TEXT : Isaiah 9: 1-7
TITLE : The Child with the four names
DATE PREACHED : 2nd January 2011
This is now the fourth sermon on the “Immanuel book“ ( Isa 7-12) . Previously we had observed that the Southern Kingdom (under king Ahaz of Judah in Jerusalem) was being threatened by an alliance of the northern 10 tribes (under king Pekah - Samaria) and Syria (under king Rezin of Damascus).
We saw that king Ahaz was petrified of this and was beginning to make plans to enlist the help of the Assyrians . He had in fact already given the temple treasury to them in order to buy their support .
The prophet Isaiah ( commissioned in Ch 6) was sent from God to tell Ahaz that he needed not fear the coming invasion.
Ahaz however, would not hear him . Against Ahaz’s unbelief God said that He would give a sign to Ahaz and the Southern kingdom : “ A virgin would bear a child and call his name Immanuel .” We are not exactly show whether there was an immediate fulfillment of that prophecy , but we do know that Matthew sees this prophecy fulfilled in Christ (Matt 1:21-23) .
Ahaz needed to know that the land promised on oath to Abraham was Immanuel’s land (8:8-10) . There was no need to fear , even though the flood of enemies would “reach even to the neck” ( Isa 8:8 - see Psalm 69:1) – seemingly to overwhelm them. But only seemingly . The truth remains: If God is for us , who shall be against us ? ( Rom 8:31)
Ahaz , you and I tend to struggle with the fear of the power of man more than the power of God . We are easily intimidated by the conspiracies of men (8:12). Before we run to God we run to mediums and fortune tellers who chirp and mutter ( 8:19)
Very few men of the OT had received greater assurance and promises of help in times of severe crisis than did king Ahaz and yet he wavered – and the nation presumably with him .
When God promises us deliverance even in the face of the greatest trial (when the waters come up to our neck) then we must believe God and not the ‘ waters’ . After all a man can drown in a small stream , and yet be saved in the open ocean if he can hold on to a plank and get himself to the shore . Similarly , the slightest calamities will overwhelm us if we are deprived of God’s favour ; but if we rely on the Word of God , we can come out of the heaviest calamities uninjured. “ 
So let us remember what is behind this whole story . The future of David’s line was threatened at this point . The faith of king Ahaz had collapsed and now the territory was about to fall into the hands of pagans . But , did God not say that He would keep the house of David? Surely God cannot break His covenant with David? The people born under the covenant may refuse to believe but there will always be a remnant that will believe. One of Isaiah’s son’s , Shear Jeshub – his name means ‘a remnant shall return’ . Isaiah’s children were signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts ( 8:18)
Right now, in a dark and fearful moment of history , God is there promising them His presence; promising a sign . There would be light on this dark horizon !
From the history books we know that Jerusalem was never taken by these evil allies. God truly delivered Jerusalem . However we are constantly made aware in these OT accounts that these things are signs for an ultimate fulfillment. The ultimate light would be the Lord Jesus Christ . He is the light of the world ( John 1:9 ; 8:12)
- Isaiah 9:1-2
It is significant what is reported by the gospel writer Matthew who links Isaiah 9: 1-2 with Matthew 4:12-16 :
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now for some geographical perspective : The territories of Zebulun and Naphtali were part of the northern kingdom - God’s wayward people. This area was soon invaded by the Assyrians in 722Bc and its people scattered and mixed with other nations. This helps us to understand a little of the contempt that a Jew of the SK had for the Samaritans , who had become a mixed race . And yet (!) this area ( also known as Galilee of the nations - 9:1 ) was the area in which the Lord Jesus would do most of His public ministry. Do you see the significance of this ? Not only does Isaiah speak hope to the SK ; he also speaks hope to the NK . Yes , Assyria caused havoc in that region , but the Lord Jesus would some day come here and heal many . He would do some of His greatest miracles in this region . He raised the dead son of a woman in Nain ( Luke 7:11 ) and a little girl (Matt 9 :18ff ). Here He would do the miraculous feeding of the 4000 & 5000 beside the Sea of Galilee. The light of the Messiah’s ministry would shine in that dark region.
Now let us remember that Isaiah 9 follows chapter 8 . Ch 8 left us with a note of gloom and doom in verses 21-22 : “They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”
By contrast Isaiah 9: 1 begins with a “ but” ( reminds us of the great ‘ but’ of Rom 3:21). There is great darkness and fear in that region in Isaiah’s time . There is great darkness and fear among the people in the days of Jesus’ ministry as the Romans ruthlessly ruled Immanuel’s land . There is great darkness and fear in our own day as we speak . One senses that the church (which are Immanuel’s people) at large is not very committed to the life of faith . Our congregations are filled with people that are religious but fearful and of little faith .
What a wonderful light and hope enters as we now come to Chapter 9 . The contrast is so obvious. The joy in 9: 3 is the opposite of the gloom in 8:21,22.
Here the Lord reveals that the nation would be enlarged, which is so different from it being cut down to a tenth and then cut down even more so that only a stump would be left! (6:13).
The enlarged nation is the result of the Messiah’s ministry. Matthew notes that Isaiah 9 was fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry ! You may well ask : was Israel really enlarged as a result of Jesus coming? After all the Lord Jesus was crucified in about 30 AD with no one apparently following Him any longer ; Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD with 1 million people dead ; and before that all the Christians were chased out of Jerusalem and Judea by persecution . That means that the city was decimated not multiplied ! How can we say that the nation has been enlarged by the ministry of Christ, when this sort of thing happened ? It was even prophesied that He would be the cause of many falling in Israel ( Luke 2:34) . The appearance was that the nation would shrink.
Yet, if you think carefully , the nation ( Immanuel’s land ) was greatly multiplied or enlarged. Many gentiles believed ( this is implied in Isa 9:2) . They were added to the kingdom as ingrafted branches ( Rom 11:17 ) . Peter then calls these Gentile believers “a holy nation,” and “a people belonging to God.” Many would believe in Christ, and thereby the nation would be greatly multiplied by the Lord.
Today especially we observe how the church after Pentecost ( the church age) has been forcefully advancing and multiplying in the whole world .
- Isaiah9:3-5 :
The coming deliverance is pictured in these verses in clear images of military victory. The enemy would be totally smashed by the Messiah . The reference to the day of Midian ( 9:4) is a reference to Gideon’s victories in Judges 6 which included the provinces of Naphtali and Zebulun in the region of Galilee. Gideon is thus a picture of the Messiah who will deliver His chosen remnant . Christ however will do this without man made weapons . He showed this when He demonstrated His superior teaching over all religious teachers , His superior power over sickness and over demonic forces . On the cross He crushed Satan’s head . (Gen 3:15) .
Paul could thus truly write: “(The Father) has qualified you to share in the kingdom of light, for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness…” (Col 1:12,13. )
And Luke could write: He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets long ago) salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:69-75)
- 9:6,7 : The Child with the Four Names
If there was any doubt about the divine nature of that child , Immanuel , before then there is no longer any doubt as we consider verses 6-7 . No one can use these words ( attributes) and not come to the conclusion that Immanuel must be divine!
As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ is the prophet who speaks the counsel of God to us. Such a ruler with divine wisdom far beyond natural understanding is qualified to give direction.
As Mighty God ( what a title !) He is truly able to deliver His people from their and His enemies.
As Everlasting Father : This is a rather strange title for Christ , and we must understand this title not in the sense that He is the Father in the Trinity. He is not ! Christ ( the second Adam) must here be seen as the human replacement for our first father Adam who sinned and thereby caused all his descendants to inherit a sin nature . In Christ we receive an everlasting salvation . In that sense Jesus refers to His family as His children in Hebr. 2:13,14 ( which is incidentally a quote from Isa 8:18) .
As Prince of Peace : The coming of Christ is constantly associated with the bringing of peace. He guides our feet into the way of peace (Lk 1:79). As our priest He has made peace for us with God ( Rom 5:1) . He is our peace ( Eph 2:14) and has reconciled us also to one another.
These four names prove to us that God’s solution to darkness and desperation is in Christ - our Immanuel . He is supremely qualified to counsel ,lead , care and provide an eternally peaceful environment ( heaven) for us .
Ahaz and we need to know this in times such as ours!
Peace and stability will never be established by human alliances . They never work . Only God can maintain the kingdom . Only He can maintain this world . Only he can maintain the church .
An so our challenge for this new year is to rest less in our own schemes and plans and walk according to the rules of Immanuel’s land . I am so impressed by the constant reference in this prophecy of words such as these : “ The Lord spoke thus to me …” ( e.g. 8:11) . Like Isaiah we must be in constant and prayerful communion with God . To that end will you bow your head with me and pray a prayer of commitment and renewal in the hope and expectation that the LORD our God will grant us the ability to live by faith. Amen!