I don’t know if that saying is used much any more – if someone “shoulders the responsibility,” they are the one that would ultimately take charge, be the one that the buck stops with and is in control of the task at hand.
Like my high school daughter lugging her heavy backpack onto her shoulder as she heads out to take her last few midterms this morning, the responsibility for her grades and studies rests both literally and symbolically on her shoulders.
As I’ve pondered the prophecy passage in Isaiah this week, I have come to a new understanding of what is meant when he writes that “the government shall be on his shoulders.”
Growing up in the church and living in the south, I have heard this verse countless times, but I don’t think I ever really understood its meaning. I thought that it meant that the government would be “on His back,” harassing Him. The authorities would be a burden to Him, hindering His work, and eventually putting Him to death – as they eventually did.
But as I’ve reflected on this passage over the last few days, I don’t think this is what this prophecy foretells at all . . .
Like the Jews of the time of Jesus’ birth, I assumed that this passage was talking about a political, ruling government. Even Jesus’s disciples didn’t get it and expected Jesus to liberate Israel from Roman rule. But… post the resurrection they came to understand that God had fulfilled the Davidic Covenant in another way. Yes, a descendent of David would rule forever, but His kingdom would not be defined by geographic borders or landmarks.
Jesus came not just as any ruler -but as the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. His kingdom knows no end in either space or time, transcending and domineering over all the governments and dynasties of all the world.
Yes, that is the view from the airplane, but this concept hit much closer to home as I have been reading through my advent devotional. The revolution of who is in control of my life was hard-fought for and won on the cross, but my sinful nature still revolts and refuses to submit to the One I call “Lord.”
I like being in charge of my life. I want to call the shots and arrogantly assume that I know what’s best for me and those I love. I expect not to be inconvenienced and desire everyone to bend and bow to my authority. And, in doing so, I expect to be treated and served a certain way . . . Whether behind the wheel or in the checkout line, at home or at work, without intention, but by nature (my old, sinful, nature), my pride and my entitlement fights with the One who I was created to submit my will.
His Kingdom authority is where I find the most freedom. Under His rule and reign I find true, pure hope. He is the Prince of Peace and by His government the peace I enjoy is beyond sweet – my conflict with my holy, righteous God is over and, as a result, I can go to sleep at night feeling the peaceful assurance of His presence. He provides. He protects. He does all the things a good governing body should do.
Think about it. Think about what we expect from our governments. Whether local, state or federal there are specific services we want them to do for us. According to the Constitution, these duties that the government provides are done so to protect our rights. Many Americans and many Christians look to politics and government leaders to provide the things only God can give. And just like anything that begins and ends with man’s capabilities we will eventually be let down.
This is why Jesus’ kingdom, His rule and His authority is so much better. The government will be upon His shoulder. He is the best Ruler. Because of who He is, He can handle all the responsibility that comes with ruling and He does it with the same loving, perfection that He does everything.
By His patient grace, He handles all my revolts, never harshly, but always faithfully, reminding me that He is in charge, He knows best, and He can manage the responsibility of ruling my life.
There is a government that can handle all society’s ills. There is a King that has the capabilities to rule with an amazing balance of justice and love, the world as a whole AND my heart.
He wasn’t appointed King. He was born that way, not in a throne room, but a manger. Isaiah prophesied that “the government would be upon His shoulder.”
Baby King Jesus come reign in me.
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