Let me sketch you a picture out of a children’s storybook as best I recall it from my childhood. Perhaps you’ve seen something like it yourself—a castle high on a hill, and below it the whole kingdom round about inhabited by happy and contented people. Throughout the land a stream wends its way; along its banks are fields and orchards, abundance for all. The people live without fear, safe and secure from all alarms and enemies because of the king who resides in the castle and protects them. He is a great king, and powerful. He watches over his kingdom night and day lest any attempt to invade it and disturb its peace.
What a lovely picture, eh? If only… Yes, if only it were real. If only we could live in that picture instead of in the real world with its troubles of the present and forebodings of the future. Peace and Confidence (transients from the world) have packed up and left the home of the heart; the unwelcome intruders Anxiety and Fear have moved in, and growing numbers can’t evict them. Neither, it seems, can their government. Thus, many these days have lost faith in their government; they are anxious and angry about the things their government is doing. Or not doing.
Oh that they might discover the reality of which my storybook picture is but a wistful imagination, and delight themselves in a peace that the world with all its governments cannot give. Here is that reality in the words of a prophecy 700 years before it began to be fulfilled, and which continues to this day, and shall forever:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:6,7 KJV)
Here then is the king, and here is His throne and His kingdom. Its government, its rule, is upon His shoulder—it is His responsibility—and He is more than up to the job; it only takes one of His shoulders, the other, as someone has said, He reserves for His lambs.
The promise is that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…” Those two words government and peace are one. His government is peace. Peace is His government. Dearly beloved, let this lay hold of us. In vain do we seek peace apart from His government in our lives. But when we have bowed the knee and the heart to this king, His government, that is to say His peace, rules over us and in us and nothing can disquiet it.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom…” There is the seat of His government—the throne of David. This reminds me of the prophecy of the priest Zacharias upon the birth of his son John the Baptist. The time of the fulfillment of prophecy and promise, of an oath and a covenant, had arrived. It’s a lengthy prophecy so I’ll compress it here (but I encourage you to read it in full; even if you’ve read it many times it’s well worth savouring again).
Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…” (Lk 1:67-69 NKJV). This, then, is a prophecy of a coming king in the line of David. The horn in Scripture is symbolic of power, and the result of this power is “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us…” Zacharias knew his Bible; he is almost quoting from it here: “for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies” (2 Sam 3:18). Zacharias continued: “…To grant that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” So this deliverance from, this salvation from, is also salvation to. Under this king’s rule his subjects are not only liberated from their enemies, they are also provisioned with the grace of holiness and righteousness so that they may to serve their God without fear, for their enemies cannot penetrate His domain, fear is banished, and sin can no longer molest.
And so it is from the throne of David that this king’s kingdom—His government and peace—is ruled. The king of this kingdom, the Son of David, reigns on the throne of David in the castle of His kingdom high on the hill Zion at the right hand of God. It is from this throne in the heavens that His kingdom is administered here in the earth—by the Holy Spirit sent from that throne. Oh that we might be awakened to the reality of this. To be led by the Spirit of God is to be governed by the throne of God. Beloved, when that Government is in our hearts, its peace is inviolable. For the very throne of God is in that peace, and His throne is inviolable.
Be careful for nothing
Here’s another New Testament passage that has this same government and peace in mind:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6,7 KJV)
That’s from the old King James version of 1611. The word through here is a mistranslation of the Greek word en. Newer translations have “in Christ Jesus.”
And some of the words in the KJV have lost the meaning they had back then. For careful other translations now have anxious. That is, full of care. Be not full of care, but careless, or rather carefree, by bringing every care in prayer to God. That is the emphasis here. “…Let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep…” As in another much-loved verse in Isaiah: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3). Note who it is that does the keeping. “Thou wilt keep..” The perfect peace is the evidence of a mind stayed on God, it is the evidence of trust in God. It’s quite something that the word trust here (Heb batach) is elsewhere translated careless. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women…” (Isa 32:9,10). Careless is the same word translated trust. You mean when we trust God it’s okay to be careless? Apparently, yes. Not in our walk, this is not advocating a lax walk. But we can breathe a sigh of relief, can relax, be no longer on edge. We may be careless even in the midst of cares. We may not be “out of the woods,” but we may “sleep in the woods” (Ez 34:25). That’s pretty careless, wouldn’t you say? Better stay awake and worry. Not when we are in the care of the Shepherd King of David’s line who keeps His flock. Wild beasts may prowl round about roaring and howling in the darkness, cares and troubles may lurk in the shadows threatening to devour us, but we are kept in perfect peace, a peace that passes all understanding. Because we trust in Him.
Kept in the Keep
I love the word keep, this is another of the old KJV words that has lost its original force. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace…” “And the peace of God… shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Among the many definitions of keep the Merriam Webster online dictionary has this: “to preserve, maintain. To watch over and defend, to keep from harm.” That’s the verb. Where the KJV has “shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” newer translations have “shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Guard is the same word Paul used when he said that “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me…” (2 Cor 11:32). So the peace of God that surpasses all understanding shall be a garrison keeping guard over our hearts and minds, permitting no escape, and keeping out any anxious thought attempting entry. For—let’s not miss this—how can they enter into Christ Jesus? Because…
…Keep is also a noun: “one that keeps or protects: such as a: FORTESS, CASTLE specifically: the strongest and securest part of a medieval castle. b: one whose job is to keep or tend. c: PRISON, JAIL.”
Here we find keep used two ways. The keep is “one whose job is to keep or tend.” And the keep is also a fortress, a castle, “specifically the strongest and securest part of a medieval castle.” I love that. To be guarded by the peace of God is to be kept in a keep—the strongest and securest part of a castle, the very purpose of which was to defend against the worst onslaught of the enemy. It is the keep’s (or keeper’s) job to do the keeping—not the one who is being kept. It’s not our responsibility to come up with peace in times of turmoil. Many these days are anxious for peace, longing for peace. But once again, it’s a misguided and fruitless endeavour to pursue peace as an end in itself. I know that the Scriptures exhort us to seek peace (Ps 34:12). But we must know where to look for it. Peace will not be found apart from the government of the King of Righteousness. It is His righteousness that effects peace.
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest… (Isa 32:17-19 KJV)
Peace in the very midst of a devastating storm of evil? Yes. To pursue the God of righteousness inevitably means finding His peace. Regardless of our circumstances. The keeping peace is just there when we have come to God—our loving God—on bended knee with all our cares. That is our responsibility. When we do that, we find ourselves garrisoned in His peace, that is, in the keep of the castle Christ Jesus Himself.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ our king on the throne of David, we pray, keep us in there; keep us in Your keep. It has proven to be true according to Your words, that “in the world you will have tribulation.” To our sorrow we know that to be true. But, then, it must also be true according to your word—and we may prove this also—that since you have overcome the world we may be of good cheer, and in You have peace, the kind of peace the world cannot give. And cannot take away either. We will, then, according to Your words dear Jesus our king, put our trust in You and let not our heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. Amen. (Jn 14:27, 16:33).