What gives joy to the world during this Christmas season? It’s what gave Israel joy so long ago as we will see from Isaiah 9:1–7. (Note: Scroll to the end of this post to read Isaiah 9:1–7.)
In Isaiah 9:1–3, we see light and joy in the midst of darkness and gloom. Isaiah gives a bright future through a perfect King in contrast to the wicked Ahaz who led Israel into idolatry (cf. 2 Chron 28:1–4). The Israelites who had lived and walked in darkness would suddenly walk in a great light that shines upon them (9:2). The nation would be multiplied, and the nation’s joy would be as in harvest time or when spoil is divided after having conquered an enemy (9:3).
In Isaiah 9:4–7, Isaiah gives three reasons for Israel’s joy (note the “for” that begins 9:4, 5, 6–7).
The first reason for joy is because Israel would be free. Israel would find such joy is because the yoke of her oppressor’s burden and the staff and rod that forced her subjection (Isa 9:4; cf. 10:24–27).
The second reason for joy is because war will be no more. The picture of peace is not to pause and look over the corpses of Israel’s slain enemies but rather the burning of boots and blood-soaked garments from battle, implying that such things are no longer needed (Isa 9:5).
The third reason for joy is because freedom and peace come through the Messiah, an entirely unique individual who is both human and divine. The fact that he would be a child and a son given to Israel emphasizes His humanity (Isa 9:6). Though not called a king in this passage, the government’s placement on His shoulder implies His royalty (Isa 9:6).
Along with these descriptions of the Messiah, four titles for this King indicate why peace and joy will permeate the world at this time.
- Wonderful Counselor – The wisdom of this Ruler and His counsel are perfect, allowing Him to be described, literally, as a “wonder of a counselor,” a Counselor who exceeds all other kings in the giving of His counsel.
- Mighty God – As elsewhere, this name describes God Himself (cf. Isa 10:21; Deut 10:17; Ps 24:8; Jer 32:18). Here we see the royal Child born to Israel is King and Mighty God.
- Everlasting Father – This title could be translated “father of eternity.” The eternality of a royal figure in Israel echoes the Davidic covenant. God promised David a descendant who would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam 7:16). The idea of this King being a father either indicates that He Himself is over eternity (“Father of eternity”) or that He will provide paternal care for Israel forever (“everlasting Father”; cf. Gen 45:8).
- Prince of Peace – As promised in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:10–11), this King would bring Israel to a time where she will be disturbed no more and be completely rid of her enemies (cf. Isa 11:6–9).
This King’s government would exist and provide peace without end (9:7), and this King would be the promised Davidic descendant who was promised to bring about such a time (Isa 9:7; cf. 2 Sam 7:10–11, 16). Perfect justice and righteousness will prevail because God Himself will zealously see to its fulfillment (Isa 9:7).
Just as Israel had joy in these promises then, so also these promises bring joy to the world today. Israel’s promised King is our King as well, the Lord Jesus Christ. His rule is not just over one nation but all the nations. His rule is manifested in part for now but will be in full when He comes again. At that time, His counsel, might, paternal care, and peace will carry on for all eternity. Such hope brings joy the world now and will be joy to the world then and forever.
Isaiah 9:1–7 (ESV)
9 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.