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TO US A SON IS GIVEN

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

Merry Christmas! The world is troublesome and our life path is not always smooth. In 2014 there seemed to be more wars than at other times, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. In our country there was an unexpected gun-shooting at Parliament. Spiritually speaking, our life itself is an ongoing battle against the evil one. It is easy to be distressed, gloomy, and fearful living in this world. Today’s passage teaches us how we can have hope even amidst national or personal adversity. It is through the indescribable gift of God, a Son given to us. As we study this passage, may we go deeper into the meaning of Christmas and really have a merry 2014 Christmas.

First, he humbles; he honours (1-2). At the end of chapter 8 a really miserable life was described. People would curse their king and their God and see only distress, darkness, and fearful gloom. It was because they did not inquire of their God or rely on the word of God, but consulted mediums and spiritists (8:19-20). Then there is a transition at the beginning of this chapter: “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” In our times, too, people are stressed and distressed for various reasons. When it continues, they despair in darkness. However, here is a promise of hope that they will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. How is this possible?

Look at verse 1b. “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--” Through the conquest of Assyria God punished and humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali until they were called Galilee of the Gentiles. They were deported to Assyria and Assyrians were brought there. So they became mixed-bloods. They lost their purity as God’s chosen people. They were oppressed by the Assyrians and were despised by their fellow Jews. It was due to their sins: they abandoned the LORD their God and worshipped other gods following the corrupt customs of pagan nations. Then the prophets says, “…but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles.” This promise was fulfilled by the coming of Jesus. It is really surprising that Jesus began his messianic ministry in Galilee and did most of the messianic work there. He called his disciples in the region of the Sea of Galilee, who would later bring the gospel of salvation to the whole world and would change the history of the world. Seeing the messianic ministry Matthew quoted these word of Isaiah. The prophet says continually in 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 shadow of death is the exact description of the situation of mankind. People walk in darkness not because of no sunlight but because of no spiritual sight, their spiritual blindness. Those who cannot see with the eyes of faith the true God and Jesus Christ whom God sent are all spiritually blind whoever they are, and they are living in the shadow of death. Jesus began his work of light by preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 4:17).

It is a constant teaching of the Bible that God humbles and he honours. The purpose of humbling is to honour. Humbling can be God’s punishment due to our sins or God’s discipline. Anyway, God’s humbling is very precious and it is out of his deep love. God’s humbling especially in the time of youth, is invaluable. God humbles us through family problems, health problems, relationships, school studies, unexpected failures, etc. Whatever God’s humbling is, it is very precious and an opportunity to receive God’s grace of honouring. At the time of God’s humbling one needs the right attitude. Isaiah, at his youth, despaired because of the nation’s fatalistic situation and his sin of unbelief and helplessness. Yet, at this time of despair, the time of God’s humbling, he entered the temple and could meet the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and sovereign over the whole world. His spiritual eyes were opened to see the world from God’s viewpoint, full of his glory. He received God’s grace of forgiveness of his sins and could commit his life to God. Since then, he proclaimed the message, “Your God reigns” (Isa 52:7) throughout his life, thus planting hope in the hearts of his people. There was a musician. He became sick and as a result, half of his body was paralyzed. Due to his medical expenses, he ran into a huge debt. When he could not repay the debt, he was thrown into prison. What a humbled life! Yet, it was the time of God honouring him. There, he gave himself fully to composing music, and there came out the masterpiece, “Hallelujah” based on Revelation 19, “Hallelujah!...Hallelujah!... Amen, Hallelujah!...Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns…” I know that God humbled some of you this year. But we may believe that God’s humbling has the purpose of honouring through Christ Jesus, the light of life (Jn 8:12).

Second, to us a Son is given (3-7). Look at verse 3. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy…” When we consider the national situation of Israel, it was impossible for their nation to be enlarged. However, the author Isaiah could have hope and vision beyond, promised throughout the Scriptures. The LORD God enlarged the nation and increased their joy (in NET, “you give them great joy”). Their joy and rejoicing is emphasized: “they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” At the nation’s decline the Israelites would not have joy. They would not at all expect the joy of the harvest under the oppression of the world’s power nation, not to mention the joy of dividing the plunder. But their unexpected and unthinkable joy would come. Anyway, people need joy in life. When Canadian hockey team, both men’s and women’s, won gold medals at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic, all Canadians rejoiced. There will be the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. If Canada wins the World Cup, how joyful we will be. Yet, this joy will be limited only to Canadians and it is external. The joy mentioned in verse 3 is definitely related to the messianic nation and through the coming Messiah, Saviour, Christ the Lord. So at the time of Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

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 and the rod of their oppressor.” Surely the people of Israelites longed for Midian’s defeat, a complete victory from God. 300 soldiers led by Gideon defeated the countless Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples that were like the sand of the seashore. The Israelite soldiers did not have even one sword, but each had a torch in an empty jar in the left hand and a trumpet in the right hand. When they suddenly broke jar bringing a sudden burst of bright light into the darkness and blew the trumpet, the armies of the enemy were completely demoralized and turned to each other and ran away. This victory was a wonderful display of divine power. And this battle took place in Jezreel, that was, around the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. The prophet said, “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders and the rod of their oppressor.” So the victory of Midian’s defeat can refer to the victory over all Satan’s power by the gospel, the good news of Christ Jesus. The promise of victory was fulfilled in the glorious deliverance of the Galileans (the first converts to Christianity), and of all who with them made up the true Israel through faith in Christ Jesus.

In this victory what happens? Look at verse 5. “Every warrior’s boots used for battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” In the victory through the gospel of Jesus Christ surely there will be no war and no need of any weapon, even no need of army shoes and pants, that is, no need of even one soldier. (Isa 2:4; Micah 4:3; Zech 9:10).

So now the author turns to the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. Look at verse 6. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders…” The conjunction “for” is meaningful. The prophecy in this passage could be understood in light of the Messiah’s coming as we had thought of. However, the question could be how would the Messiah come? As a jack-booted warrior, military conqueror, or brilliant administrator? No. Verse 6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” He could come as a baby, a child. A child can be a symbol of peace and hope and innocence, and is approachable to all. And it says “to us a son is given.” This is an uncommon expression. This child is extraordinary child as the gift of God. He is the Son of God (Jn 3:16).

Now who the child will be is excellently written even around 700 years before his coming. First of all, the government will be on his shoulders (responsibility, authority, take over the running of the world). Nowadays the leaders of the world make a great attempt to have one global government with one religion, eliminating Christ Jesus. We know that the attempt is in vain, building anther Babel tower. In verse 6, the government is strikingly mentioned, and it is through the Son of God, born as a baby. He will be the governor, the ruler and king. Certainly, a government is characterized by the one on whose shoulders the government rests. Who will the child be? Verse 6b says, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” How amazing these names are! Let’s think of the meaning of…

Firstly, Wonderful Counselor. Although he is a ruler, he cares for each person as the Wonderful Counselor. We live in a troublesome, relativistic, confused and deceptive world. Living in this world people really need counseling. So many students seem to study psychology. Yet, who can give wonderful perfect counseling? In this world nobody knows fundamental things about humans, where men came from and where they are going. In sheer ignorance some intellectuals see people only as biological beings and human problems as chemical reactions. Some try to fix only people’s external behaviours, ignoring internal problems. But humans are more than biological or physical beings. Most importantly they are spiritual beings, made in the image of God as well as out of dust: Man is both body and soul. Jesus said to the intellectual Nicodemus, “A man must be born again to see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). One must be born again through hearing the word of God the work of the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus’ counseling this man could finally see the kingdom of God at the time of Jesus’ death. A man, although he had a secure joy, was despairing in his extreme selfishness and others’ negative and critical view on him. Then Jesus called him with two words, “Follow me.” At this counseling and in this direction his whole life was changed. He became St. Mathew and wrote Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, especially the words of Jesus, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33). Jesus once met a lady who had failed in her five marriage and still clung to her boyfriend. Jesus counseled her with humble conversation and the truth of God leading her to repentance of her sins. Then her eyes were opened to see Christ Jesus, the spring of living water, who could truly quench her thirsty soul. Nowadays, gender confusion is a big issue causing confusion for many people. In addition, many people are negative about their birth, asking why they were born in that way. What was Jesus’ view of these? Jesus had an unambiguous view of gender. He clearly said, “The Creator made them male and female” (Mt 19:4). And according to Jesus, no one’s birth is a mistake. Jesus’ disciples had a negative and fatalistic view of a man born blind, questioning, “Why was this man born blind?” But Jesus had a complete view of this man born blind and said, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” And Jesus’ view was right. When the blind man heard Jesus’ voice and obeyed him, his spiritual eyes were opened to see Jesus and his life was changed into an inspiring one for so many people down through generations. Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, because he knows the origin and destiny of mankind and has a perfect knowledge and complete understanding of human beings. He can counsel for any affairs in life. He counsels with empathy (Heb 2:14; 4:15) and the truth of God. May each of us accept Jesus as Wonderful Counselor and listen to him.

Secondly, Mighty God. In this world order is still maintained amid many terrors and unceasing wars, because of the military power of superpower nations. In Canada, security is sustained because of judicial power. A good king or president is of no use if he had no actual power. But “he will be called Mighty God.” In terms of power he is mighty God. So his power is mighty and absolute. He has power over evil spirits. He is mightier than all the evil powers of the world. He is mightier than any military power of the world. In this world the countries with no nuclear weapon look pitiful in their weakness and powerlessness. North Korea and Iran have nuclear weapons and seem to speak big threatening the world. Yet, whether they have nuclear weapons or not, before the mighty God, all the nations are like a drop in a bucket, or dust on scales. They are as nothing, less than nothing (Isa 40:15,17). Jesus displayed the mighty God throughout his messianic ministry, and ultimately through his resurrection. Those who hope in Mighty God will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles, not growing weary or tired (Isaiah 40:31).

Thirdly, Everlasting Father: He is the ruler, but the Father, a compassionate Father. He is not a political leader. He takes care of each individual with the compassion of the Father. Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” When we come to him, he has compassion on us and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). A Spanish father once decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. Now remorseful, the father posted this ad in the El Liberal newspaper: “PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA.” Paco is a common name in Spain, and when the father went to the square he found eight hundred young men named Paco waiting for their fathers (A story by Ernest Hamingway). This shows people’s yearning for their fathers, forgiving and compassionate. In the gospel story Jesus’ compassion is outstanding. He said to a paralytic, “Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2). He said to a woman who had hemorrhage for 12 years, “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” He is Everlasting Father. We know that imperfect things cannot last forever. “Everlasting” implies perfection. His love is perfect, so endures forever. To parents, who can be more precious 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, our original home, without fail.

Fourthly, Prince of Peace. He is the heavenly Prince, reminding us of God the Father, the King. The Old Testament depicts God as King (1 Sa 8:7). God is the God of peace (Ro 16:20), and the King of peace. So the Prince is Prince of Peace. Prince of Peace is contrasted with the prince of this world (Jn 12:31; 14:30), who is Satan or the devil. The prince of this world is the prince of violence and death. When the Prince of Peace was born, a great company of heavenly hosts sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” His birth would bring peace to all mankind. To be the Prince of Peace he had to become a peace offering, an offering reconciliation, by dying on the cross and shedding his blood as the Lamb of God. It was to reconcile men to God. After his resurrection, he came to his fearful disciples and said, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19,21). This peace is costly. He was punished and brought us peace (Isa 53:5). People cannot buy peace with money. They cannot get peace through drug. Prince of Peace is the Giver of peace (Jn 14:27). This peace comes by having a right relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus and is the first fruit of the restored relationship with God (Ro 5:1). Yet, this peace is more than static. In the past there was an unbreakable wall between God and men and no one could come to him. I was fearful to come to God. But this wall is broken down and demolished in Christ Jesus. Now what a grace it is that we can approach the living God through Jesus Christ! God wants us to enjoy this fellowship with him in peace by actively coming up to him. This is the reason Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The peace that the Prince of Peace gives is internal and also external. When Prince of peace rules, broken relationship in the family, community and society is restored. Isaiah depicted what the world would be like when the Prince of Peace rules: “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” (11:6). When Prince of Peace rules, definitely all the fighting and wars will cease. As we studied, all the armament and battle equipment will be destined for nothing, fuel for the fire. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), at the island of Helena where he was exiled he could have time to reflect on his life and express his thoughts about Jesus Christ. Before his impending death he confessed that the emperor who once seemed to conquer the Europe with force was now disappearing helplessly but Jesus Christ had been conquering the world with his love and his reign is eternal. It is true that the Prince of Peace conquers the world with his love and peace. The rule of the Prince of Peace means the restoration of paradise promised in the Bible and the answer of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come.” This is the messianic nation and kingdom with the government on his shoulders.

So verse 7 says, “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 and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

At this Christmas we thank and praise God for giving us his Son Jesus. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! In this description Prince of Peace can be the climax. He is the only one worthy of the seat of prince in our hearts. When he let him sit on that seat, he can rule us with his light of life, wonderful counseling, mighty power, everlasting love and steadfast peace. May we accept this Prince of Peace into our hearts committing our life to him and serve his will that his government and his kingdom come into this world.

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