As we study Isaiah 9 we will notice how definitely it links with the promise given to Ahaz in chapter 7, for we will read once more of the One who is the fulfillment of all God’s ways with men. This One is the man of God’s counsel who came in grace to reveal the Father and to establish everlasting righteousness.
The opening verses of Isaiah 9 continue the prophecy of darkness begun in chapter 8. There would be dimness in the future, but Isaiah foresaw that when darkness was spreading over the land of Palestine and men were groping for the light, Christ would come in infinite grace to be the Light of the world. He would come “by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.”
Isaiah seemed to see Him moving about among men, declaring the counsel of God, and showing His grace toward those that walked in darkness. Writing prophetically, he stated, “They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah wrote as if he could look down through the ages and see the Lord Jesus, full of grace and truth, making known the wonders of God’s redeeming love to those who heard Him gladly and found Him to be the Light of life.
Isaiah 9:1-2 is the passage quoted in Matthew 4:15-16. The differences in rendering are due to the fact that in the New Testament the quotation is taken from the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew.
In Isaiah 9:3 the prophet passed over Christ’s rejection and the long years to follow during which the people of Israel themselves would be rejected. For the moment he looked ahead to the day when the nation would once more be recognized by God as being in a covenant relationship with Himself. Note that it is Israel that is in question in this verse and not the Gentiles. It seems evident that in the King James version the translation is faulty in that the word “not” should have been omitted. Really the prophet was saying, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and increased the joy.” Most spiritually-minded scholars agree with this rendering, for the passage looks forward to the future blessing of the favored nation when they will be restored to the Lord and to their land. By then they will have recognized Jesus as their Messiah, as the One whom their fathers rejected but in whom all blessing is to be found.
Isaiah 9:4-5 contemplates the conditions that would prevail in the world through the long centuries of the dispersion of Israel. Although these verses had a local application to the destruction of the Assyrian army, which was besieging Jerusalem, there will be a complete fulfillment when Christ returns to deliver the people from all their enemies.
Undoubtedly when the prophet wrote, “Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood,” he was describing the sad conditions destined to be the portion of the nations until Christ comes again to bring peace. This agrees with the words of our Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24:6-7: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Such conditions have prevailed through the centuries since Christ was rejected. He who was once offered to the world as the Prince of Peace was rejected by both Israel and the Gentile nations. Therefore He said before He left this earth, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51).
This passage is one of the most complete prophecies concerning our Lord to be found in the Old Testament. Isaiah began this prophecy with two expressions that reveal the humanity and the deity of our Savior: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” The “child.. .born” refers to His humanity. As we have already seen, He was to come into the world as the virgin’s Son. As such He was a true Man—spirit, soul, and body. The “son…given” refers to the Savior’s deity. He was born of Mary, but without a human father. The eternal Son of the Father, Christ came from the glory that He had with the Father throughout all the past eternity. The Son was given in grace for our redemption. He linked His deity with our humanity (except for its sins) and thus was God and man in one blessed adorable person.
The Son is destined to exercise supreme rule over all the universe. As Isaiah said, “The government shall be upon his shoulder.” It has often been noticed that the government of the entire world will rest on His shoulder (singular), but when the Good Shepherd finds a lost sheep, He puts it on His shoulders (plural; see Luke 15:5). Surely there is a beautiful suggestion in this plural of the security of those who have put their trust in Him.
“His name,” Isaiah prophesied, “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor…” Under the name “Wonderful” He appeared to the parents of Samson (Judges 13:18, revised version; King James version has “secret”). It may be that we should link together the two words “Wonderful” and “Counsellor,” but if we separate them, we may see in the first word a suggestion of the mystery of His sonship. This mystery no man can fathom, as He told us in Matthew 11:27 and as we learn from Revelation 19:12. Only the Father understands “the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16). It is beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless as we read the divinely inspired records of Christ’s lowly birth, sinless life, vicarious death, and glorious resurrection, we find our hearts exclaiming again and again, “He is wonderful!” He stands supreme, above all the sons of men. He is the blessed, adorable Son of God, yet His heart is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). His grace is made evident in a thousand ways; His lovingkindness reaches down to the utterly lost and depraved. His name is “Wonderful” because He Himself is wonderful and the work He accomplished is wonderful.
He is called “Counsellor” because He comes to us as the revealer of the Father’s will. That is what is implied in His divine title, the Word. It is by the Word that God has made known His mind. The Lord Jesus, who was with the Father from the beginning (that is, when everything that ever had a beginning began), came into this world to make God known. So in Him the Father has spoken out all that is in His heart. Christ’s words make known to us the path of life and show us the only safe way for a pilgrim people to travel through a world of sin. As the eternal Word He is the revealer of the mind and heart of God. The Son came to earth not only to show us the way to the Father, but also to empower us to walk in a manner well-pleasing to the One who has redeemed us.
Notice that the Son is also called “The mighty God.” Some people seek to tone this down in order to make Him less than the words imply, but He is also called “God” in Romans 9:5 and 1 John 5:20. Even when here on earth, He was just as truly God as He was man, and as truly man as He was God. He could not have made atonement for sin otherwise. He had to be who He was in order to do what He did.
Isaiah continued, “His name shall be called…The everlasting Father.” A better rendering would be “the Father of eternity” or “the Father of the coming age.” The Son is not to be confused with the Father, though He and the Father are one (John 10:30). But the Son is the One in whom all the ages meet and therefore He is rightfully designated, “the Father of the ages” or “the Father of eternity.”
He was presented to the world and heralded by angels as “The Prince of Peace” (see Luke 2:14). But because of His rejection there can be no lasting peace for Israel or the other nations until He comes again. Then He will speak peace to all peoples (Isaiah 32:1-18). In the meantime, “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20), all who put their trust in Him have peace with God. As we learn to commit to God in prayer all that would naturally trouble or distress us, peace fills our hearts and controls our lives.
Isaiah 9:7 refers to the covenant God made with David that his Son would sit on his throne and reign in righteousness forever. This has not yet been fulfilled. When the forerunner of our Lord was born, his father Zacharias declared that God had “raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69). Such prophetic declarations make clear that David’s throne was to be established forever, and that he would never be without an heir to sit on that throne. Our Lord, on His mother’s side, was from the line of David and because of her marriage to Joseph, who was heir to the throne, the throne-rights passed to Jesus.
But He has not yet taken His seat on’ the throne of David; this awaits His second coming. At that time, as He declared through His servant John, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Revelation 3:21). Now He is sitting at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” on the throne of deity (Hebrews 1:3). Soon He will return in glory, take His own throne, which is really the throne of David, and reign in righteousness over all the earth. Isaiah 9:7 will be fulfilled literally, for “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
After 9:7 the prophet turned back to local conditions. Inhabitants of the northern kingdom were vaunting themselves, saying that in spite of the calamities that were befalling them, they would rise above them and once more become a strong and secure people. But the Lord declared that He would raise up adversaries from among the Syrians, who had been their allies, and the Philistines, who were the ancient enemies of His people, and that these adversaries would “devour Israel with open mouth.” The Lord’s anger was “not turned away” from Israel and His hand was “stretched out” in judgment because of their sins. There had been no return to Him even when affliction had come.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we are told that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” But on Israel’s part there had been no exercise because of the chastening hand of God upon them. Rather there was resentful pride. They dared to boast and to resist God and His servants who came to instruct them in His truth. The leaders of Israel were terribly guilty in that instead of urging those who were subject to them to repent, they had misled them and caused them to err. Israel was on the brink of destruction because of their unrepentant condition. The Lord could not find His joy in them; His compassion was not free to flow out toward them. Their continual waywardness called for further judgment.
Men may think lightly of sin and pay little or no attention to the solemn warnings that God gives concerning its evil effects, but if they persist in rebellion against God, they will find that “wickedness burneth as the fire” and that those who refuse to turn to God in repentance will have to endure the judgment that they have brought on themselves. God’s holy nature does not permit Him to condone iniquity, so Isaiah prophesied that “through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire.”
Famine and pestilence would be added to Israel’s wretchedness and misery, yet instead of turning to Him and confessing their sin and seeking forgiveness, they would blame one another for their troubles. Manasseh would turn on Ephraim, Ephraim would turn on Manasseh, and both together would turn on Judah. All this would be the sad result of forsaking the way of the Lord.
Isaiah 9 closes with the solemn refrain repeated for the third time, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.”