said, “The idea of a ‘leap of faith’ is ridiculous. Faith ‘leaps’ on the basis of knowledge. Abraham ‘in faith’ went out not knowing where he was going, but knowing that God was with him.” 

I change that to say that Abraham ‘in faith’ went out not knowing where he was going, but he knew he was going somewhere. The reason he knew it was because God told him—this is assurance and evidence. As a matter of fact all faith is predicated upon the word of God in one way or another.

Contrary to popular belief, faith is also not blind. It may not always see, but there’s a vast difference between being blind and not seeing. Examining our traditions to see better (examining anything we believe to see better) is an attempt to strengthen one’s faith.

Contrary to popular belief, faith is also not blind. It may not always see, but there’s a vast difference between being blind and not seeing. Click To Tweet

This series on Advent is all about examining the lines that we’ve drawn and replacing them with the ones God has established. And we do all of this so that our celebration is truly worth participating in.

Last week we took our first step. We came away with some significant observations of who Jesus was. I suppose the most crucial identity we looked at was Jesus as ‘the seed of Abraham.’ As God’s chosen seed, Jesus meant to (and did) bring blessing to the whole world.

And yet, it’s not a complete picture to see this blessing as salvation from sin alone. It contains that for sure, but it must be far more. This is why as we will see today, there’s always been a political element to Advent (although it’s often misunderstood). 

Last week I showed that even Mary believed her baby boy had come to overthrow rulers and topple thrones. God’s story includes bringing political peace.

I’ve titled this series, ‘The Politics of Advent.’ But I promise it’s not the political nonsense you’re used to. 

We have a lot to cover, so let me give you the outline first, and then in the next two posts, we will tackle each subsequent part. We’ll be following the themes presented in Isaiah 9:6-7.

  • What is the phrase “unto ‘us’ a child is born” all about?
  • What does it mean that the government will rest upon His shoulders? What government or governments?
  • What about Romans 13? If God establishes all existing governments and they rest on His shoulders, how should this affect our faith as American Christians?
  • When did, ‘no end to the increase of His government or peace’ begin?
  • What about His name…’ Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.’ What does it all mean?
  • What does it mean to sit on ‘the throne of David’ and be ‘over His Kingdom?’
  • How does ‘the Zeal of the Lord of Hosts’ accomplish God’s objectives? What is zeal in this context?
  • Finally, we’ll wrap it all up with a nice bow.

 

What is the phrase “unto ‘us’ a child is born” all about?

I think we often overlook that democratic forms of governance were not the norm throughout human history. Instead, what we see are monarchies of some kind. For people to hear that a child would be born to right the wrongs of society, for us is incredible, but to others it’s not strange or outlandish. It was even something of a relief if the father (the previous king) was good.

For example, Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 34:1-2) was King over Israel at the ripe old age of eight. He was one of the more godly of Israel’s Kings and lauded as such,

“He did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.” – ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭22:2‬‬

To Israel, God was working for justice through a promise He made to David—King Josiah was merely a part of that promise. 

Another fun fact here is that in a patriarchal system, the father’s name extended well beyond his own life. And if the father were a key figure, his name would expand in a very unique way. For example, we just read about Josiah as the son of David.” But David wasn’t Josiah’s father; that was Amon. Josiah was a descendant of David, and so a son of David would always sit upon the throne. 

Another example of this is Jacob and Esau. When the names are referenced in Malachi and Romans, they refer to the people groups, not necessarily the individual. The individuals were long gone, and their service had been fulfilled but the fathers name endured.

One final example is when Jesus said that He would make children for Abraham from the rocks (a warning to the Pharisees). People looked back to Abraham as their starting point.

My point is that the son in view in Isaiah 9 is a ‘son of David,’ like Josiah but better. And yet still an eternal promise that God gave Israel for political means.

“For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;” – Jeremiah‬ ‭33:17‬

So first, we have a clear political promise in Isaiah 9, which will lead to the question in our next post: What does it mean that the government will rest upon His shoulders? What government or governments? 

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