For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Read verse 1. Who are "those" (Isaiah 8:19-22)? What created their distress (Isaiah 8:19)? When did the Lord humble the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali (2Ki 15:29)? When did the Lord fulfill this prophecy? What did the nation of Israel look like when this prophecy was fulfilled?
Read verse 2. What is it like to “walk in darkness” and to live “in the land of the shadow of death”? What is the significance of a “light has dawned” for such people?
Read verses 3. Describe the effects this light has on the people who were walking in darkness. Why are they celebrating?
Read verses 4-5. What is “Midian’s defeat” a reference to? What does the removal of a “yoke”, “bar” and “rod” tell us about the new life Jesus brings?
Read verse 6. What does it mean “the government will be on his shoulders”? Describe the four tangible benefits we receive from his government?
Read verse 7. What is the future outlook of Jesus’ kingdom and of those who participate in it? How will it be established and upheld? How will it come about?
Every Christmas we get a chance to meditate deeply on the coming of Jesus our Lord. May God bless us this Christmas to understand deeper than ever the great gift he has given us. May God bless us to learn about God’s gift through this passage and message today.
Let’s read verse 1.
1Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
To understand this verse we need to get a little background to the book of Isaiah and this chapter. In the previous chapter, Isaiah pronounced God’s judgment on his own nation Israel because of her many sins. This judgment was already beginning to unfold on the northern area of Israel — the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. These places were the easiest target for Israel’s enemies and in about 740 BC the Assyrian army scooped into the Northern tip of Israel and took the inhabitants away. The Assyrians then repopulated the land with their own people. This judgment from Assyria was God’s punishment for their unrepentant hearts and sinful lifestyles.
Those who tasted the bitterness of God’s judgment experienced deep gloom. Gloom is defined as a “state of depression”.Surely, those who survived the Assyrian deportation and recolonization were deeply depressed. Being rebuked by God was painful—they felt like dying because they couldn’t find food or shelter to call their own. When they roamed the land there was no sign of God’s help or His mercy. They had turned their backs on God for years and now that God had turned his back on them the gloom of depression seized their lives like an iron grip. Depression had a hold of them and wouldn’t let go.
The people of Zebulun and Naphtali suffered like this for a very long time. Eventually the Assyrians mixed-in with the remaining Jews and the Israelites took over the area once again. However, gloom never ceased for the people living in the Galilee region. Their mixed blood made them less than desirable in the eyes of the pure blooded Jews. Their humble economy was no help either. For 700 years the gloom of God’s rebuke stuck on the region of Galilee. Nobody wanted to be a Galileen; that is except one person.
As you may already know God sent his son Jesus to live in Nazareth a city in Galilee. And if you read your Bible carefully you will find that Jesus spent way more time in Galilee ministering to the people of that region than he did those people in Jerusalem. Why? It is because God truly believes in a “bottom-up” restoration. So he sent his Son to the people who were the worst-off spiritual and physical first. He honored these broken, gloomy people because they were the ones open to his help the most.
This gives us keen insight into how we can better benefit from God’s gift—Jesus Christ. When we are humble and broken, in need and desperate we are made the most receptive to him. God gives grace to the humble but he opposed the proud. Therefore, to truly enjoy God’s Christmas gift we need to go down where Jesus is.
Let’s look at verse 2.
2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
This verse describes the people of Galilee when Jesus first began his ministry. In essence they saw hope for the first time and their lives were completely transformed. Huge crowds came from Galilee (and other areas too) to see Jesus and listen to his preaching. Why did so many people come to see him? Like verse two mentions, these people were seeing a spiritual light for the first time and it was so “great” that they crowded around Jesus all day long. How glorious the spiritual light was that Jesus manifested to attract so many people back to God. Their lives before Jesus are characterised as “walking in darkness” and “living in the land of the shadow of death”. But this verse is not limited to the experience of the Galileens who saw Jesus in person. For, it represents the common experience of every believer who receives the gospel.
This semester I met a Bible student named Jeff. While talking with him for the first time he said he was frustrated because he didn’t know why he was going to CSUF, he said he didn’t know what he was doing in his life and why he was doing it. His humble and honest disclosure surprised me. I told him that if we would study the Bible he would understand why God created him and what God’s plan was for his life—he accepted. After the second Bible study Jeff decided he wanted to study twice a week. I think because he was so humble and had been “walking in darkness” so long that the “great light” of Jesus is already beginning to shine. So, even though there are so many people “walking in darkness” like Jeff there is hope for each and every one if they receive an invitation to meet Jesus.
Let’s read verses 3-5.
3You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
Like the rest of this passage, these verses apply to the physical nation of Israel and the spiritual condition of all believers. The driving theme here is that Jesus the Messiah removes all the violence and discord in our lives by defeating our enemies—especially the devil. He has also removed all forms of bondage (yoke, bars, rods) which burden us. He has also removed all fear of future conflicts from his people by burning up everything that causes pain, injury or sorrow. As our Messiah, he has promoted total and everlasting peace. Many of these benefits—like total peace are coming soon but we can enjoy many benefits now; especially the freedom from the bondage to sin and Satan. We can also rejoice greatly before Him for all that he has done. The next verse has several other benefits we experience based on who Jesus is.
6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Let’s think about Jesus in four ways based on this verse.
First, Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. Sometimes we have problems that no one can understand. Even if they could, they could not help us. But Jesus came down to earth to fully understand us. Jesus counsels us with the wisdom of God that solves our life problem, no matter how difficult. Isaiah 11:2 says, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord....” Once, a rich Jewish leader named Nicodemus, whom everyone envied, came to Jesus at night. Jesus knew his agony and said, “You must be born again” (Jn 3:3). These words led Nicodemus to recognize his real problem and to seek God’s grace. A Samaritan woman met Jesus when she came to draw water at Jacob’s well. She had had five husbands. She was wounded and sensitive and thirsty. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13,14). Jesus knows each person’s need. Jesus gives each one the words of life that lead us into God’s deep grace. Jesus is Wonderful Counselor.
Second, Jesus is Mighty God. Jesus is the Almighty Creator. John 1:3 says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus creates matter out of nothing, and a living personality out of mere matter. Jesus also rose from the dead and triumphed over the power of death. Before Jesus’ coming, the power of death had defeated everyone, including all the great generals and kings. However, Jesus said in John 11:25,26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Third, Jesus is our Everlasting Father. Jesus relates to human beings as a father relates to his children. Jesus is not an impersonal force, but a personal and loving Father to his people. A father is very important to his children. A father protects, provides for and disciplines his children. Under a good father, children grow strong and live fruitful lives. Without a father, children can become weak or crooked. Not all fathers are great though. Because human fathers are sinners, they fail in many ways. They can be foolish, lazy, selfish, or even violent. Children suffer too much because of this. To them, the word “father” evokes disappointment and pain. But our heavenly Father is different. God is love. This love is described in the Bible as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1Cor 15:4,7,8). God has already demonstrated his great love for us by sending his Son to us. In Jesus we come to know our Everlasting Father.
Fourth, Jesus is Prince of Peace. Everyone wants peace. So some use drugs, alcohol or even exercise to pursue a kind of peace. These things may bring temporary relief, but not lasting peace, and some have bad side effects. But only Jesus gives lasting peace. In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let xyour hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus’ peace makes us strong, and enables us to serve God.Jesus is Prince of Peace.
The last verse tells us about Jesus’ reign. Let’s read verse 7.
7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Jesus’ government is forever and ever. All other governments have been temporary. In the end, they imploded due to injustice and corruption. But Jesus’ kingdom is established on justice and righteousness. These solid pillars are the foundation for peace and prosperity that never ends. How is it possible? “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (7b).
What a precious gift God has given us in his Son Jesus Christ: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We need many names to describe Jesus. It is because Jesus is God. Jesus is comfort to the mourner, joy to the sorrowful, peace to the distressed, light in the darkness, strength to the weak, wisdom to the foolish, a friend to the lonely, and life to the dead. Jesus is everything to everyone. Jesus is God’s best gift of love to us. Let’s accept this gift so that we may have true joy, peace and victory. Also, let’s share this gift with others, especially college students this Christmas.