Eat your lasagna!” “No, apple first!” “You have to eat one bite of lasagna!” “No, apple first! Apple First!” “Do you need a time out?! All you have to do is eat one bite of lasagna, then you can have an apple, it’s really not that hard.” “No lasagna!… a’ done, a’ done, ALL DONE!”
My son’s little face began to turn red as he was trying to force his way out of his booster seat. While the straps were cutting into his legs, tears were streaming down his cheeks—angry tears that betrayed not just dissatisfaction, but rage. I could see that any attempt to reason with him was lost. I undid the straps and carried him up to his crib. He was screaming as I closed the door. He cried for that entire five-minute time out, not tears of sorrow, but of howling indignation… He was furious with me!
My little sinner wasn’t happy that he didn’t get his way.
My wife recently told me that I needed to give up golfing so we could recover from an expensive month… A perfectly reasonable request, the responsible thing to do, in fact I should have suggested it, had I been any kind of husband…
“I guess we better, eh?” I said, trying to agree with her from across the kitchen table.
But inside I was seething. If I had had booster seat straps I would have been straining against them. Talking about money always makes me upset. My sinful nature reveals itself very quickly when I get accused of overspending, because it means that I can no longer have my own way.
Looking into the face of my two-year-old that night, and then looking at myself, the reality is far too apparent. We rage when we don’t get our way.
And that rage—my rage, my son’s rage—is the symptom of a much larger problem.
The problem is born out of the arrogance of those who want to be like God, who want their will to be done, rather than his will. The serpent’s words to Eve in the Garden were, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Their sin and ours was to trust another over our Creator, to take what was not ours to take. Willful disobedience—that our will would be done over his will. The arrogance of the devil, the arrogance of all the enemies of God, who would dethrone him if they could.
In Isaiah 8, the Lord is speaking to the prophet Isaiah and his children, who are to be signs to the people of Israel and Judah during the coming Assyrian invasion. King Ahaz chose, in his arrogance, to appeal to Assyria rather than trust in the Lord. In an arrogance that God said characterized his people, Ahaz chose his own will over God’s. So the Lord warns Isaiah in Chapter 8 about what is coming for those arrogant people and encourages him to hold fast in their midst, as a sign.
The Lord says in 8:21-22, “Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. The Lord will let their will be done… And they will be broken by it. His enemies will have their way.”
We’d like to think that this is a distant story, but listening to my son raging in his crib, looking at myself, I see that same willful arrogance that defined King Ahaz. The Bible describes it as a hatred of God. A hatred that leads us to rebel against him in every decision, every relationship, every role. For we have set ourselves in opposition to our Creator—and darkness and all its savagery should be our reward.
In Isaiah 9, God continues to speak to Isaiah, but now with promise of a great light dawning for those in darkness. That light will be a child, a Son born among his enemies. A Son born to reign on David’s throne as the “Prince of Peace.”
Centuries later that Son was sent, the Prince of Peace arrived. And contrary to popular expectation, he was no crusader, no great rebel military leader. He was not even all that diplomatic. Instead he came as a vulnerable baby. A lamb among wolves. His very life would be threatened within days of his birth. And it stayed that way for him. This mighty Prince of Peace had to keep moving, to keep evading his enemies’ designs to kill him, until finally he was handed over and they put him to death. The enemies of God murdered his Son, their greatest victory.
But as God’s enemies were putting his Son to death. God was putting his enemies to death, in his Son Jesus Christ. All our rage against God, and all God’s wrath against humanity, would meet on the cross of that “Prince of Peace.” And in that crescendo of violence, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”
And heaven stood down, and peace was declared.
God was done fighting. His wrath had been satisfied. God now unquestionably stood with humanity, not against us. Through the promised Prince of Peace we were reconciled to God. Jesus Christ himself was our peace—the treaty drawn up in his own blood.
I picked my son up out of his crib, cleaned up his face and sat him down to eat. He is too young to really attach the word “sorry” to remorse, but I could tell he felt sheepish.
My son is baptized, a child of God. God has made peace with him. His rebellious self was put to death, was included in the death of Christ, the death of God’s enemies.
My son is a new creation. He still behaves very much like an enemy of the Almighty, very much the way I do. But I know for certain that we are not God’s enemies, because the cross of Jesus Christ declares to us that God has made his peace with us.
As we approach and celebrate Christmas, we remember and thank God for his grace in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Though we were God’s enemies, and still in many ways behave like them, we stand in grace with the hope of glory, forgiven for our great rebellion, our raging against a loving Father.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
Clint Knutson serves as pastor for Birch Hills Community Church in Birch Hills, Saskatchewan and for Saron Lutheran Church in Hagen, Saskatchewan.