Sunday, November 3, 2019

Isaiah 9:1-7 The Child with the Four Names

Previously we had seen that the Southern Kingdom under king Ahaz (735-715 BC) of Judah in Jerusalem was being threatened by an alliance of the northern 10 tribes (Israel, under king Pekah - Samaria) and Syria (under king Rezin of Damascus). Ahaz was afraid and instead of trusting in God, as urged by Isaiah, he 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 (2 Kings 16:8). It is a sad fact that Ahaz would not listen to the prophet Isaiah sent from God to tell Ahaz that he needed not fear the coming invasion. 
There are none as deaf as those that will not hear.

We also saw that God was prepared to give a sign to Ahaz: “A virgin (or young woman) would bear a child and call his name Immanuel.” The prophecy is veiled in historical obscurity, but it might have been a reference to the birth of Ahaz’s own son, Hezekiah (715-686 BC), who unlike his father was a good king. He would see the fulfilment of all these prophecies. He saw the destruction of the Assyrians (see Isaiah 37 ;  2 Kings 19). 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. 

It is a common human trait 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, for as the leadership goes so the nation goes. The challenge then is that 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’.John Calvin says, "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.“ [1] 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.

Let us remember what is behind this whole story. The future of David’s messianic line was threatened at this point. Ahaz, one of David’s descendants, ‘did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel’ (2 Kings 16:1-3). As a result of spiritual apostasy, David’s territory, Jerusalem the city of David, where the temple stood was about to fall into the hands of pagans. But, did God not say that He would keep the house of David? Surely God would not break His covenant with David? That’s right! The people born under the privileges of the covenant may refuse to believe, but there will always be a remnant that will believe. The name of one of Isaiah’s son’s, Shear Jeshub, 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 them 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. And we shall see that this prophecy is so much greater than this historical happening. However, we are constantly made aware in these OT accounts that these things are signs of a greater and ultimate fulfillment. The ultimate light would be the Lord Jesus. He is the light of the world (Jn 1:9; 8:12). 

Isaiah 9:1-2   A Great Light 

Matthew 4:12-16 connects with Isaiah 9: 1-2: 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 once part of the northern kingdom. This was the area that was soon invaded by the Assyrians in 722Bc , who scattered them and mixed them with other nations. This produced the nation of the Samaritans, who were a mixed race. This area (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 someday come here and He would do some of His greatest miracles in this region. Here He raised the dead son of a woman in Nain (Lk. 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. 

Isaiah 9 follows chapter 8 which leaves 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”[2]. There is great darkness and fear in that region in Isaiah’s time. 700 years later there is still 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 even the church (which is Immanuel’s people) acts much like Ahaz. We trust in human wisdom and solutions. Many church members are more committed to pragmatic solutions than to the life of faith and prayer and trust in the Word of God. Our congregations are filled with people that are religious but fearful and possessed with little faith. 

What wonderful light and hope enters as we now come to Chapter 9. See the contrast! The joy in 9:3 is the opposite of the gloom in 8:21,22. The Lord reveals that the nation would be enlarged! This is so different to 6:13, where the nation is being cut down to a tenth and then cut down even more so that only a stump would be left! The enlarged nation[3] is the result of Immanuel’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? Jesus was crucified in about 30 AD, with no one apparently following Him any longer. 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). It was more likely that the nation would shrink. Yet, if you think carefully, Immanuel’s land was greatly multiplied or enlarged under Christ’s ministry. Many gentiles believed (this is implied in Isa 9:2) . They were added to the kingdom as ingrafted branches (Rom. 11:17). We see how the church after Pentecost has been forcefully advancing and multiplying in the whole world. The greater works that His disciples would do, which Jesus speaks about in John 14:12 is the multiplication of the territory: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

Having just remembered the anniversary of the 16th century Reformation, the phrase “post tenebras lux” (after darkness, light), comes back to mind. The rediscovery of biblical truth, after a time of spiritual darkness, was followed by the greatest missionary expansion of the church, this world has ever seen. Incidentally, the Jewish feast of Hanukkah[4] (also called the feast of lights) also occurs around this time. This is the Christian season of light. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is associated with festive lights. The light that God gives us in the revelation of His Son and through His Word is a significant gift to us. It all comes together in this text.

Isaiah 9:3-5     A Great Battle 

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 a picture of the Messiah who will deliver His chosen remnant. Immanuel, however will do this without man made weapons. He showed this by His superior teaching over all religious teachers, His superior power over all sickness and even death, and over all 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)

9:6,7:     A Great Saviour - The Child with the Four Names 

Immanuel now comes fully into His own in these verses. Look at these names that are attributed to Him. No one reading this can fail to come to the conclusion that Immanuel must be a divine being! And so Ahaz and we may take courage to know that our future is in God’s hands! The future is bright and filled with light! And it begins with the birth of a child, a son- one born to govern in a new and unique way. 

Look at His titles. 

· Wonderful Counselor: Jesus Christ is the prophet who speaks to us the final and authoritative counsel of God (Hebr. 1:1-3). His divine wisdom and counsel is utterly trustworthy. God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him [Matt.17:5,Mk. 9:7,Lk. 9:35] 

· Mighty God (El –gibbor) [5]: Jesus is in His very nature God. He is co- equal, co-existent, co-eternal with the Father. 

· Everlasting Father: He is not replacing the Father here. He must be seen as the second Adam, the human replacement of our first father Adam, who sinned and thereby caused all his descendants to inherit a sin nature. In Christ we receive an everlasting salvation and in that sense He has ‘fathered’ us into a new life. In that sense Jesus refers to His family as His children in Hebr. 2:13,14, which is a quote from Isa 8:18. 

· Prince of Peace:  The coming of the Messiah(Christ) is associated with the bringing of peace. He guides our feet into the way of peace (Lk. 1:79). As our High priest He makes peace for us with God (Rom. 5:1). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). 

These four names show us that God’s solution to our darkness is in Christ - our Immanuel. He ALONE is supremely qualified to counsel, lead, care and provide an eternally peaceful environment (heaven) for us. Ahaz needed to know that he could only trust in God alone. We need to know this. Peace and stability will never be established by human alliances. They never work. Only God can maintain this world. Only He can maintain the church. Our challenge 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 to this phrase, “The Lord spoke thus to me …” (e.g. 8:11). Like Isaiah we must be in constant and prayerful communion with God. He alone  will deliver us from  the fear of our enemies.  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. 

[1] Isaiah : Calvin, Crossway Commentaries , p. 89 
[2] This reminds us of the great ‘but’ of Rom 3:21 
[3] The enlarging of the nation reappears again in 54:1-3 
[4] Ḥanukah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights (Hebrew: חַג הַאוּרִים, ḥag ha'urim). Hanukkah occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. 
[5] This title is later used of the Lord in 10:21

No comments: