The Prince of Peace
June 15th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-15-75 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are listening on radio to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Prince Of Peace. Before leaving one of the most beautiful and meaningful of all the prophecies in Isaiah, I have prepared this one other message. In our preaching through the book, we are in the ninth chapter, and this is the sixth verse: “For unto us a Child is born”—that is His incarnation in Bethlehem, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given”—this is the pre-existent Christ [Isaiah 9:6]. The Child is born in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:1]. The Son is from everlasting to everlasting. “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder” [Isaiah 9:6]. That was the first sermon from the text, The Shoulders of Jesus. “And His name shall be called Wonderful.” That was the second sermon of last Sunday. “And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, to establish it upon the throne of David for ever and ever” [Isaiah 9:6-7]. God will do it.
Now the message is the climactic epithet, description, of this coming Son of God, and it is so different from what one might expect. “And His name shall be called Wonderful” [Isaiah 9:6]. Isn’t that glorious? Wonderful, Counselor [Isaiah 9:6], our great Advocate and Intercessor. Then it rises in height, “the Mighty God!” And it continues to rise in glory, “the Everlasting Father!” [Isaiah 9:6]. What He means to us, our Father who art in heaven, this incarnate, Mighty God, our Lord and Savior, the Father who loves us. And the climactic epithet, “the Prince of Peace!” [Isaiah 9:6]. What do you think of that? Up, and up, and up, “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,” and the climactic descriptive word of them all: “the Prince of Peace.”
As you turn it over in your heart, I can easily see why such a nomenclature should have been used as the climactic description of the coming Lord. First: what it meant to Israel, “the Prince of Peace.” When you read the story of the chosen family of God, it is one that is filled with war and bloodshed and violence. Do you remember the cry of Jeremiah in the fourth chapter of his prophecy? “O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war” [Jeremiah 4:19]. It was so from the beginning. In the conquest of Canaan, every inch of ground on which they placed their foot they died for, they fought for, the war of conquest under Joshua.
Then the wars of the Judges, such as the terrible tribulation of the Midianites who covered the land like a swarm of locusts, and finally, delivered by Gideon [Judges 6-8]. Then the story of the wars of the kings—the story of the kings of Judah and Israel are stories of wars and conflicts. And in the day of Isaiah, four times in his own lifetime did the merciless and cruel Assyrian overrun the land [1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 17:5-6, 18:13-17]. In his day, in 722 BC, Israel was completely destroyed. The Northern Kingdom was taken away into captivity by these cruel Assyrians [2 Kings 17:5-6, 18].
And so much of the prophecy of Isaiah has to do with the captivity of Babylon [Isaiah 13, 14, 21, 39, 46, 47]. And the Babylonians came and overran the land three times, first taking Daniel into captivity [Daniel 1:1, 3-6], then Ezekiel and so many of the priests [2 Kings 24:15-16], and finally the whole nation [Jeremiah 1:3]. And the story following after has been no less one of bloodshed and conflict.
Following Babylon came the conquest of Persia. Following Persia came the conquest of Alexander. Following Alexander came the constant wars between the Seleucidi of Syria, and the Ptolemies of Egypt, and Israel, Judah, caught as a football in-between; following them, the conquest of the Romans, and finally the destruction of the city and the nation by Titus in 70 AD.
When you visit Israel today, the story is no less the same. Ask any Israeli on the street, in government, in places of worship. Ask any Israeli, anywhere in the land, ask any Jew outside of the land, he will say the greatest need of our country is peace, peace, peace.
First time I ever went to Israel, on the main highway from Lydda, the airport where you land, near Tel Aviv, up to Jerusalem; there on the side of the road were vehicles that had been ambushed. First time I looked upon them, they were freshly destroyed. They are still there in rust as a reminder of the awful massacre that the convoy endured when they were ambushed, and every man in the caravan was slain.
The last time I was there I went to Golan Heights, and evidences of the violence of the conflict everywhere. I looked at one of the tanks that had been destroyed. All over the tank there were sheets of steel, an inch thick that had been melted by the fury of the explosion of the shells that had hit it. The whole cry of the nation, whether in their representative in the United Nations, or whether in the visit of Rabin to the president of the United States, or whether in facing their enemies that surround the land, their cry is “Peace.” The great energies of the people are expended in budgetary items and the armaments that have to do with defense and with war. Could it be that to the Israeli, this description of the coming King is climactic? He is the Prince of Peace! [Isaiah 9:6].
One of the most unusual prophecies in the Word of God is in this Book of Isaiah, and as we think of the Israeli today—as he faces the land that once was Assyria, the Arab world of the East—and as he faces the Egyptian world to the south, listen to this prophecy: “In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and in that day, there will be a pillar” [Isaiah 19:19]. The Egyptians call it an obelisk—a giant pyramided topped pillar. There will be an obelisk at the border between Egypt and Israel, and it will be dedicated to the Lord, to Jehovah God.
It shall be for a sign and a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt . . . for God shall send them a Savior, a Great One, and He shall deliver them—
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt: and the Egyptians shall know the Lord, and they shall do sacrifice and oblation; they shall vow to the Lord and perform it.
And the Lord shall heal Egypt, and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them.
In that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt—
to the Arab world, the old kingdom of Assyria—
and the Assyrian—
the Arab world—
shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptian shall serve God with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless saying—
can you imagine this, in the conflict so terrible in the Middle East?—
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and blessed be Assyria—
or we would say today, the Arab world—
the work of My hands, and blessed be Israel Mine inheritance.
Why, it astonishes your mind when you think of the deep-seated conflict that is born into the hearts of the children of Ishmael, the Arab [Genesis 16:1-4, 15-16], and the children of Isaac and Jacob, the Israeli [Genesis 21:1-4]. And, yet, this glorious prophecy: “They shall be together in the Lord, and God shall say, ‘Blessed be the Arab, My child; and blessed be Egypt, the work of My hands; and blessed be Israel, Mine inheritance” [Isaiah 19:25]. “And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6].
Look at this glorious prophecy that I haven’t time even to read. Micah and Isaiah have a prophecy in common, and it is so remembered. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks. They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree” [Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3-4].
That doesn’t sound like communism, does it? “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree” [Micah 4:4]. They own the land. It isn’t communism. It’s the man’s little cottage, his little plot of ground. He owns it. “Every man shall sit under his vine.” In the great kingdom that is coming, God will have us say, “This is the inheritance of the Lord. This belongs to me, under His gracious hands.”
Every man shall sit under his vine, and under his fig tree; and
none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts
hath spoken it.
Can you imagine the beauty of a prophecy like that to the Israeli? “And none shall make them afraid” [Micah 4:4]. There will be no terrorist activities. There will be no incursions from the Arab borders. There will be no bombs set off in a theater, or in a department store, or on the street of David. “There shall be none to make them afraid . . . for all people walk in the name of their god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever, and for ever” [Micah 4:4-5]. “And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6].
Not only the climactic meaning of that appellation to Israel, but think what it means to us and all the nations of the world. Outside of a rare era such as when Jesus was born [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:8-17], there has never been a time in the thousands of years of the history of man but has been characterized somewhere by war and bloodshed. In my time, I have lived through the First World War. At the convention in Miami last week they had them stand, who lived in the First World War. There was just a handful of people, a small, small minority.
I remember every day living through the First World War. My brother was in it. He served the American army in France. I remember when he came back home. I walked into the house—see how little old things so stay on your mind—I walked into the house and he was behind the door. When I pushed the door open, he was behind the door. And when I closed the door, there he was, with his arms out-stretched.
But I lived through another war, the Second World War, then through the Korean War, then through this last carnage, the Vietnam War. Yesterday, I listened to the president on the radio as he spoke in Fort Benning, Georgia, and the promise was made, and necessarily so, “America will keep its strength in armed might, for weakness,” he said, “invites aggression.” We live in a world of constant threat. There is no diplomacy but power diplomacy.
I have been in Hiroshima, not long after that bomb was exploded. I visited in the hospital and elsewhere, with the missionaries, people who had been tragically hurt in that awful atomic explosion. What the future holds for us is known but to God, but war is a horrible and a terrible thing. It is indescribable in human language. There is no doubt in my heart but that every loyal American boy and girl now, I suppose, ought to be willing to lay down life for our nation, to put a wall of blood and of soul around our country, as well as a wall of steel, to lay down our life to defend our homes, and our families, and our children. But, ah, the tragic cost of armed conflict!
There is nothing on earth with more thrill or more thunder,
More pomp or more splendor,
More zeal, than a great parade!
How they march, the colonel, and the major, and the captain, and the private,
In brilliance of metal, and luster of leather arrayed.
Oh! the fervor and glory, the faith and the courage
Their resolute faces show.
And the cheering of the people, the singing, the clapping,
The flowers the sidelines throw!
There is nothing on earth more shattered, more weary
After a war is done,
Than a ward full of soldiers, forgotten and stumping,
Cursing the fife and the drum.
And the reason that poem burned in my heart when I read it, when I came to be pastor of the church in 1944, we were in the midst of the Second World War. One of our godly deacons, Dr. Oscar M. Marchman, said, “My dearest friend from medical days is head of McClosky Hospital in Temple. I’m going to visit with him. Would you like to come?” I went with him to McClosky Hospital in Temple, Texas. I did not know it. It was the rendezvous, the collection, it was the hospital in America for men of amputation, men who had their legs cut off, and had their arms cut off, and had their eyes put out. They were taken to McClosky Hospital.
And while the good doctor visited with his dear friend, I walked up and down those seemingly endless corridors, and I looked and talked as a pastor to those men. I could never forget a man with two legs off and one arm off, one arm left; a stump all through the hospital. The price, the price, the price! My point of remembrance in the First World War was like that.
We lived on a farm, and we’d come in on a Saturday. Mother would bring chickens and eggs, and Dad with other things, and we’d buy our groceries. And there was a boy in the grocery stored named Lloyd McGallen, the sweetest, dearest boy. He’d give me a little piece of candy every time we came into town. In the war, he was killed in France, and I remember now, as then, the weeping mother, Mrs. McGallen, as she followed the casket, draped with that American flag, when we buried Lloyd McGallen with military honors. But he’s dead.
“The Unknown Soldier” speaks:
Listen, youngster. You who thrill so
To the sound of marching feet,
To the call of bugles blending
With the drums rythmatic beat.
Listen to those bands a-playing,
‘Neath your country’s flag a-flying;
But listen youngster, I am praying,
There is no glory in your dying.
Listen youngster, here I lie, the Unknown Soldier,
Wreaths of nation’s line my bed,
Honors have been heaped upon me,
But listen, youngster, I AM DEAD!
Somewhere in this land you love so,
Someone’s waiting for me still,
Wonders could I be their loved one.
forever wonders. Ever will.
Listen, youngster, you who thrill so
With plumes and bayonets sparkling bright,
There is no beauty in death’s plumage,
Only bones bleached bare and white.
Listen, youngster, you want glory.
I’ve had glory, honors spread
Above my tomb in countless numbers.
But listen, youngster, I AM DEAD.
[from “The Unknown Soldier Speaks,” quoted by Clare Hazelwood
in the Fulton Patriot, May 31, 1934]
Every time I visit Arlington and watch the American guard march up-and-down in front of the Unknown Soldier, I think of that poem. As I said, there ought to be a willingness for any boy to lay down his life for his country, but the horror of the price of war is beyond what poem, or lyric, or song, could ever describe, the rivers of blood and the oceans of tears that have been shed in the armed conflict of men. “And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6], when there is no more war [Isaiah 2:4].
I had a third part to my sermon, but I haven’t time to deliver it. The Prince of Peace not only for Israel that cries for peace, not only for the soldier who is wounded and hurt, but I had a third part, the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6], what it means to a troubled heart, to us in our inward souls. There is conflict at the heart of the universe. There is war in heaven. There is conflict in the earth, ever it has been. There is conflict in us, in our hearts; trouble, trouble.
Last week I spoke to the national organization of the wives of the ministers of our Southern Baptists. It is a convocation to face the problems they have. When I was through speaking, some of the wives came, and with tears, crying, began to pour out to me the troubles of their hearts. Would to God that I could help, I can’t help; all the heartache and the tears that are in this world, and no one of us escapes.
When I received my doctor’s degree at the seminary, that night, before the gradation of the next day, one of the young men in my class came to me and said, “My wife has just now announced to me that she is divorcing me. She refuses to be a minister’s wife”—the night before he was graduated. All I could do was cry with him. His ministry, just on the verge of the open door, was shut in his face. And if there are tears and sorrows in the house of those who lead the people of God, think of the unknown, uncounted sorrows in the world; lonely girls who work downtown, who cry themselves to sleep at night, maybe every night. “And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6].
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
I heard the voice of Jesus saying,
“Come unto Me and rest.
Lay down thou weary one,
Lay down thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn, and sad.
I found in Him a resting place,
And He hath made me glad.
[ “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” Horatius Bonar]
“And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. Rest. Peace. Quiet. Faith. Trust in Him. On the first note of the first stanza, if God has spoken to your heart, come now, make it now. In the balcony, you, on the lower floor, down this aisle, taking Jesus as Savior, putting your life in the church, as He shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make it now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.