“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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
We hear Isaiah 9:6 a lot during the season of Advent. And we’re well aware that the Prince of Peace prophesied by Isaiah was, and is, none other than Jesus Christ. But did you know that the Hebrew for Prince of Peace is Sar Shalom? Sar meaning Prince or ruler, and shalom meaning peace.
Peace, however, is quite a shallow translation of the word shalom. It has a far greater depth of meaning than simply peace. The word means completeness, soundness, welfare, safety, health, prosperity, tranquillity, contentment, peace of mind, peace in human relationships and peace with God. And we’re still only beginning to scratch the surface.
Cornelius Plantinga, in his book, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, says of this word shalom: “The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in justice, fulfilment and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call Shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight, a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creation and Saviour opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things are meant to be.”
Now we’re starting to get a glimpse of the richness of meaning encompassed by this word shalom. So when Isaiah calls Jesus the Prince of Peace, what he is actually saying is that Jesus is the Prince of Universal Flourishing, Wholeness and Delight, the Prince of the Way Things are Meant to Be.
There’s another definition of the word shalom that I’ve been saving for last. That definition is, “brokenness made whole.” Brokenness made whole. Isn’t that a perfect description of Jesus’ brutal torture and eventual death on the cross, followed by his glorious resurrection three days later? Isn’t it also an apt phrase to describe someone whose life has been turned around by Jesus Christ? Isn’t that what happens to a person when they turn their back on their old, sinful self and begin to walk in newness of life?
In verse 7 of Isaiah 9, the prophet continues, “Of the increase of his government and peace (shalom) there will be no end.” When we start to understand the richness of meaning inherent in shalom, we can only say Amen to that.
Father thank you for this time of year when we can focus on the birth of your son, Jesus, our Prince of Universal Flourishing, Wholeness and Delight, who came to make our brokenness whole, and will surely come again to bring peace to all mankind. In his glorious name we pray.
Study by Peter Mill