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Isaiah 9:1-9:7
Key Verse: 9:6

Thank God that the LORD Almighty is holy and he is the one we are to fear and he is the one we are to dread. With the fear of the LORD may we live in this world and do what God wants us to do in this generation. Today’s passage says that to us a child is born. This is the birth of the Messiah which will take place about 700 later. According to the prophet Isaiah, in God a future event can concern the past or the present because of the certainty that God’s prophecy will be fulfilled. This passage excellently teaches us who Jesus is. Let’s think about Jesus the person and how to receive the blessing of having him in our hearts.

First, he humbles; he honours (1-5). Look at verse 1a. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” The conjunction “nevertheless” signifies a total transition. At the end of chapter 8 when people rejected God’s word, they would be distressed and hungry and roaming, and becoming enraged, cursing their king and their God. In their life they would see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom. But here is a promise, “There will be no more gloom for those who are in distress.” What a transition! Look at verse 1 again. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan.” What did God do to the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali? These lands were the places where the Assyrian conquest began. The people of the territory were brutally and mercilessly trampled by enemy soldiers. They were so humbled and despised that they were called Galilee of the Gentiles, although they had certainly been part of God’s chosen people. This did not happen by chance. It was God’s punishment upon them due to their sins. God’s humbling has a purpose. It is to honour. He humbles and he honours. He humbles anyone who is proud; he honours anyone who is humble before him. He can honour even Galilee of the Gentiles. When God humbles, no human help works out. When God honours, nothing can prevent it.

The history of Israel seems to be mainly about God humbling them because of their foolish pride and stubbornness. As we studied in the parable of the tenants, they thought of God as bothersome when he sent his prophets to them again and again that they might turn their hearts back to him. They were upset feeling that their freedom in life was taken away. They were seized by their selfishness and pride. Then God humbled them through the invasion of neighbouring countries. This history of Israel shows that it is better to humble ourselves before being humbled by God just like “prevention is better than cure”. How can we humble ourselves? It is to humble ourselves before his word. Isaiah 66:2b says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” We can humble ourselves and become humble before God by changing our minds at the time we hear the word of God. God honours those who are humble before him. God’s humbling and honouring is the principle of God’s history.

When God honours, what happens? Look at verse 2. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Walking in darkness and living in the land of shadow of death describes the state of mankind without God. In darkness, they do not know where they came from and where they are going, although they are busy in day-to-day life. All people are under the power of death however strong and pompous they may look. History attests this. Then how honoured they are when they have seen a great light and a light has dawned on them! In this light of life they will come to know their origin of life, God’s salvation and their meaning and purpose of life in this world and their final destiny in God.

Look at verse 3a. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy...”. It was unthinkable for the Israel at that time that the nation would be enlarged. In fact the nation was reduced in power to the verge of survival. But it says, “You have enlarged the nation.” What a hope to them. Look at verse 3. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.”In this one verse, the word “joy” or “rejoice” is repeated 4 times. They were full of sorrow because of their poor human conditions both in their personal life and their nation. The joy of life had left them. Their land was devastated and desolate. Harvest was far from them. Yet it says, “They rejoice as people rejoice at the harvest.” They have been defeated and what they had was plundered and spoiled. They were full of resentment and bitterness. But it says, “They rejoice as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” Their joy comes from a victorious life. When God honours, God enables them to have such joy. People are not really victorious even amid many seeming victories in life. They are not truly joyful even in apparent victories and successes. True victory and joy comes from inner victory, the victory God gives regardless of human circumstances. Spiritual harvest and spiritual plunder make us truly rejoice.

Look at verse 4. “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” The day of Midian’s defeat refers to the time of Gideon. At that time the Israelites were so oppressed by the power of Midian that they prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. At the invasion of the Midianites all their crops were ruined and they had nothing to eat. They were sorrowful and bitter and helpless. But God called Gideon and enabled him to defeat the countless Midianites with only 300 soldiers (Judges 6, 7). It was God’s victory for them. The fight was done in the Valley of Jezreel from which the tribal territory of Zebulun and Naptali extended. The Valley of Jezreel was the valley of victory, the remarkable victory in the history of Israel. In that victory they could have a peaceful time. This incredible victory was in their minds and remained only as a past event. They could not think that such a thing would happen again. Yet, it says, “As in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” What good news! The yoke, the bar and the rod have been shattered. They will be free, free and free.

It will go further. Look at verse 5, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” If boot and garment are burned as fuel for the fire, warriors cannot go out to fight. It means there will be no more fighting. There will be even no armament for war. At this the people do not need to worry about any war. When God honours, there will be true freedom and peace.

Second, a son is given (6-9). Look at verse 6a. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...” The conjunction “for” shows the underlying reason for all the blessings described above: light, joy, victory, freedom and peace. How will all these marvelous things happen? It is because to us a child is born; not a warrior or hero but a child. The child is born, yet in a way different from the way of all other children. Isaiah’s son “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” was great as God’s living message to the people of his time. But this child will be different with a different origin. He is a son given to us from above. God is with him in the fullness. He is God with us. He is the gift of God.

Verse 6 says, “…and the government will be on his shoulders.” Government” has the meaning of “rule,” “dominion” and “responsibility.” He will rule as a responsible ruler. The government will be on his shoulders. This government will be different from all other governments of the world. His rule will be different from that of all other rulers who have been in the world. He will not rule by force. He will not govern even with a good policy or the law of the governing party. He does not need such things. He will rule from inside, from his personality.

Look at verse 6b, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He is first of all a counselor, Wonderful Counselor. All people need a counselor. We want to know everything there is to know about ourselves: our past, present and future, and about the world and the coming world. We need someone who knows all such things and who understands us and can talk to us and listen to us. He will be called Wonderful Counselor. He is wonderful, for he has all the knowledge, knowing Alpha and Omega. He is wonderful, for he is humble enough to stand under us and so understand us. And he is humble enough to listen to us attentively and patiently and talk to us gently and truthfully. He speaks to us the words of God. His counseling is full of grace and truth.

The story of Jesus’ counseling is endless. There was a wayward woman who had gone through 5 husbands and now was living with her boy friend. All people in her town despised her and did not talk to her with a fix idea as if she were born to be such a woman. But Jesus knew not only all her past but that she was also made in the image of God yearning for the living God and for a new life. So Jesus approached her and humbled himself to talk to her until she opened her heart. Through that she found in Jesus a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Encountering Jesus the Messiah for whom she had been waiting so long her life was changed from a weary and burdensome one into a lively and joyful one, from a selfish one into a sacrificial one, caring for her townspeople. Jesus also counseled a very intellectual man named Nicodemus, who came to him at night. Nicodemus showed his desire to overcome himself with a sort of supernatural power he saw in Jesus. Jesus told him spiritual things, about being born again and the kingdom of God, how to see the kingdom of God and how to enter it, and about his death on cross for the healing of sin-sick mankind and God’s love to give his one and only Son. As for this man he publicly confessed his faith right after Jesus’ death on the cross and to everyone’s surprise boldly claimed the body of Jesus to bury him. Jesus’ counseling at the night finally worked in the man and led him to the eternal kingdom of God.

Jesus has been the wonderful Counselor to each of us, teaching us the words of God. Still we need his counseling. No problem is too big or too small for him. No problem is outside of his concern. He wants us to come to him with any life problem. At this Christmas may we deeply accept Jesus as Wonderful Counselor. Many young people are crying, saying, “You don’t understand me.” But Jesus is Wonderful Counselor for each of them. May they come to Jesus through us and meet the Wonderful Counselor. With the Wonderful Counselor we can have the light of life (Jn 8:12), obtaining the knowledge of salvation, knowing how to live and what to do in this world, and having a living hope of the kingdom of God.

“He will be called Mighty God.” No one can despise him because of his humbleness. No power can be comparable to his. His power is over all men and over the natural world and the spiritual world. The waves and winds at the story sea obeyed him. The evils spirits trembled before him. Wicked men tried to get rid of him by killing him on the cross. But he finally proved the might and power of God when he rose again from the dead. With faith in him, Mighty God, we can be victorious in life. Jesus wants us to put our faith in him and challenge and do even impossible things for his glory. That’s why he said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt 17:20). Again he said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt…you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done” (Mt 21:21).

“He will be called Everlasting Father.” When we hear about the children who cry because of their human fathers, we are pained. Even though their human fathers are good, they are temporary. But he will be called Everlasting Father. We know that imperfect things cannot last forever. “Everlasting” implies perfection. He is perfectly good. His protection and his provision are perfect. His love is perfect. What can be more precious to parents than their children? To the Everlasting Father his children are most precious, and he cares for each of them with his perfect love. Perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18). In his perfect love his children have no more sorrow and sadness but joy and gladness. The Everlasting Father embraces each of his children into his bosom and he will welcome each one into his glorious kingdom without fail.

“He will be called Prince of Peace.” He has peace in him. He is not a troublesome king, but a peaceful king. He could even sleep in the stormy sea. He is the Giver of peace. His peace is different from the peace the world gives, which is momentary and superficial. His peace comes from the right relationship with God. His peace is costly. He shed his precious blood for the reconciliation between God and sinners. His peace is true and from our inside. At the night before leaving this world, he said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be trouble; trust in God; trust also in me” (Jn 14:1). He does not want us to be troubled by the things of this world but keep his peace in us by trusting in God and in him. He wants us to be peace-makers. All the enmity between people and all fighting among tribes and nations will cease, and the peaceful world will come with no more war weapons existing because of the Prince of Peace. Isaiah described the peaceful world in this: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.…They will be neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain…” (Isa 11:6-9).

He is everything to us. He is a Counselor, God, Father and King. He is wonderful, powerful, full of perfection, perfect in goodness and love and so everlasting, and peace-filled. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

Napoleon Bonaparte tried to conquer the world with force. But at the island of Helena where he was exiled he could have time to reflect his life and express his deep thought about Jesus Christ. Before his impending death he could have a deep insight to see the history of the world and a correct and remarkable view of Jesus Christ. He confessed that the emperor who once seemed to conquer the Europe was now disappearing helplessly but Jesus Christ had been conquering the world with his love. Look at verse 7. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” The kingdoms of this world were corrupt and perished. But the kingdom of Christ is different. It will be increased and forever because its justice and righteousness and because of the king’s humbleness, love and power. On top of that the zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Thank and praise God that to us a child is born, to us a son is given. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. His kingdom will be forever. May we humble ourselves before him so that we can receive God’s amazing gift of Jesus into our hearts and serve him for the expansion of his kingdom.

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