In our second message on the Messiah and the Christmas season we look at Isaiah 9 and the promise of one who will restore the Eden ideal.
Since the 11th century, Christmas has become the time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ. “Christ” is the English word that we get from the Greek word, “Christos”. Christos is the Greek word that represents the Hebrew word, “Messiah”.
John 1:41 (CSB) — 41 [Andrew] first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated “the Christ”)
The words “Christ” and “Messiah” are interchangeable as they are the same word in different languages. Much like we might say “uno” or “one” and be saying the same thing.
BOTH the Hebrew word, “Messiah” and the Greek word, “Christos” come from verbs that mean,
“a person having sacred oil poured ceremonially on one’s head, and so become a person with special authority and function, with the implication of one having the choice and approval of God”
For me, there seems to be a difference between “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus the Christ”. We do this in English as well, such as Pastor Mike versus Mike the Pastor. But when you hear pastor, you get an idea in your head, based upon your culture and history, as to what that means. Pastor is one who…. (fill it in).
When we hear of Jesus the Christ, we are supposed to think of Jesus, the one anointed by God with special authority and function – specifically to restore the Eden ideal. That is to undo what man did when they sinned in Genesis 3.
This morning is our second passage in Isaiah that we are going to look at regarding the promise of the COMING of the Messiah – the very reason we choose to celebrate Christmas.
Isaiah 9:1–7 (NLT)
1Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
2The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
3You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.
4For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
5The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
Our passage starts with a transition word. Some translations put this verse with the previous chapter because it finished the thoughts of chapter eight which ends with doom and gloom. Nevertheless is actually a term of hope in this case. Though God’s judgement will be poured out upon Israel and the nations, his wrath will subside. Though there will be destruction and gloom, there will be a restoration and the gloom will dissipate.
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever.”
Isaiah is saying that there will be a time of darkness and despair. There will be no avoiding that. BUT, he is also saying that there will be an end to that despair.
“Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future he will bring honor to the way of the sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.” (Isaiah 9:1, CSB)
Isaiah goes on to say that God must humble Zebulun and Naphtali. Seems like an odd phrase. We don’t find out directly from these verses what took place, but we know that God humbled these two places by having them conquered by the Assyrians.
“Zebulun and Naphtali were two northern tribes hit hard by the Assyrian invasion led by Tiglath-Pileser III in 733 BC. At that time, the Assyrians reduced the land holdings of the northern empire and integrated three new provinces into their empire. These three provinces were called Magiddu (Galilee), Du’ru (the way of the sea), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan).” CSB Study Bible
Sometimes I read about specific places like this and I can gloss over them. However, there are 10 tribes in the Northern Kingdom, and God called out these two. Could it be because of some past circumstance? I read through the blessings of Jacob on those two sons and did not see any connection. I read through the blessings of Moses on those tribes before they entered the promised land and did not find much connection of interest. So, I could not find a specific reason why God would choose to single out these two tribes above the other eight to humble them.
So, perhaps it has more to do with the FUTURE than the past that these two tribes are singled out?
Isaiah 9:1 (NLT) — 1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
In the future he will honor these two tribes. How? Well, that is a promise of future hope, so immediately our Prophet Radar should start tracking with the Day of the Lord and with the Messiah. At some point in the future, these two places will be filled with glory or honor (depending on your translation).
Verses 2-7 are then a commentary on the way that God will honor those two lands and a glimpse of what it will look like when the darkness and gloom will be lifted in the future. In other words, we will KNOW that God is in the process of restoring things and bringing hope when we see the following things take place:
We actually get a pretty nice list from Isaiah of what we can expect when the Messiah comes…
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Why? Why will things be different at that time? What will make the difference?
Things will change because GOD will place HIS person on the throne of Israel to rule and this one will rule in the wisdom and power of God. (he will restore the Eden ideal – where a human rules God’s creation by following the knowledge of good and bad as defined by God (fairness and justice). This will be established by God and will last for eternity.
When we read this, we certainly realize that those things have not yet happened, at least, not in full. However, as we have been emphasizing, prophets can refer to more than one event at the same time. Though the ULTIMATE fulfillment of this will be on “The DAY of the Lord” (the big “D” day of the Lord) that we read about in Revelation, the writers of the gospels saw a partial fulfillment of these things in the coming of Jesus, the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ).
Let us look at what Matthew thought about Isaiah 9: [turn or tap to Matthew 4]
- Matthew 3 Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River (hyperlink to Exodus)
- Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days (hyperlink to Exodus)
- Matthew 4:12-17 Jesus withdrew to Galilee & then launched his preaching ministry.
“When [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the road by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”” (Matthew 4:12–17, CSB)
Matthew connects the start of the ministry of Jesus as at least a partial fulfillment of the promise that the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali will be honored.
He then connects Jesus as the LIGHT that shines in the darkness.
And the message of Jesus is that the “kingdom of heaven” has come near. The throne that HE will sit upon, the rule that he will assume is close at hand! A kingdom established by God, among the people.
Matthew is making the claim that Jesus is the Anointed One that Isaiah was talking about – the son that would be bon to us. Matthew also connects this “son” or this “light” to the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom that God himself will establish.
IF this is the case, IF Jesus IS the Anointed One, then we should see in the life and ministry of Jesus the fulfillment, or at least a partial fulfillment, of the things mentioned in verses 2-5 of Isaiah 9. Let’s examine how the NT authors saw Jesus into these verses. Remember, the coming of the Messiah will look like this:
Matthew already connected Jesus to the light. But what about other authors?
John 1:1–14 (CSB) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Of all the gospel writers, I think John chose to emphasize this fulfillment of Jesus being “Light in the darkness” more than any other. He started by declaring the connection of Jesus to the light. Later in his gospel he quotes Jesus:
John 12:46 (CSB) — I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.
The Messiah would come to bring light; to remove darkness. The early gospel writers believed that Jesus was that light, and Jesus claimed that calling as well.
Isaiah said that the borders of Israel would be enlarged. No, this is not about the prayer of Jabez 😉 This is about the expansion of the “people of God”, the chosen ones of God. As people choose to submit to the leadership of the one appointed by God to rule, the nation, the kingdom, would be enlarged.
The nation of Israel began with one man – Abram. God picked him and made a promise to him that through him, ALL the nations of the earth would be blessed. This was a foretelling of the work of the Messiah, the Anointed One that would restore things back to the way God created them.
The nation of Israel grew tremendously over the years. But at the time of the writing of Isaiah, there was talk that a remnant, a small portion like a tenth, will be left after the exile is all over. The promise that God would enlarge the nation could very tangibly mean that he would increase the number of Israelites. It also could mean that God planned to enlarge their physical territory. But is that the only way we should understand this reading?
I think John alluded to it being more in the John 1 passage we just read. In Paul’s letter to the Jesus followers in the Roman region of Galatia (so non-Jews), he wrote this:
Galatians 3:7–9 (CSB) — 7 You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons. 8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles [nations] by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. 9 Consequently, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
Paul is basically saying that there is a bigger “nation” or people group that are now connected to Israel than just those born of the bloodline of Abraham. It also includes those born of faith in the Messiah.
The apostle Peter alludes to this in his letter to the Jewish followers of Jesus who were spread out away from Jerusalem, Peter says this about the work God has done in their lives through the sacrifice of Jesus:
1 Peter 2:9–10 (CSB) — 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter connects both the light theme and the people or nation theme together helping us connect this passage to the promise of the Messiah in Isaiah 9.
Though only a small portion of the Jews were restored after the exile, following the coming of Jesus, the people of God grew exponentially to include both Jew and non-Jew: all that would place their faith in the one Anointed by God to redeem humanity from sin.
We also have a prophecy that someday the Messiah will rule over all the nations of the world:
Zechariah 14:9 (CSB) — 9 On that day the Lord will become King over the whole earth—the Lord alone, and his name alone.
[For more on the Day of the Lord visit the website and watch the message there]
So, Jesus was both the light and the cause for the borders of Israel to be increased. That is two of our items so far that the NT writers saw Jesus fulfill.
Isaiah said that there would be much joy for the nation. That must have been welcome news as they would be coming out of a season referred to as “gloom”. Have you ever been in a season of gloom? It is the hope that there will be better days ahead and a return to joy that can keep us going, amen?
The birth of Jesus came with the announcement of an angel that said:
Luke 2:10–11 (NLT) — 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
How may hyperlinks to Isaiah 9 did you find in that passage? (joy, born, David, angel) Luke says that the coming of the Messiah would be good news that brings great joy! And he is referring to the birth of Jesus, so he is stating that Jesus IS the messiah and that his coming will be great joy.
As Jesus taught his disciples, he said this:
John 15:9–11 (NLT) — 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
As Jesus was praying to the Father FOR his disciples, as he his time on this earth was coming to an end, he said this:
John 17:13 (NLT) — 13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem in preparation to die on the cross for my sin and yours, we read that the people saw this as a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy and they were full of joy and celebrating, much like you would do when a battle has been won (which Isaiah refers to in 9:3)
Luke 19:36–38 (CSB) — 36 As he was going along, they were spreading their clothes on the road. 37 Now he came near the path down the Mount of Olives, and the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: 38 Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!
Joy is one of the markers of the kingdom of God and one of the signs that the time of blessing, the time when the light pushes back the darkness has arrived. Jesus checked this box as well.
We don’t refer to yokes very often, but it was a symbol of slavery, burdens, hard labor. The Israelites experienced this under Pharaoh of Egypt and also under the rule of the Assyrians and Babylon during the exiles. This promise of being freed from slavery is HUGE for them in the very immediate and physical sense.
However, the burden of slavery that the Jews faced was really threefold. They faced the slavery to other nations, which God would undo. They were slaves to the Law of God, and they were slaves to the sin nature that we all inherit from Adam.
If Jesus was the Messiah, how would he accomplish this work? Jesus said that he came to provide an easier yoke, a lighter burden, very likely referring back to this promise in Isaiah 9:
Matthew 11:28–30 (NLT) — 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
The Jews were looking for a Messiah that would certainly accomplish the physical freedom from earthly oppression. At the time that Jesus appeared on earth it was NOT the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes or Persians that dominated them, it was the Roman Empire. However, THAT promise of the Messiah will not take place until the final Day of the Lord.
But the NT writers DID see Jesus as the one who came to remove the yoke or burden of the law and of sin from the people. Jesus connected this freedom from oppression to being free from sin:
John 8:34–36 (NLT) — 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
And Paul, in his letter to non-Jews, connected freedom from the Law to the freedom we have in the Anointed One (Jesus):
Galatians 5:1 (NLT) — 1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
So it seems the NT authors see at least a partial fulfillment of the lifting of the burden, the ultimate burden of sin, by Jesus.
Isaiah claimed that there would be an end to war by declaring that the boots of battle and the bloody garments of war would be burned. God will destroy his enemies (like he did Midian – see Judges 7-8) and establish PEACE – the lack of conflict and war.
When the angels (heavenly beings) appeared to the shepherds to announce that the Messiah was born, we read this:
Luke 2:10–14 (NLT) — 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
I love how this connects the messiah to Peace. I also love how the armies of heaven (remember them?) are present to praise God and declare the inauguration of this new kingdom.
NOTE: Your translation might read “heavenly hosts” but the meaning of that gets lost. A “host”, from the medieval Latin (hostis) meant a large group, especially and army ready for war.
It is obvious that Israel has not experienced peace yet. This promise is one that will only fully be realized on The Day of the Lord when the Messiah sits on the throne and rules this earth. However, the message of peace is one that Jesus DID proclaim and one that is connected with him!
The angelic announcement of “peace on earth” is for those with whom God is pleased. That would be those that accept the Messiah and choose to follow God. It is not a peace with the nations, but a peace with the Creator of Nations:
John 14:27 (CSB) — 27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.
We have this peace not because Jesus conquered the Romans, for he didn’t. We have this peace because he conquered “the world” – that is he conquered sin and death.
John 16:33 (CSB) — 33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
And now, because of that, we can have peace with God.
Romans 5:1 (CSB) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The connection of peace with Jesus is overwhelming in the NT.
BONUS: it is only because of the GRACE of God that we can experience the PEACE of God!
It is quite apparent that the Apostles believed that Jesus was the Messiah and that he did usher in a season of peace!
It appears there is great evidence pointing to Jesus as the one who is the son born to us and the light from God that would remove the darkness.
Isaiah 9:6–7 (NLT) — 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
“For” is another great transition word. One of our brothers who pastors in our region has often reminded us that when “we see the word “for” there, be had better find out what it is “there for”.
These promises of light, freedom, peace, etc would all be possible BECAUSE there would be a child born, a mail child, who will take the throne of heaven (eternal throne). This son is born of royalty and will be placed there by Yahweh himself. It is the commitment of Yahweh of heaven’s armies that will make this happen, and the beginning of it is ushered in with the chorus of the armies of heaven declaring that God is doing this amazing work!
This son is given some titles here:
How many of you are familiar with those titles? I think this section is famous because of Handel’s Messiah 😉
I thought I was going to do a simple message on the 4 titles of the Messiah that are mentioned in verse 6. However, those titles are not directly used or quoted anywhere else in the Old or New testaments! Jesus never called himself any of those things. The disciples did not refer to Jesus that way. They DID call him the “son of God” and verse 6 says there will be a son from God. So they did attribute that title to Jesus, but none of the other titles.
Oh, and Jesus never even referred to himself as the Son of God, he referred to himself as the Son of Man, but that is an entirely different message that we will probably get to talk about when we study Matthew together.
David talked about the virgin conceiving last week. Isaiah 7:14 is the first reference to a “son”. He also mentioned that Isaiah then had a son, with a prophetess, which may have been the immediate fulfillment of that prophecy (8:1-4). Isaiah 9:6 is the 3rd reference to a son, and it takes us to the next layer of the fulfillment of the 7:14 prophecy.
If you want to have fun geeking out about the FINAL concept of this theme, spend some time delving into Revelation 12!
In verse 7 we read, “He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom”. This is a hyperlink to the promise or covenant God made with David. That is something we hope to look at next week.
This prophecy of the son, the ruling prince who brings peace and establishes his kingdom in power and justice, it is the fulfilment of the promise God made to Abraham. It is a promise that not only affected the Jews, but everyone. The good news of the Messiah is that all people, if they are willing to submit to the rule of God in their lives, can be transported from darkness to light, become a part of the people (nation) of God, experience true peace and joy and eventually victory and lack of struggle both on this earth and with sin.
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, nailed it when he made this prophecy:
Luke 1:67–79 (NLT) — 67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: 68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. 69 He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, 70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. 71 Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. 72 He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— 73 the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. 74 We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. 76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
This kingdom is not one you are forced to join, but one you are invited to join. Those that have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to respond can experience the joy, peace and hope that we talk about so much during the Christmas season which is possible because of the “Christ” of Christmas – the one that God anointed to redeem humanity.