1 Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations. 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. 4 For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as You did on the day of Midian. 5 For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
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The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. —Isaiah 9:7b
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year, and one of the things I enjoy most is giving gifts. Being the sentimental chap I am, it takes me quite a bit of time thinking about and picking out the perfect gift for that certain someone.
Reflecting on all the subtle, and not so subtle, hints of the past year, and discerning between a good gift and the best gift, are all part of the process. When at last the gift is found, it jumps out at you, and there’s little question that you’ve found what you’re looking for.
The downside, especially if I’ve been uncharacteristically expeditious in finding that perfect gift, is that I’m so excited about giving it and experiencing all the happiness and joy that moment brings that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the secret and wait until Christmas.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment when you see the look on the face of a child, family member, spouse, or significant other when they realize what they’ve received. All the thinking, searching, and so on has led to that moment, and if you get it right, there are few things more satisfying.
Isaiah 9:1-7 is a famous passage that promises a gift—the gift. The context is a dark time for the children of Israel as they lived in the shadow of Assyria about 700 or so years before Christ. The promise is of a light that would pierce the darkness. At the coming of this light, there would be great rejoicing because "the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken..." (verse 4).
How and by whom will this magnificent and wonderful feat be accomplished? The prophet says, "... to us a child is born, to us a son is given..." (verse 6). There’s such deep and wonderful theology in this verse.
The child, the incarnation, is born—a human being who exists in space and time just like all of us and who comes into the world through the sign promised to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14. He’d grow up to live the life we couldn’t live and pay the debt we couldn’t pay. This child is the Son, the eternal second person of the Trinity, who is given by God because of His great love for the world (See John 3:16).
What does the coming of this promised child mean? First, He’s a king! The Messiah came proclaiming the presence of and the invitation to His kingdom, the kingdom of God. It’s an eternal kingdom fulfilling the promise made to David about his son, Solomon, in 2 Samuel 7:16 saying, "And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever."
The government shall be, or is, upon His shoulder. Notice, it’s only one shoulder. “Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time and forevermore” (verse 7a). This is the kingdom that will be fully realized at His second coming.
His name is Wonderful Counselor. Wonder surrounded the life of Jesus, His miracles, and the deeds He accomplished. And those who heard Him marveled at the authority with which He spoke (see Mark 1:22; Matthew 7:28; Luke 2:47, 4:32). Why? Because He alone has come down from Heaven, from the Father, and is therefore familiar with the counsels of the Lord (John 6:38).
He is Mighty God, the second person of the Trinity, coequal and coeternal with God. Whoever has seen Him has seen the Father (John 14:9), which leads to His name of Everlasting Father. He is Prince of Peace. He left His peace with us (John 14:27). It is not a promise of an absence of conflict, but a promise of a solid foundation and the comfort of His presence in whatever life throws our way.
What is really extraordinary and amazing about this passage is the reason behind it. At the end of verse seven the prophet says, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” The word “zeal” here is Hebrew word qin·’ā(h), which is usually translated as jealous or jealousy.
Here it holds the idea of passionate devotion and intense desire. God was passionately and intensely delighted, excited, and happy to send to this broken world the gift of His Son. Indeed, my joy and elation at finding the perfect gift and giving it comes from God’s image in me. We might say this way: He couldn’t wait until Christmas, couldn’t wait until the right time to show His zeal for us (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4).
Think about that for a minute. God didn’t just casually offer us salvation; He did it with gusto and joy! Just like a groom might lavishly give a gift to his bride.
- Think about the fact that God, with a deep passion, love and devotion to us, took delight in sending His Son to save the world. Does that change the way you think about the Messiah? How?
- Consider the titles given to the promised Messiah. Is there one or two that you identify with more closely? Why?
- Think about the coming of the light mentioned in verse two. How has the light of Jesus impacted your life? Take time to give thanks for these things.