This article is part of a series looking at the Oxymoronic names of God and how understanding them helps us to live as Christians in a fallen world. Click here to read the introductory article.
We live in a world that tells us we should fight for our rights and that our freedoms need protecting. It’s easy to believe that life is one big competition and that there are many people who want to take advantage of us. Yet, that’s not how God describes our role in the world; in fact, his view is the opposite of this. He calls us to humility and when things get tough, we are to love our enemies.
Understanding that as Christians we follow the Prince of Peace helps us to find ways to overcome the subtle lies of this world and to live in harmony with one another.
The title Prince of Peace was introduced by the prophet Isaiah to describe Jesus, and foretell his birth, around 700 years before Jesus was born. So, why is Prince of Peace an oxymoron?
Let’s begin by examining the word Prince
When Isaiah prophesied, and during the period Jesus was alive, thrones and Kingships were won by might. It is only in the last few hundred years that we have become used to purely hereditary models of royal lineage.
Princes were expected to fight for their nations and to take an active role on the battlefield. There were some exceptions, when countries experienced rare periods of peace and stability, but the title Prince, for most of history, has been synonymous with Military General, Fighter or Hero.
Not only were Princes expected to defeat external enemies, but many threats came from within their own families. Kings around the world took multiple wives and these wives and their sons competed among themselves to inherit their Father’s Kingdom. Royal families from every continent and tradition have witnessed huge amounts of bloodshed as princes have vied with each other to win the crown.
In short, being a Prince has not been a very peaceful vocation.
So, when Isaiah pairs the word Prince with Peace, this is new and unusual.
What can we say about peace?
There are many verses in the book of Isaiah (where the prophecies of Isaiah are recorded in the Bible) that describe peace.
Creation will rejoice because of the peace that Jesus will establish. Even the mountains will burst into song and the trees will clap along – Isaiah 55:12. Contrast this to the desolation and death that Princes from the ancient world would leave in their wake after battles and during wars.
Without peace we are like a restless sea that endlessly churns up dirt and mire – Isaiah 57:20
Peace reaches everywhere, it is all encompassing; nowhere and no one is left out. It extends from East to West and will overflow from us – Isaiah 45:7 & 66:12
Even the feet of those who bring peace are beautiful – Isaiah 52:7
Peace is granted rather than enforced. Peace enforced through tyranny is no peace at all – Isaiah 26:12
Putting Prince and Peace together. What does it mean for us?
We do not need to strive because the Prince of Peace is a man of action. He will not just keep a lid on our anxieties and he won’t close his eyes to injustice. Instead, he will resolve these situations fully. He will put an end to war and rule righteously, the peace He establishes is certain and long-lasting.
Whom we follow determines the peace we experience (Isaiah 59:8). Let’s follow Him.
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