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Sometimes familiar words run down well-worn grooves. The words from our text have graced countless Christmas cards, but at the same time it is important for us to realize that this doesn’t make them any less true. But, as the truth of Scripture, it is given in such a way that whenever we come back to it in faith, regardless of how familiar it might be to us, we can always find fresh glory.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Is. 9:6–7).
Summary of the Text
The condition of Israel is set out at the last part of chapter 8, and it is the same condition that the world was in—great darkness (Is. 8:22). Behold trouble and darkness, and dim anguish. But light is coming—this will not be like an earlier affliction (Is. 9:1). In Galilee of the nations, the people who were in that darkness have seen a great light (Is. 9:2). Galilee had two sections, upper and lower Galilee. Upper Galilee is called Galilee of the Gentiles because it was the borderland, and had many Gentiles living there. This was close to Tyre and Sidon, and was the area where Solomon had given 20 cities to the Phoenician king Hiram. Coming back to the text, God has given them great joy (Is. 9:3); He has broken the yoke of oppression that was on them (Is. 9:4). All military gear shall be rolled up and burned in a fire (Is. 9:5).
And so we come to our two verses. The child had been first promised two chapters earlier, when the prophet told us that Immanuel, God with us, would be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14). Now we learn more about Him. A child is born, a son is given. The first thing mentioned about Him is that the government will be on His shoulder. He will have a series of glorious names—Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). The increase of His government will have no end, and it will be the government of the throne of David. It will be established and well-ordered forever and ever. All of this will be done by the zeal of the Lord Himself (Is. 9:7).
The darkness spoken of by the prophet is a spiritual darkness, a moral blindness. The darkness was so profound that men in the grip of it could not see this text.
When Nicodemus challenged their right to condemn Christ without a hearing, they called him a dummy. “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52). Nicodemus was being so stupid —no prophet comes from Galilee. Then how was it that the people walking there had seen a great light (Is. 9:1-2)?
He was Immanuel, God with us, but never forget that Almighty God was content to be twenty inches long. He was content to suckle at a virgin’s breast. The mighty God is born here, in a stable, as a little child. He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-8), formed in the likeness of men. He condescends to become one of us.
Because He humbled Himself in this way, God has given Him the name that is above every name. Not only so, but He has given Him all these names. He shall be called Wonderful. Wonders accompanied Him wherever He went, and He Himself was the central wonder. He was astonishing(Matt. 7:28). He gives glorious counsel; He is the great counselor. Among other things, He counselsus to gain true wealth, to put on clean raiment, and to anoint our eyes with salve (Rev. 3:18). He is the Wisdom of God; He is the true Understanding (Prov. 8:14). Listen then to His counsel. He is the mighty God; this is not the Immanuel-like presence of some tiny god. This term (El) is also applied to the Messiah in Psalm 45:6. He is the everlasting Father. As He told Philip, those who had seen Him had seen the Father.
Moreover, as the Church is His bride, and our mother (Gal. 4:26), He is our Father as we are considered as individual sons and daughters. But in the collective and corporate sense, He is our husband and brother (Eph. 5:32; Heb. 2:11).
And finally, He is the Prince of all peace, and so it is that peace will come to our sorry world. Isaiah has already spoken of this (Is. 2:4).
His government here is described in two ways. One, it is His burden. He carries it. The government is upon His shoulder. He takes responsibility for it. A similar image is found later in Isaiah, also describing the rule of the Lord. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with his arm, And carry them in his bosom, And shall gently lead those that are with young” (Is. 40:11). So the Lord does not rule by “sitting on,” but rather He rules by carrying. What does the Lord do with His “strong hand” (Is. 40:10)? His arm rules for Him, and yet, that strong arm is our salvation. That strong arm picks us up.
The governments of men, apart from Christ, however proud their talk, are nothing but maimed lambs. Christ comes down to us, climbs over the crags to retrieve us, picks us up, and takes the government on His shoulder. He carries us home. Secularism is what we call it when that bleeding lamb kicks.
And secondly, it is a government that will never cease growing. It will grow forever and ever, and a Son of David will reign forever and ever. It cannot be reversed. It cannot be undone. It cannot be rewound. The battle cannot be fought over again, with the Lord losing this time. Christ cannot be tempted again. He cannot be flogged again. He cannot be nailed to the tree again. He cannot be buried again. He cannot be raised from the dead again because His resurrection was once for all, and was the inauguration of His kingdom which cannot stop growing.
This thing will be done, and will be everlastingly done, because it will be done by the zeal of the Lord of hosts. How is that not enough for us?
“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; To it shall the Gentiles seek: And his rest shall be glorious” (Is. 11:10).