Many of us have had times in our lives where we have felt overwhelmed with despair or grief. Perhaps mental illness has enveloped us, so life becomes challenging.
Here are words of hope from Isaiah: The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. These words are powerful. They speak to us of places in our lives and in our communities that will be transformed.
Isaiah was speaking to a community which was feeling pressured by outside forces. There were strong nations and armies gathering around them. Their neighbours were falling to these powerful nations. There was perhaps a sense of fear and a sense that God had abandoned them.
And then something happens. Life changes and the fear and despair are no longer in control of people’s lives. We often read this passage with hindsight through a Christian lens and hear these words speak to Jesus. The passage is difficult in Hebrew and may refer to events that had already happened or to events yet to come. We don’t know. What was important to the author was that there would be a leader arise who would change the circumstances of the people.
In the Hebrew language names are often used to describe the God that the parents worship. For example, Isaiah “means “the Lord saves”; Hezekiah, “the Lord strengthens.” (Jewish Study Bible). The child in this passage is named “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” We often attach this description to Jesus, but the original author is describing God. A child will be born whose parents worship the God that is “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Through that child, either in the author’s past or future, the community would be transformed. Oppression would end.
In this Minute for Mission, the young women accessing Naomi’s House were able to have an experience of being able to lift off addictions, mental illness or difficult relationships and step into something new. They named how important it is to have safe spaces and supportive people to make these changes in their lives. The child that is named in this passage is reborn again and again every time someone offers hope to someone who is struggling.
As we follow the God who is “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” we become instruments of that God. In the Inclusive translation, the passage ends this way: “This dominion, this peace, will grow without end, sustained with justice and fairness. The zeal of YHWH Omnipotent will accomplish it!” The passage is intended to speak particularly to a group of people who feel hopeless. Here, the end is a place of hope. God’s peace will grow without end, sustained with justice and fairness. God will do this! And we get to be a part of this.