read: “He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth, and by the breath of his lips he will put an end to the wicked.” -Isaiah 11:4
reflect: The One we await will stop all the greed, corruption, and violence in our world. Now this is the Messiah I am waiting for! Years ago a revival preacher named Billy Sunday became very popular because he proclaimed a macho Jesus who would trounce out all of the evils of this world and condemn sinners everywhere. “Onward Christian Soldiers” could have been a theme song for this movement. Matching violence with violence is our human impulse, so it is easy to apply it to God as well.
But when I look again, I see how the One we wait for will end violence, according to Isaiah. He will use the rod, which is a tool used for correction in shepherding sheep. And the rod is the rod of his mouth. The words that come from his mouth will be the correction that stops the violent. The wicked will cease by the breath of his lips. This is more like the line in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress”: “the prince of darkness grim . . .one little word shall fell him.”
The breath from God’s lips will change us; God’s word will end our violence. Like a newborn baby’s sweet breath on her father’s cheek changes his priorities in an instant, the breath of our Messiah upon our lives sets us right again. Like the “I love you” from a lover moves us to marriage, the words of our Messiah bring us to commitment. This is the promise.
pray: Breathe on me, O God, until all sin in me is gone, and I am wholly yours. Amen.
with children: Tell children about the first time you remember watching or feeling their breath. Remember together how their birth made a wonderful difference in your life.
act: Pray for those who commit acts of violence, for the word of God in Jesus to reach them.