May 16, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied exultation;
you have increased its joy…
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders,
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
We are inspired and instructed by the redemptive vision of Isaiah as we seek to live under the authority of the one who is our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The more we let this vision shape how we think, feel, and live, the more we’ll be ready for God to energize our redemptive imaginations in specific ways so that we might participate in God’s redeeming work in the world.
This devotion is part of the series, Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive.
The prophecies of Isaiah provide some of the most striking examples in Scripture of redemptive imagination. Now, if you missed my previous definition of “imagination,” I should be clear that I’m not suggesting Isaiah simply “made up” his prophetic visions. I believe God revealed them to him. But these visions utilized Isaiah’s imagination because what he “saw” didn’t yet exist in physical reality. Merriam-Webster defines “imagination” as “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” The mental images Isaiah had of the future were of this sort, given through divine inspiration.
Many of Isaiah’s images are expansively redemptive. They display a future in which God redeems and restores this broken world. One of the most familiar examples of these redemptive images appears in Isaiah 9, a passage we tend to associate with Advent and Christmas. I can’t even read verse 6 – “For a child has been born for us” – without hearing Handel’s Messiah echoing in, yes, my imagination.
Isaiah 9 begins with God’s people in “anguish” (9:1). They are carrying “the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” as they live under the harsh authority of a foreign power (9:4). But Isaiah sees a new day coming. Notice that he speaks as if the things of the future have already happened. He sees them as if they have already occurred: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (9:2). Isaiah isn’t merely foretelling the future. Rather, he is reporting what he “sees” in his imagination as God has shown it to him.
Isaiah “sees” the birth of a child, one who will be a uniquely authoritative ruler, one worthy of being called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6). Under his sovereignty there will be “endless peace.” Justice and righteousness will flourish “from this time onward and forevermore” (9:7). It’s hard to imagine a more redemptive vision than this one.
As Christians, we understand this prophecy as pointing to Jesus and his redeeming work. Jesus is the one who is rightly called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus came to inaugurate the reign of God with its pervasive justice, righteousness, and peace. Jesus’s mission was not merely to save individual souls, but also to redeem and restore our broken world. He was inspired by the redemptive imagination of Isaiah, especially in Isaiah’s vision of the suffering servant of God (see Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
Today, we are inspired and instructed by the redemptive vision of Isaiah as we seek to live under the authority of the one who is our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The more we let this vision shape how we think, feel, and live, the more we’ll be ready for God to energize our redemptive imaginations in specific ways so that we might participate in God’s redeeming work in the world.
As you read the prophecy in Isaiah 9, what is stirred up within you? What thoughts? Feelings? Longings?
As you think about your life, where do you need to experience God’s justice? Righteousness? Peace?
As you think about the world, where do we need to experience God’s justice? Righteousness? Peace?
Ask the Lord to inspire your imagination in redemptive ways in relation to your work, family, church, friendships, and neighborhood.
Gracious God, how we thank you for the prophecies of Isaiah. Thank you for all that you revealed to him so that he might bear witness to us. Thank you, in particular, for the prophetic promises of Isaiah 9.
God, I ask you to inspire my imagination so that I might “see” redemptively. When I face difficult problems at work, stir up my imagination. When I see such pain in the world around me, help me to see what you would have me do. When my relationships are ragged, may I imagine how the presence of your peace will make a difference. When I’m tempted to fall into despair, help me, Lord, to have hope in your redemptive power. Amen.
Banner image by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Peace and Prosperity (Isaiah 9ff.).
Subscribe to Life for Leaders
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.