The Prince of Peace
June 15th, 1975 @ 10:50 AM
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-15-75 10:50 a.m.
And we welcome also the thousands and thousands who watch the service on television and who listen to it on radio. You are with us in heart and spirit, in prayer and love, with the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Prince of Peace. In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we are in chapter 9, and in the ninth chapter, in the sixth verse.
"For to us a Child is born. . ." That is the Baby of Bethlehem. "And unto us a Son is given. . ." That is the pre-historic Child of God, the Son of glory; the Child born in Bethlehem, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. . ." That is our pre-existent Jehovah God. "And the government shall rest upon His shoulder." That was the sermon two Sundays ago. "And His name shall be called Wonderful. . ." That was the sermon last Lord’s Day. "And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." And this is the sermon today, "and His name shall be called the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6].
And what brings the burden of the message to my own heart is the climatic description of the coming Lord; His name is Wonderful, as though that were not glorious enough, and in an ascending scale and tribute and description, "And his name shall be called Counselor," our great Mediator and Advocate and Intercessor in heaven. "And His name shall be called the Mighty God," the Jehovah of the old covenant, the Jesus of the new. "And His name shall be called the Everlasting Father," not only the God of majesty and creation, the Mighty God, but the Everlasting Father, who looks upon us as the children and the workmanship of His hand.
Then, the climatic epithet, "And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace." How could such a thing be? As it rises from Wonderful, to Intercessor and Counselor, to Mighty God, and to Everlasting Father, how could it be that the climatic description should be, "and His name shall be called the Prince of Peace"? [Isaiah 9:6].
We first see what the prophecy meant to the people to whom it was addressed, to Israel; the Prince of Peace, what it brought to the heart of an Israeli.
When you read the story of the family chosen of God, it is a story of war and violence and bloodshed. Even in the conquest of Canaan, there was no inch of ground but there was contested. Joshua, the leader of the hosts of the armies of God, fought for every part of the Canaanite land. It began in war. The story of the Judges is one of war, such as the Medianites that swarmed over the land like locusts, and God raised up Gideon to deliver them [Judges 6:11-7:25]. The story of the Kings is a story of war, from the days of David, who was a man of war, to the ending of the kingdom, in the last king, Zedekiah. All of it is filled with violence and bloodshed.
In the days of the prophet Isaiah, four different times did the cruel and merciless Assyrian overrun the land. They carried into captivity the Northern Kingdom of Israel and destroyed forever its capital in Samaria [2 Kings 17:5-6].
Then the conquest of the Babylonians, when first they carried away Daniel, then Ezekiel and the priests, and finally the entire nation; followed by the conquest of the Persians; and then by the Greeks under Alexander the Great; then caught as a football between the Seleucid, the Syrians of the north, and the Ptolemies, the Egyptians of the south; finally conquered by Rome and destroyed in 70 AD by Titus.
The story of the Israeli today is no different. It is one that is compressed, and oppressed, and invaded, and terrorized, and threatened on every side. If you were to ask an Israeli today, a citizen of the land, a Sabra, or, if you were to ask a Jew anywhere outside the land, "What is the greatest prayer and the need of the little Jewish state," they would answer, "It is for peace. It is for peace. How desperately we need peace."
The first time I visited the land so many years ago, on the road from Tel Aviv and the airport at Lydda, up to Jerusalem, just to the side of the road, a long convey that had been ambushed and every part of it destroyed, burned, and every member of the convey slain, murdered. And the last time I visited the land, the remains of that convey, rusting, still are there by the side of the road, a reminder of those awful days of violence.
The last time I was there, I visited the Golan Heights and saw there, and yonder, and still over there, the violent marks of the terrible conflict of the last war. I examined one of those army tanks that had been destroyed in the fierce fighting. All over the tank there was steel, it looked to me an inch thick, that had melted under the violent impact of the shells that struck it. Israel prays for peace. Above all other things, above all other blessings, peace means the most to the state of Israel. And in the amazing, unbelievable prophecies of Isaiah, are these astonishing words: "In that day there shall be an altar to Jehovah God in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar," The Egyptians would call it an obelisk:
And an obelisk shall be raised in the border between Egypt and Israel dedicated to the Lord.
It shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt:,for God shall send to the Egyptians a Savior, and
a Great One, and He shall deliver them.
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt: and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, they shall do sacrifice and oblation;
and shall vow a vow to the Lord, and perform it. . .
And the Lord shall heal them, and they shall return even to the Lord.
He shall be entreated of them and heal them.
And in that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt – to the Arab world to the north and the east.
In the prophecy – called Assyria: today we call it Iraq, and Syria, and Lebanon. There shall be a great highway out of Egypt to Assyria. And the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptian shall serve God with the Assyrians [Isaiah 19:23].
In that day, shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria
– with the Arab –
even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt
My people, and blessed be Assyria the work of My hands, and blessed be Israel Mine inheritance.
Can you believe such an astonishing prophecy as that? Knowing, sensitive to the awesome problems that are faced in the Middle East, and the incalculable repercussions among the nations of the world; there will you find the great atomic powers arrayed on either side. And remembering the bitter hatred that is born in the child, raised to Ishmael, the Arab, and to Isaac and Jacob, the Israeli, that such a day would come, when God will say; "These are My people, Egypt, calling upon My name. And these are My people, the Iraqi and the Syrians, and the Lebanese, calling upon My name. And these are the Israelis, calling upon My name." They shall be one in that day when God shall say, "Blessed be Egypt My people, and blessed be Assyria, the Arab, 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].
Think also what the prophecy means to us and to the nations of the world. Could it be that His climactic epithet is "the Prince of Peace"? Outside of an exceptional era such as when the Lord was born, there has never been in the history of the human race peace among the families and nations of the earth. Even in my lifetime, I have lived through the First World War. I remember it poignantly. I lived through the Second World War, the Korean War, and finally the Vietnam War. What an unusual thing, that a general in that war should be present in God’s house worshipping with us this holy and sacred hour.
We face not only the terrors of the wars of the past, but we face an ominous and imponderable future. Yesterday, over the radio, I listened to the president of the United States as he spoke to the soldiers in Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia. And the president announced that we shall always keep an armed might in the armed forces of our country, and that for us to be weak is to invite aggression. There is no diplomacy in the world but power diplomacy. And without the threat of confrontation in war, the nations would literally destroy, run over each other. Ah! What a price; what a toll, in the day of armed conflict.
I so well remember its cost, from the days of my youth in the First World War to these present days, when as pastor, I have either been sent by the department of war to carry a telegram to a mother, who burst into tears before my face, "We regret to inform you," and then, the announced death of her son. How many times have I done that?
The cost in tears and in blood of armed conquest is frightening. It would hardly be exaggeration and hyperbole to say that since the beginning of the conflict of the human race, there have been rivers of blood and oceans of tears that have been shed. I do not deny that every man who loves America ought to be willing to lay down his life for his country. If we are threatened with invasion and conquest and destruction, to place around our beloved homeland a wall of blood and human life, as well as a wall of steel; but, O God, the price: As Jeremiah cried in the fourth chapter of his prophecy; "O my soul, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, and the alarm of war" [Jeremiah 4:19].
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 major, the captain, and 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 people, the singing, the clapping,
The flowers, the sidelines throw!
But there is nothing on earth more shattered, more weary
After the war is done,
Than a ward full of soldiers, forgotten and stumping,
Cursing the fife and the drum.
The toll, indescribable, of war.
When I was called to be undershepherd of this church in 1944, we were in the midst of the conflict with Hitler, and Tojo. And after I came, Dr. Oscar Marchman, who was a beloved deacon in the church, the brother-in-law of Dr. Truett, said to me, "My friend from medical school days is head of the McCloskey Hospital in Temple. I am going to visit him. Would you like to come?" I said, "Yes." So I went with the beloved physician down to McCloskey Hospital. I was unaware of the kind of a hospital that it was. McCloskey Hospital, in the days of the Second World War, was the center to which they sent from the battlefronts the men, who had their legs blown off, or their arms cut off, or their eyes put out. And while the good doctor visited with his friends, I walked up-and-down those seemingly endless hallways, and I talked to [one of] the men, with both of his legs off, and one of his arms off, and just one arm left. I wonder where they are now, after these thirty and one years, when I saw them; ah, the price that the toll of war exacts from its people.
Is it any wonder that the great vision of the prophet said, "And His name will be called Wonderful," how glorious; our great "Counselor, Intercessor," how marvelous; "the Mighty God," oh heavenly; "the Everlasting Father," praise God for His love for us; but above all, "the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6].
No longer will their war cries sever, or the winding river run red –
banishing our anger forever, When God hath raised the dead:
[from "The Blue and the Gray," Frances Miles Finch]
"And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace."
May I conclude the meaning of the name to us in our hearts? While there is no life but that has known inward conflict and turmoil, and there is no life but that shall be bound in sorrow and in tears – not yet for you? Wait, it comes; it comes – it inevitably and inexorably comes. There is conflict at the heart of the universe. There is war even in heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]. And we have known its divisive confrontation, and violence, and heartache, and tears, and trial, and trouble in our own hearts and in our own lives. We feel it within us. There is no escape.
Last week I spoke to the national organization of the minister’s wives, gathering once a year at the time of the Southern Baptist Convention. When the address was done and the benediction pronounced, several of the minister’s wives came to talk to me, crying. I would to God I could help.
The night before I received my graduate degree in the seminary, there came one of my classmates, who, after the long years of study and preparation, the next day to receive his degree also, came to me that night and said, "My wife has just announced to me that she is divorcing me. She says, ‘I refuse to be the wife of a minister.’" At the beginning of the open door of the dream to which he prepared for all of the years and the years of his study, to have it closed in such sorrow and agony of heart – just saying, that there is no one that escapes the trial and the sorrow and conflict of life; "And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6], that to our torn hearts.
Saw a picture one time. It was entitled, Peace; Peace, just one word, Peace. But the picture, the picture was one of storm and fury! You would have been as amazed and surprised to look at it as I was, Peace. It was a picture of a great, tall, perpendicular rock-cliff on the side of an ocean, and a hurricane and a storm was blowing, and the great waves were beating against that cliff! And the sky was dark and lowering, and the thunder and the lightening, and Peace. You could not help but go and look at it. And then, and then, what the artist had done was this: in the midst of the fury of the storm, and the dashing of the waves, and the lowering of the clouds, and the flash of the lightening; up there, toward the top, he had drawn the picture of little bird. And the little thing had its head underneath its wings, fast asleep – peace, peace, peace. God gives that to the one who finds his rest in Jesus – peace, peace, quiet trust.
Did you ever hear a more precious invitation that this? Come.
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 unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto Me, and rest.
Lay down, thy weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, weary, worn, and sad.
I found in Him a resting place, and He hath made me glad.
["I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say," Horatio Bonar, 1946]
"And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]. "My peace give I unto you: Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" [John 14:27]. O blessed and wonderful God!
We sing now a hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing the song, in the balcony round, with time and to spare, come down one of these stairways. In the press of people on this lower floor, into an aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I have made the decision in my heart. This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today." Or just a couple, or just you, "God has spoken to my soul, and I’m on the way." The angels will attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.