Augustus, the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2:1, was a divisive figure. He instituted the imperial cult—religious worship of emperors—which would later cause the death of many Christians. But he was also the leader who established the Pax Romana, a period of relative peace in that part of the world. Before then, the Roman Empire was continually seeking to expand and conquer. Augustus’ idea of peace, for nations to seek to live in relative harmony, was completely novel to the aggressive Roman Empire.

Yet even Rome’s “peace” rested on its power to suppress opposition. The book of Isaiah describes a very different kind of peace, where enemies live in actual—willing—peace with one another. To illustrate this more lasting peace, Isaiah uses a variety of different images: a wolf and a lamb, a leopard and a baby goat, and a cow and a bear all living in peace with one another (Isaiah 11:6-8). It’s as if Isaiah wants to make it crystal clear that it’s God’s desire that we truly live at peace.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of how God achieves this goal. The preceding verses reveal the key: Jesus, the One who came from Jesse’s family and upon whom the Holy Spirit would rest (Isaiah 11:1-2). Through the ministry of Christ, enemies can come to live in harmony with one another.

It’s easy to give up on being reconciled to a person or group of people that has wounded us. But let’s not lose hope! If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that Jesus is able to reconcile those who submit to Him. As Paul wrote, “All this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And [He] has given us this task of reconciling people to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Mark 10:1-16