Here is one of the great promises spoken of the Child that Isaiah prophesied that would be born to God’s people (Isaiah 9.2-7); of the baby of Bethlehem; of the One whose name would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” – “the government will rest on His shoulders.”
We can perhaps see why some of Jesus’ contemporaries might have expected Him to overthrow Rome. After all, wasn’t the Messiah coming to take the government upon His own broad back, and to rule righteously upon the earth? Yes! That’s why Isaiah said “a child will be born to us” and “a son will be given to us” – in order that this Child might reign as King. That He might govern in the place of wicked men, and do so righteously!
And yet here we are, nearly two thousand years on from the manger at Bethlehem … and the world’s governments generally seem no closer to coming under the rule of King Jesus than they did when Herod was slaughtering innocent children in Bethlehem. Still we groan when we look at much of what goes on in the name of the state. And if we groan, in free America, where we still cling to so many blessings even in the realm of our government … what about our brothers and sisters scattered abroad in lands where the princes have already travelled much further down the atheistic road that our nation seems committed to follow? And what about our Christian family in lands of deep corruption? And persecution? Surely they know what it is to be “weary and heavy-laden” … even under the very government systems in which they live.
But what do we do? We can murmur about these things, and pat each other on the back as we commiserate together about how frustrating things can sometimes be … which really does precious little good (and violates the law of God, Ex. 22.28, Eph. 4.29). And we should work toward better, more godly, more faithful government … which will have some benefit for us all (even for those who do not hold to our faith).
But as we look out on the dark clouds that seem to gather ever more quickly on the governmental horizon, it seems to me (perhaps especially at Christmastime) that, most of all, we should leaf back through the pages of the prophets, and trek back to the feed trough at Bethlehem … where our ultimate hope lay in swaddling clothes, poised to save us all.
It’s true He did not come, that first time round, to establish an earthly kingdom … but to rule in the hearts of men, women, and children from every kingdom and tribe; to call to Himself servants from among every fiefdom on the planet (including many of their leaders, praise God!). But He is coming again! And when He does, then the very government itself "will rest on His shoulders.” And His subjects will gladly follow His good rule! And there will be no more debates about the sanctity of human life; and no more racism, or criminality, or corruption of any kind! There will be no more unfulfilled promises, no more lies, no more laziness or grasping for power! For Father, Son, and Spirit will reign all by themselves ... and with wisdom, and equity, and benevolence, and grace! “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb … The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra … [and] They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain.”
That is the promise of the babe in the manger! That is the promise of Christmas. Remember it this season, and take heart. “The government will rest upon His shoulders.”