The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
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.
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.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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 for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
-- Isaiah 9:2-7 ESV
These verses remind us that the story of Christmas, the story of the incarnation, is part of a bigger story. They remind us of this simply because these words were written many years before Christ was born. They also remind us of this because of the images surrounding this prophecy of Christ’s birth. There are images of future peace (v5) & images of an increasing kingdom (v7). These verses also connect the first & second coming of Christ together & therefore everything before & in between. All this helps us remember the story of Christmas is one important chapter of the most important story ever told. On its own it becomes a sentimental story about a baby in a manger, but when understood in the context of the bigger story it becomes one of the most important events in history.
This story affects our story, we cannot disconnect from it. Our eternal destiny depends on how we respond to this story. This story, if believed, brings hope, purpose & salvation to our lives. This story also gives great & certain hope to a world ravaged with war & sin & famine etc.
The main character of the story of course is the child born, the son given! He is the hero of every chapter. He is the one who existed before time & created all things. He is the one the law & the prophets point to. He is the one who was miraculously born of a virgin called Mary. He is the one the Gospel’s tells us about. He is the one who died for our sin so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. He is the one who was raised again, conquering Satan, sin &death. He is the one who ascended to the right hand of the Father & sent his Spirit to start & build his Church. He is the one the Church is rooted & grounded in & held together by. He is the one who will return again to judge the living & the dead & fully establish his ever increasing kingdom of righteousness, peace & joy.
What do these verses teach us about the main character of the story?
They teach us that he brings light (2) & joy (3). He breaks burdens & oppression (4). He will bring all war to an end (5). But it’s verse 6 I want to focus on; “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,” NOTE THAT HE CAME FOR US, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This child of course is the Immanuel mentioned in 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This child is God with us. This prophecy is not claiming the child would achieve all these things as a child, but that in some significant way he would appear on the scene as a child. He “is born”, as human beings are. He “is given” in a special way. And an everlasting kingdom will rest on his shoulders (v6-7).
Now come four names which help us understand his identity. He cannot be described in one name or even with one word names. Also, in Hebrew thinking, a name describes his character. So to pray in his name is to pray according to his character...
He is the Wonderful Counsellor, meaning he is the one who is able to make the wisest & most wonderful plans. Many people make their plans but this Wonderful Counsellor is the only one who achieves all he sets out to achieve. Proverbs 19:21 says; “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” The term could also be translated “a marvel of a counsellor.” So if you want your life to be well spent, if you want things to work out well, if you need wisdom for all of life he is the one to go to! He is the one to listen to & he is the one to trust in. His counsel may well clash with the wisdom of this world & what others tell you but he & he alone is the Wonderful Counsellor!
He is also the Mighty God. He not only has the wisdom to make perfect plans he equally has the power to carry them out. He has nothing less than the power of almighty God at his command! What he plans he is able to achieve with omnipotent power – for he is himself God! So this child, this son who we know as Jesus, has much more than the X Factor – he has the God factor! A literal translation of this term could be God-hero. Many people will promise you things & offer you help but only Jesus has the power to follow through on all he promises & plans. For this reason only Jesus can be fully trusted, fully relied upon. As people of faith we are called to fully rely on Jesus for everything.
He is the Everlasting Father. The heart of God the Father is fully expressed in Jesus. Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” This name teaches us that Jesus has a loving, protective, parental concern for those who have been entrusted to his care. As Psalm 103:13 says; “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.” Jesus is not only all-wise & all-powerful then, he is also all-loving. This perhaps more than anything is why we can fully trust & fully rely on him. His counsel is motivated out of love for us & his might is used to protect those entrusted to his care. There is no safer place to be than in the care of an all-wise, almighty, all-loving Saviour & King!
He is the Prince of Peace. This brief character sketch is completed with the name Prince of Peace. The next verse teaches us this son will secure everlasting peace - “and of peace there will be no end.” It’s hard to believe what it’s like to live in a world of total & unending peace. War & division has robbed this world of peace just as turmoil & anxiety have often robbed our hearts of peace. However this child will fully establish a kingdom in which no such things exist – a kingdom of people at peace with God & one another in Christ. This peace will not be experienced in full until the Son returns however we can know peace with God in our hearts today because a child was born, because a son was given!
In his book ‘Peace Child,’ Don Richardson [a missionary] tells of his long struggle to bring the Gospel to a cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe in Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the Gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s death on the cross. Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge and murder were highly honoured there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child.”
The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine peace child that he has offered to man, & because Jesus lives forever, peace with God will last forever if you accept Him.
Because the ‘peace child’, the Prince of Peace, was given to us & died & rose from the dead for us and now lives forever we can be assured of eternal peace with God and everlasting peace within! Romans 5:1 says; “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” So we can know peace with God & peace within as we wait for the Prince of Peace to come again & usher his kingdom of everlasting peace to this world.
Apparently some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas. But the deeper one goes the more serene and tranquil the water becomes. Oceanographers report that the deepest parts of the sea are absolutely still. When those areas are dredged they produce remnants of plant and animal life that have remained undisturbed for thousands of years.
That is a picture of the peace we can all have with God. The world around us, including our own circumstances, may be in great turmoil & strife at times, but within we can know peace that surpasses understanding. Those who are in the best circumstances but are without Christ can never find true lasting peace, but those in the worst circumstances but with Christ need never lack it. For in the very depths of their being all is well, for they have found peace with God by trusting in the Prince of Peace.
My prayer is that we will all know his peace this Christmas.
Pastor, Sligo City Church