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As we enter December 2020, the church prepares to celebrate the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. This year has been like no other in recent times, with the entire world under the cloud of a pandemic. But that is not all that ails us. We seem to be living in an increasingly divided world, with leadership that is unwise, repressive, uncaring and divisive. Remember these four things because the gospel of Christ offers us a glorious alternative!
Just over 2,000 years ago, the Lord Jesus was born into this world; dividing history and changing the course of it. His followers revered Him and believed there was something special about Him. When He was arrested and crucified, they feared that they might have been wrong (Matt. 26:31, 56), until He rose again and appeared to them over 40 days (Lk. 24:52, 53). His opponents and detractors rejected His teaching (Mk. 6:2, 3) and attributed His miracles to Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matt. 12:24, Mk. 3:22). This ultimately led to His arrest, trial and crucifixion.
So who was Jesus really? Let us take a look at the well-known and often read text of Isaiah 9:6-7. What do these verses tell us about who Jesus was and is?
These verses fit into the larger section of Isaiah 7:1 to 9:7. The situation in these chapters is such that the southern kingdom of Judah has been threatened by the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the kingdom of Syria. The LORD brings a word through Isaiah the prophet to King Ahaz, calling him to trust in the LORD.
In Isaiah 7:14 The LORD tells Ahaz that He will give him a sign of His presence with Judah. He says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Sadly, Ahaz turned from trusting in the LORD and instead made an alliance with the King of Assyria (2 Kgs. 16:7-9) which resulted in the judgement of the LORD coming upon Judah as well (2 Chron. 28:19, 20).
The sign of Immanuel had an immediate fulfilment (Isa. 8:8, 10). Even though Israel was overrun by the Assyrians with some of the destruction flowing into Judah (Isa. 8:8), the LORD would ultimately save His people because He is Immanuel, which means, “God is with us” (8:9, 10). This prophecy and name is applied to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 1:23.
Isaiah himself, who lived with his family in Jerusalem, may have been afraid of this vision which is why the LORD comforts him with these words. He says in Isaiah 8:12–13, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Isaiah is emboldened by these words. He and his family stand firm in the faith because the LORD would deliver the land; even as it faced a time of deep darkness and gloom.
These words that the LORD speaks to Isaiah are important for us as we live in a time when we increasingly see the uncertainty, unreliability and failure of leadership, just as it was in the time of King Ahaz. In one way, these things are inevitable because of the presence of sin and the power of Satan. On the other hand, how we respond to these difficult times as Christians is vitally important. Isaiah’s response is instructive for us. He says, “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion” (8:17, 18).
We then come to the words of Isaiah 9:1 – 7. These words bring hope to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but the overtones are messianic. Their fulfilment was to take place hundreds of years later in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. A great light was to shine upon them (Isa. 9:2; cf. Jn. 8:12) and their joy was to be multiplied (Isa. 9:3; cf. Jn. 15:11).
The prophecy of verse 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,” is clearly fulfilled in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the angels announce the birth of Christ (‘messiah’ in Hebrew), they say in Luke 2:11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The Lord Jesus Himself says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son…” The angel’s announcement in Luke and Jesus’ words in John speaks of a child born and a Son given.
Further, we know that the Son spoken of in Isaiah 9:6 is the Son of God of the Gospels. The way Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of the Son makes it clear that He is more than a human child. Isaiah’s prophecy describes the Son with titles and attributes that are divine in nature.
We first note that the government shall be upon shoulders, which speaks of His rule and kingship and points to the fact that He is the Anointed One or the Messiah. Isaiah 9:7 tells us that there will be no end to the increase of His government and the peace that His rule will bring. His Kingdom will last “forevermore.” It is clear that this is no earthly kingdom, ruled by a mere man. Jesus says of Himself in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (cf. Dan. 7:13, 14).
Isaiah’s prophecy then continues with four titles or attributes that the Son possesses. He is the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Wise counsel, benevolent power, fatherly care and incomprehensible peace is what this King brings.
He is the Wonderful Counsellor
In Isaiah 28:29, we read the words, “This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.” This attribute of the LORD of hosts is applied to the Son who is Wonderful Counselor. Romans 11:33, 34 speaks of the riches of God’s wisdom and it says that no one counsels God because He is God. The attribute of a wonderful and wise counsellor belongs to God and also to the Son here in Isaiah 9:6.
He is the Mighty God
This speaks of the power of the Messiah. He is mighty in power, but His power is a benevolent power or a favourable power. He is not a despotic, tyrannical or repressive ruler. John in His gospel combines the divine power of the Son, who created all things (Jn. 1:1-3), and is also “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
He is the Everlasting Father
This is an interesting one because the Bible speaks of God the Father and the Son is distinct from the Father. We know and affirm from Scripture that the Father and Son are distinct in Persons. What does this description of the Son mean? In those days, kings were seen to be fatherlike to their people. The Messiah is fatherlike to His people. Isaiah 53:10 in speaking of the suffering Messiah talks about how, “He shall see His offspring…” And the Lord Jesus even comforts His disciples with these words in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” The Lord Jesus is like a caring father to His people.
He is the Prince of Peace
Absolute peace is incomprehensible in this world, but God gives us this peace through His Son Jesus (Phil. 4:6, 7). “Peace among those with whom He is pleased,” is the song that the angels sang to the shepherds (Lk. 2:14). The Son who is born brings peace to His people. The Lord Jesus says to His disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (cf. Jn. 16:33).
As you celebrate Christmas this year, may you and your family have the hope that Isaiah and his family had as they lived through times of great turmoil and uncertainty. Their hope was in the LORD who sent forth His Messiah into the world. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.