To reject the light of God, the very source of life itself, is to choose darkness and death. Isaiah warned against the futility of choosing any other wisdom or way than the Lord’s. Yet, it seems that for God’s people, even when darkness is chosen, there can still be a note of hope.


God’s Promised Light

“Nevertheless,” there is going to be an end to this gloom. A great light is going to dispel the darkness, and the first place to experience that light would be the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, coastal regions that got a lot of traffic to and from Egypt and Syria.[1] This was the first area to be annexed by Tiglath-Pileser, the first people to experience all the hardships of exile.

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:1-2 (NRSV)

The apostle Matthew wrote about the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when Jesus’ began His ministry in the Decapolis, a mixed Gentile and Jewish area, in Galilee.

Jesus teaching the people by the shore of the Galilee | James Tissot

The kingdom of God would grow much larger than even the original borders God promised to Abraham, and which were achieved under King David’s reign

You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;

Isaiah 9:3 (NRSV)

It would in fact surpass all earthly kingdoms. People’s joy would be so great it would be like the rejoicing after an abundant harvest, or when after a big victory all the plunder was divided. There would be a sense of wealth and security.

In verse 4, it will be like the story of Gideon found back in Judges. Against overwhelming odds, with just three hundred men, faith in God and obedience to God’s instructions, God gave Gideon an incredible victory.

Verse 5 hearkens back to Isaiah 2, where all the implements of war can be thrown into a big bonfire. Not only will all the forces of evil be defeated, but a final end will come to the conflict itself.

God’s Promised Messiah

Why will all this come about?

For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders,

Isaiah 9:6 (NRSV)
Jesus’s birth | James Tissot

Referring back to Isaiah’s prophecy, “The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son, and will call his name Immanuel, God with us.” Here is an expansion of Immanuel’s name,

and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NRSV)

God with Us

“God with us” is God the Son, one person of the Trinity. As God He is eternal, He always existed. Jesus has the true divine nature. Before there was anything, Jesus was with God, a distinct person in the Godhead, and also was God. All things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, all power, every authority, all things were created through Jesus.

Hebrews describes Jesus as “the radiance of the glory of God,” the visible aspect of God. But He is not just an image or a reflection of God. Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is “the exact imprint of God’s nature,” “He is the visible of the invisible God,” Jesus is the absolutely authentic representation of God’s being. God says that all of God’s fullness—the totality of God’s powers and attributes—rests in Jesus. God upholds the universe by the word of God’s power: Jesus.

Jesus actively holds all things together.

Jesus’s Transfiguration | James Tissot

“God with us” will have divine wisdom, and be a trustworthy guide. He will be powerful in the way only God can be, able to defeat every enemy for good. He has control over eternity and time itself, transcending time.

Wonderful

“Wonderful” in the Hebrew is “pele,” the word used to qualify God’s “wonderful works” and “wonderful ways,” so a word reserved to describe the divine.

Prince of Peace

And He brings peace.

Not any kind of peace, but “shalom” a rich word in Hebrew, meaning “Completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.”

Remember Jesus telling His disciplesI have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace…My peace I give to you.” The peace the Prince of peace will give you and me goes way beyond emotions.

True peace is union with God, being right with the Lord and intimately involved with God.

God’s Promise is Sure

Everlasting Father

God the Son is the exact representation of God the Father. It is the Father’s place to discipline God’s children, and we see that in this passage. God the Father is considered to be the first Person of the Trinity. That does not mean the Father existed first. God is eternal, with no beginning of any kind. There is no such thing as God having partly existed as the Father, and then later more fully existing as the Son and the Spirit. God, the triune God, fully existed as we know God now, from always, from before the beginning.

As the Creator and Sustainer of all things, it is God the Father’s right to govern God’s universe with God’s law, to judge wrong, and to bring justice. But it is also the Father’s joy to forgive and restore.

God does not give us everything we want, but the Lord reassures us that God knows better than any human father how to give good gifts to God’s children. God does allow us to suffer, God even brings hardship into our lives, because the Lord loves us. Because God cares about us. Because God is committed to us, God disciplines, or rather trains, us for our good, so you and I can be holy in the way God is holy.

Maybe if God were only Judge, then bringing justice would only mean rewards and punishments. But God is also Father, and for the Lord, justice for God’s people brings discipline, designed to change you and me from the inside out.

Jesus’s resurrection | James Tissot

The Father and the Son are equal in being, yet in the plan of redemption the Son humbled Himself to the Father, a willing humbling that in no way implies inferiority. At a specific moment in earth’s history, The Son of God took a human form. He would be born as a human child far into Isaiah’s future, becoming the man we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus now remains the unique God‑man forever, fully God and fully man.

Because of Jesus’ humility in obedience

Great will be his authority,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.

Isaiah 9:7 (NRSV)

The Father has exalted the Son, giving Him authority over every authority. Jesus is actively ruling on His throne, He is God, Lord over all.

How can you and I be sure this is actually going to happen?

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:7 (NRSV)

Nothing can stand in the way of this coming true.

God’s Compassion

God is not about condemnation and punishment.

God is about redemption and restoration.

Because of Israel’s unrepentance, they would have to deal with God’s wrath. But the Father is compassionate, long‑suffering, forgiving. God sent God’s Son to be a light to God’s people who had chosen darkness.

Jesus’s ascension | James Tissot

God is not distant, but so close that the Lord lives in the inner self of every believer. God is so intimately involved in our lives that the Lord experiences everything with us, making God’s Own Person available to us at all times, in all places, under every condition.

Selah!


[1] While in Israel recently, Dave and I went to visit the Sea of Galilee boat, which brought to mind Isaiah’s oracle here in chapter nine.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee | Kyle Taylor, flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/4262920831 (CC BY 2.0)

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