A Child is Born
“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” (v. 6).- Isaiah 9:1–7
We have seen that Isaiah 7:14 had a near-term fulfillment in the eighth century BC when Maher-shalal-hash-baz was born to Isaiah and his wife. The birth of this boy proved that God was indeed with His people (Immanuel), especially the faithful remnant, and would deliver Judah from the hands of Syria and Israel (8:3–4). However, given that Assyria would invade and devastate Judah, another Immanuel was needed, One who could fully and finally realize the Lord’s salvation of His people (vv. 5–10). Until He came, faithful men and women of Judah had to fear God, wait on Him, and trust that He would vindicate His name and keep His promises definitively (vv. 11–22).
For the old covenant believer, hope existed beyond the destruction Assyria would visit upon the land. In today’s passage, Isaiah announces hope for Zebulun and Naphtali, for “the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (9:1). Isaiah refers to the northernmost regions of the Promised Land. During biblical times, this area was always a hodgepodge of people from different nations, including Hebrews, Hittites, and others. Moreover, the ancient inland empires that sought to control Palestine always invaded this part of Canaan first, meaning that the northern regions of the Promised Land suffered repeatedly during biblical times. The Assyrians invaded and resettled this area before any other in the country, and they gloated about the yokes they put on the people. Ancient Judahites, therefore, heard good news when Isaiah spoke of the liberation God would bring to that land, the breaking of the yokes of the enemies of His people (vv. 2–5).
The prophet brings his vision of the future hope for God’s people to a climax with a prediction of the Messiah. We read this well-known passage nearly every year at Christmas, and it tells us much about the Messiah. Among other things, this One who sits on the throne of David is the “Everlasting Father” (v. 6). This is not a confusion of the person of the Father with the person of the Son, for, as John Calvin points out in His commentary on this verse, the term father here means “author.” Isaiah foresaw that the Messiah would be the incarnation of the Creator Himself, the Mighty God who is the author of all that was, is, and is to come. Under the fuller revelation of the new covenant, we understand that this God exists in three persons and that it was the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who came to earth in the incarnation (John 3:13).
Some have argued that today’s passage predicts the birth of King Hezekiah, but given the failures of even righteous Hezekiah (Isa. 39), it is clear that these verses must refer ultimately to the Son of David, who is also the Son of God. We are human beings who are prone to put our trust in princes of this earth, but this passage reminds us that only Jesus deserves our full, unquestioning allegiance. We serve the King of kings, and may we not forget that in this troubled world.
Passages for Further Study