Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Son Giving Hope For All the People

Isa 9:1–7

Yesterday we saw Isaiah leading all of Hezekiah’s court and temple personnel in prayer for deliverance and prophesying the downfall of their enemy. Today’s reading shows him prophesying that God would raise up his ultimate deliverer in Jesus Christ, who will rule the world.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light” (Isa 9:2; Matt 4:16)

Sin darkens life with the very shadow of death, and salvation can be described as coming into the light (Eph 5:8, 13–14; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 John 1:5–7). One way of talking about the coming of the Messiah was to say, “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78–29a; see John 12:35, 46). This light was the light at the end of the tunnel of slavery and foreign oppression (Isa 9:3–5), but the light was not only for Israel. Jesus was “a light to reveal God to the nations” (Luke 2:32). Indeed, Jesus Christ came claiming, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Isa 9:6a)

This was to come not through the birth of a child, a “son” after the fashion of Psalm 2:7. He would be God’s own son and a son in Israel, a son from the line of David whom God himself would call “my son.”

He will be given great titles (Isa 9:6b–7)

I suppose the first thing to note is that we have four not three titles. I’ve sat in a fair number of Christmas programs and heard: “He will be called ‘Wonderful’, ‘Counselor’, ‘Mighty God’, ‘Everlasting Father’, and ‘Prince of Peace’,” which has followed the older translations (e.g., kjv, asv). But the first of these titles is “Wonderful Counselor,” not just the unattached adjective “Wonderful.”

Wonderful Counselor. I like the NET Bible’s rendition of this as “Extraordinary Strategist.” In the ancient Near East, the office of counselor was often attached to the palace, and it could even be a royal title in its own right (Mic 4:9). Certainly it took on messianic scope (Isa 11:2). He would rule God’s people wisely.

Mighty God. Perhaps in Isaiah’s own context it indicated that the coming king would be the warrior God’s own representative (e.g., Ps 45:6), much as the sign child born in Ahaz’s time could be called “Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Certainly the New Testament’s use of this saw it as an indication of the messianic king’s deity. Certainly , even for Isaiah himself, the understanding would have been that fighting against this king was fighting against the Lord himself (see Ps 2:2).

Everlasting Father. We shouldn’t misunderstand this title as collapsing the Jesus’ sonship into fatherhood; the New Testament clearly portrays the Son and the Father as separate persons. Rather, this symbolic use of “father” portrays the messianic king as a protector of his people, just as we see elsewhere (e.g., Isa 22:21; Job 29:16). The qualifying adjective “everlasting” would be especially appropriate to the one who inherited the eternal Davidic promise (2 Sam 7:1–18; 1 Chr 17:1–15).

Prince of Peace. This title depicts the messiah as one who establishes the kind of security and strong position for his people that ensures their reliable well-being. The Hebrew term shalom doesn’t indicate just the absence of strife; rather, it indicates a strong and secure position wherein the benefits of the kingdom of God are ensured and enjoyed in comfort. Indeed, this sometimes comes about through messianic warfare to subdue all enemies (Pss 72; 144).

He would inherit the throne of his ancestor David

This would be the ultimate branch of the Jesse Tree, the ultimate fulfillment of every promise and hope that belonged to the Davidic dynasty.

This memorable promise was not forgotten. When Jesus Christ was born, they realized that this was the wonderful child that Isaiah had promised (Luke 1:78–79). A child—indeed—but the Mighty One come to give his people light and peace.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • Do you think you would have believed an old priest if you had been there to hear him tell people that this baby was the almighty messiah king? (Luke 1:67–79) What does your answer to yourself tell you about how open you are to God?

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