What Kind of Ruler Do We Really Want?

“And he will be called…Mighty God.” (Isaiah 9:6b)

Many of us have heard the old proverb about power and might coined by Lord Acton in the 19th century:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[1]

We know that power and might can be dangerous. In some ways, we all want to be mighty or powerful, whether it’s in our social group or in our schools or on social media platforms or at our workplaces. We are drawn to power.

But at the same time we know power changes people, including us. We have seen certain people we love and respect become people we don’t like because of their power or influence. We are scared for some people to have too much power because we are terrified of what they might do with that power.

Because of this, we look for right and good people to wield might or power. But still, we often experience the disappointment that even people we thought were good or right sometimes lose their way in might and power, becoming overwhelmed, disoriented, or deformed by the weight of power and might.

Power is both attractive and scary.

When we look at the words about the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7, we see that the Messiah will be a Mighty God who rules with power in a very specific way:

“He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

The Messiah will rule with might, but that might will be wielded with justice and righteousness. In contrast to the kings of Israel and the surrounding nations of Isaiah’s time, the Messiah will be a different sort of king who wields might in a different sort of way.

The different way is what we see in Philippians 2:5-11. The Messiah will turn away from the alluring influence of false, earthly power by letting go of glory and choosing humility. The Messiah will fully enter into the reality of human life, specifically by taking on human form, even as a servant. The Messiah will make a way through the morass of sin, evil, and death that saturates human nature and experience, opening up a salvation highway through His surprisingly powerful death on the Cross.

And it is because of this different way of wielding power that the Messiah is the Only One worthy to rule and reign with might. Listen to how Paul describes this in Philippians 2:9-11:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

This King is worthy to rule and reign. This Messiah is mighty…mighty enough to handle power and rule righteously and justly forever. This Messiah is mighty and is exactly the sort of King we would want to have rule and reign over us. Jesus is the only one who is not absolutely corrupted by absolute power, instead being the absolute King with absolute power who absolutely reigns in absolute goodness and absolute holiness.

This is what this season is all about…receiving and celebrating the Mighty God who is worthy to reign over all.

[1] “Lord Acton Quote Archive,” Acton Institute, https://www.acton.org/research/lord-acton-quote-archive.

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