1. Read v. 1. Who are "those"? Why were they in distress (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? (Mt 4:13-15)
2. Read vs. 2-5 and compare them with v. 6.According to this Bible passage what does the birth of the Messiah mean to you realistically?To the U.S. as a nation?To the militant world we are living in?
3. Read v. 6a. What does this passage teach us about the role the Messiah would play? Why is "government" important to a man? To a nation? To the world?
4. Read v. 6b. What does this passage tell us about the Messiah as a "governor"?How can one come under His governorship? (John 1:12; Rev 3:20)
5. Read v. 7a and compare the messianic government and its characteristics with human governments and their characteristics in human history. How are they different? What does this comparison teach us about the hope we have in Jesus?
6. Read v. 7b. What does it mean for Him to "reign on David's throne and over his kingdom"? (2Sa 7:12-13, 16; Jer 33:15, 20-22)Describe the way in which He establishes and upholds His kingdom.How can we receive His kingdom? (Rom 3:25-26; 4:1-3)
7. Read v. 7c. Why do you think the Lord Almighty is so zealous to accomplish this? (Song of Songs 8:6-7)
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.
Today we would like to think about the Christmas message which the Prophet Isaiah delivered about 8 centuries before Christ. Let us think about Isaiah’s message in two parts: I. His Blessed Work; and II, His Blessed Government.
I. His Blessed Work (1-5)
About 8 centuries before Christ, in the land of Israel, the descendants of Jacob were divided into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom called Israel and the Southern Kingdom called Judah. At first they belonged to one kingdom, the Kingdom of David. But after King Solomon, the kingdom got divided. Because the people of these two kingdoms came from one father, Jacob, they ought to love one another. But they did not. They fought one another. They hurt each other.
In the passage for today King Ahaz ruled Judah in Jerusalem. Ahaz became a king at the age of 20. As a king he wanted to enjoy life. He wanted to go out, play golf, and have a good time.
But kings of the nations around Judah did not leave him alone. The northern Kingdom Israel and another kingdom called Aram which is present day Syria felt threatened by the rising superpower nation called Assyria which is located in the present day Iraq. In order to protect themselves from the possible invasion of the Assyrian Empire, they asked Judah to join a coalition with them. But Judah refused to do so. These two kings got mad. Then they came up with a plan to join forces together, and invade Judah. They planned to get rid of Ahaz, and establish a puppet king in Jerusalem. Then, this puppet king can collect a lot of tax money from the people of Judah, wire transfer tons of money to the bank accounts belonging to these two kings, perhaps 50/50. Then they can buy tanks and missiles, and thereby strengthen their position, and effectively defend themselves against Assyria.
One day Ahaz heard the news that Israel and Aram made a plan to invade Judah. Ahaz was scared to death. So he cancelled his golfing schedule.He summoned a meeting among his cabinet members to discuss the situation. The Lord saw this, so he asked the Prophet Isaiah to go and tell Ahaz not to worry. Isaiah sent an email to Ahaz and got an appointment with the king. The two met at Camp David (Isaiah 7:4). And Isaiah advised him not to worry. He said these two kings were no different than two smoldering sticks. Then Isaiah advised him to trust in the Lord who is the real defense minister of the nation Judah. In order to convince Ahaz of the Lord’s protection, through the Lord’s instruction, Isaiah spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights (Isaiah 7:10).” But Ahaz said, “Naah. I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Why did he reject the Lord’s help? He rejected because he already came up with his own idea. What was his idea? It was to ask Assyria to help him out. Indeed, he sent an email to Assyria. In his email he said, “I am your servant and vassal. I will do whatever you want me to do. If you want me to lick your shoes I will do it.Can you please come and take care of these two bulldogs (2Ki 16:7)?” The Assyrian King was pleased with the request. Especially he liked the word “vassal.”Then the Assyrian King loaded up his gun. He invaded the territories of Aram and Northern Kingdom Israel, and took care of them. 2 Kings 15:29 then says, “In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.”
The Northern Kingdom Israel was Judah’s brother nation. So Ahaz should have prayed for Israel, even if they meant harm for Judah. But instead, using an unbelieving nation Assyria, he struck the territory of his fellow brethren. It was a sad story - the story of two brothers fighting each other, instead of loving each other.
One thing that amazes us is that the Prophet Isaiah saw this happening down the road in a matter of a few years. In addition, on hearing Ahaz’s rejection to seek the Lord’s help, through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord gave him a sign – the sign of virgin birth, saying, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:13,14).”
Looking forward to the time of the Savior coming to the land of Galilee, Isaiah says in Isaiah 9:1, “Nevertheless, 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.” Indeed about 8 centuries after the prophecy, the Lord Jesus came to the land of Galilee, and began to shepherd over the flock in his love and power. The Lord healed the wounds and scars left by fellow brethren.
From this passage, then we learn that man may hurt each other and fail in their mutual relationships, but the Lord does not fail. Rather, he steps into the areas where we fail. He then binds up wounds and scars caused by us. In our mutual hatred, we hurt each other, sometimes in words, and sometimes in acts of violence, and often with guns and knives. When we fail in our relationships with our neighbors, then, we get frustrated. But we should not lose hope. Why not? Because we have the good news that in Jesus we can overcome all of our past failures. In Jesus we can start loving one another rather than hating one another. We can say words of encouragement rather than discouragement. Instead of tearing down each other, we can say words and take actions that build up one another.
God sent Jesus to the land of Galilee with a bigger plan, the plan to help people overcome all of their failures. Look at vs. 2-5. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You 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. For 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. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.”
Man’s problems are common among all peoples on earth.
The first problem is the problem of man walking in darkness. The darkness here is equal to man’s sin problem, particularly the sin of unbelief. To address this problem, the Savior came as a “great” light. In what respect is his light great? Among other aspects, we can say that his light is great because no one demonstrated the love and power of God as greatly as he did. Indeed through his words and actions, especially his self-sacrifice on the cross he demonstrated that God’s love is so great that all can stop doubting God’s love and rather put absolute trust in Him. This love of God puts a complete stop to the life that walks in darkness.
The second problem is described as the “shadow of death”. After living in the shadow of death for a while, soon man will face death, the grim reaper. It is really bad news. What is the solution? Isaiah says that a light has dawned upon all who sit in the shadow of death. What kind of light is it? In view of John’s gospel, this light is the light of life found in Jesus. Speaking of this truth Jesus came and declared, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12.
The third problem is the lack of good fruit. It is the emptiness of life. Man tries to get something out of this world, but man has to die. Then he ends up with complete emptiness. But the Savior came to solve this problem as well, for Isaiah says in a present perfect tense: “You have enlarged the nation.” Here, “enlarge” is used as against “shrink”. The Lord God sent the Savior to turn a shrunken nation into a great nation. This is to restore the original purpose of God’s creation as we see it in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and increase in number!” The book of Acts proves how the Lord fulfilled this promise among the believing people.
The fourth problem of man is the lack of joy. When you think about the way animals fare, even though their living conditions are not perfectly ideal, still they are very happy. I see this to be the case with two Chinese Quails. I keep them in a small cage in my backyard. Each time I see them I sympathize with them because the small cage is not exactly a hotel. But soon I figured it out that unlike myself or anyone around me, they are very joyful. They do not know Monday Blue or holiday blue. To them, there is no blue day. To them every day is the Lord’s Day. But it is not always so with us.And thank God. The Lord God sent the Savior to address this problem as well. Speaking of this truth, the angel of the Lord says in Luke that the birth of Jesus is the good news of great joy for all peoples on earth (Luke 2:10).
Along with this joy, the Lord grants us great victories in all areas of our life: victories over the power of sin and death, victories in one’s relationships with others, victories in school studies, victories in making disciples, and much more.
Not only that, the Lord came to set us free from all kinds of slavery. Look at v. 4 again. “For as in the day of Median’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors.” Speaking of this truth, the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Lastly, the Savior came to resolve the problem of anxiety and restlessness. He came to replace them with deep peace, the peace rolling like a river. This peace spreads from inside out. In a poetic expression, this is what Isaiah means when he says in v. 5, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning.”
II. His Blessed Government (6-7)
To know that the Lord God sent the Savior to do his blessed work for us is one thing and to actually experience His blessed work in our lives is another. How then can we see His blessed work arising in us?
Look at v. 6a. “For to us a child is born; to us a son is given, and government will be on his shoulders.” Here we find three keys.
1) The first key is to welcome Jesus as the Lord and Savior. “For to us a child is born.” This means that we need to accept Jesus just as we welcome a little baby. Each time I see a little child like Shepherd Jim Tonne’s son David, I am only amazed. As I look into his eyes he smiles back to me. He is unpretentious. And he is harmless. And as I hold him in my arms, I can feel that the peace and rest that is in him spreads to me. Let us not forget that the Savior was born as a child. It was observed that the first man Adam was born fully grown and mature. But the Savior was born as a child. Why? I think it was to let us welcome him just as we welcome little David Tonne.
2) The second key is found in what Isaiah says about the Savior: “To us a son is given.” I call your attention to three words: “us”, “son”, and “given”. “Us” refers to a community of people. Jesus is for us all to share. “Son” refers to the contents of the gift. When Christmas time comes, we think about what kind of gift we want to give to others. Maybe a jacket, a pair of shoes or the like. But the Lord God came up with the best gift ever imaginable. The son - His one and only. He gave us the most precious gift! Now, let us think about the word “given”. What does this word suggest to us? How does it strike you this Christmas season? To me, it means how I should better learn to receive the gift from the Father. He is “given” to us for us to “receive”. During the Christmas time, we try to give something to someone. But, before being able to be a good giver, we must first become a good receiver. Imagine the tragic condition of a man who tries to give something valuable to anyone and yet he has nothing valuable to give!? And from a spiritual standpoint, what is valuable is not available in a shopping mall! Comfort, kindness, rest, joy, friendship, love, or simply happiness is not there. But all these are essential to our well-being. And people are crying out for them. Yet, when you lose peace of mind, where can you get it, first for you and then for your friend? And when you try to comfort others, where do you get words of comfort? When you love someone, where to you get the kind of love you want to give? When you don’t have love, how can you give it to others? Didn’t John Lennon cry out in his song “How”, “How can I give love when I don't know what it is I'm giving? How can I give love when I just don't know how to give? How can I give love when love is something I ain't never had? Oh no, oh no!”? But when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, deep into our heart and soul, He who is directly from the Father, fetches from the Father every good and perfect gift which we need for life! Then as we are enriched this way, we can give others what is truly valuable.
3) The third key is to remember the Savior as our governor. He is not just a tiny baby without any ability to do anything. He is born a king! He is born to govern his creation, all according to His wisdom, love, and power. The word “govern” means “to rule”. This means that we must respect Him as our spiritual governor, and be willing to submit ourselves to His rule in the privacy of our own free will. Then God will bless us with the desires of our heart. He will enable us to fulfill them in a most satisfying way. And he will bless us with one blessing after another.
Practically then how will he govern? At first glance, the title “governor” sounds intrusive, overbearing, and oppressive. Actually this is what a lot of political leaders of California felt about the newly elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A few weeks ago, he gave an inaugural speech at the front yard of his governor’s office in Sacramento. In his speech he laid own a few tough measures to bring California back to being one of the best possible places on earth. But, right after his speech, key congressional leaders made comments saying, “Gee, we thought he would work with us, but it looks like he is going “terminator” style.” Then news reporters began to say, “Folks! It looks like already the new Governor’s honey moon with the Congressional leaders was over. We thought it would last at least about 90 days, but it looks like it’s all over now.”
But what about Jesus? How does he rule? How is he going to run his government? How does he work with citizens under his government? Look at v. 6 again. “And he will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
First, he serves his people as Wonderful Counselor. Why did Isaiah put this title ahead of the title Mighty God? He did it because unlike dictators of this world, he governs his kingdom by letting each of his citizens run his or her life all according to God’s precepts and wisdom.
Second, he serves his people as Mighty God.As we try to run our lives, we run short of power and energy. Then we cry out to Him for help. What then does he do? As the Mighty God, he comes to us with all the helps necessary.
Third, he serves his people as Everlasting Father. Political leaders of this world do not serve people as parents do. But Jesus is different. He serves each of them with the loving affection of a parent. What comforts us more is the word “everlasting’. “Everlasting Father!” Our human fathers can father over us only for a while, and many of them are not perfect. But it is not so with Jesus Christ. He is with his children all the time, especially when no one is around (Genesis 28:10-15; Deuteronomy 10:18). And he is perfect just as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
Fourth, he serves his people as Prince of Peace. As we know he died on the cross to make peace between God and the Father: he is the maker of peace and giver of peace. And in his land, we can enjoy real peace, the peace that is spiritual, and the peace that rolls within us like a river! When we have this peace, we can eat well, study well, work well, and sleep well. It is with this peace that we can make a long term plan, the plan to prosper and the plan to do His blessed will! What an amazing Savior we have in Jesus?!
In choosing to come under His rule and government, we must remember that it is here in this government alone that we can make an eternal plan to build our eternal security of life (7a). Look at v. 7a. “Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end.” Isaiah added this line to convey the message that unlike worldly kingdoms, Jesus’ kingdom is ever lasting. And unlike worldly governments which are war-like, Jesus’ government is peace-giving. Let us notice the word “increase” and the expression “no end.” When we put these two together, we get a clear picture of his kingdom, that is, GROWTH UNLIMITED. His kingdom is growing without a limit. This tells us one important truth. That is, all secular kingdoms will disappear, but his kingdom will remain. What does this mean? This means that we can safely invest our life in His kingdom without worrying that our investment might be lost.
How then can we be assured of this? Look at v. 7 again. Of 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.” We can be assured of his kingdom work, because the Lord himself is committed to his cause. In his zeal, he indeed sent Jesus and perfected the gospel message. This gospel of Jesus secures both justice and righteousness. The gospel condemns the life of sin. At the same time it makes all believers to be righteous. This gospel then prepares man to become citizens of His blessed kingdom. And even now the Lord God is working hard by inviting people to his blessed kingdom through his blessed disciples spreading the blessed gospel.
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.
This passage teaches us the meaning of the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Mainly it describes the establishment of God's eternal kingdom in the hearts of his people - those who believe in him and accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior.
1. Read v. 1. Who are "those"? Why were they in distress (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 (Mt 4:13-15)?
** Immediately, "Those" refers to the people of Isaiah's day, like King Ahaz in Isaiah 7, and people under his poor leadership. Categorically however "those" refers to all who do not believe in the Lord but rather live according to their own ideas and feelings.
** They do not live according to God's word. They are proud of themselves, so they do not pray to the living God, nor seek help from God’s servants like Isaiah. Often times they do come to God’s servants for advice, but when they do not like what they hear, they simply ignore it and live according to their own ideas and feelings.
Isaiah 8:19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?
** This happened when the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III attacked northern Kingdom Israel in 734 and 732 B.C.
2 Kings 15:29In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.
** The Lord fulfilled this prophecy when Jesus the Lord and Savior of the world came to Israel and began his ministry from Capernaum.
2. Read vs. 2-5 and compare this passage with v. 6. According to this Bible passage what does the birth of the Messiah practically mean to you? To the U.S. as a nation? To the militant world we are living in?
** It means: 1) there will be no more gloom for me who has been in distress; 2) no more walking in the darkness, for I have seen (experienced) a great light; 3) no more pining in the shadow of death, for a light (of life) has dawned on me; 4) fruitful life in the Lord (3); 5) life filled with joy; 6) freedom from the power of sin and death; 7) peace within rolling like a river.
** She can send many missionaries to all peoples on earth.
** The world can enjoy peace in the Lord, instead of being in terror and in constant fear of war and rumors of war.
3. Read v. 6a. What does this passage teach us about the role the Messiah would play? Why is "government" important to a man? A nation? To the world?
** He is the ultimate governor.
** Government is important because God made man in his image, and so then man can only thrive when his life is governed (ruled or taken care of) in the way God designed it to be -- then it will prosper.
** A nation consists of people, and just as each person needs to be governed according to God's way, so also a nation needs to be governed by the law of God.
** The world consists of nations, so that just as a nation needs to be governed by God’s precepts, so also the world must be ruled by His rule.
4. Read v. 6b. What does this passage tell us about the Messiah as a "governor"? How can one come under his governorship (John 1:12; Rev 3:20)?
** He is the "ultimate" governor in that he is perfectly qualified for the job as a governor. Four qualifications are presented:
1) Wonderful Counselor, indicating that he believes in each person who desires to run his or her own life according to his or her own free will, the will to make one's own choice on his or her own, and that based on this belief, he shares his wisdom with his people so people would make a right choice, and prosper. He is different from many fathers who impose their own ideas, rather than listening to their children, and then offer guidance.
2) Mighty God, showing he has the power to empower people to do what they desire to do. He is different from many fathers who are weak.
3) Everlasting Father, showing that he regards people as his children, and that just as every father is called to do, he being the ultimate father, faithfully provides for his children, being there himself for his children "all the time." He is different from many fathers who are not around or at the dinner table even on Thanksgiving Day.
4) Prince of peace, showing he is a peaceful man and therefore is able to give peace to all. He is then different from many fathers who are violent and abusive.
** We need to not only believe in Him but also accept Him into our lives and have an intimate fellowship with him, just as we eat and talk with family members while seated around the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day.
5. Read v. 7a and compare the messianic government and its characteristic(s) with human governments and their characteristics in human history. How are they different? What does this comparison teach us about the hope we have in Jesus?
** Two major differences: his government is everlasting, whereas human governments are temporary; his government is peaceful, whereas human governments are warlike.
** In Jesus we have the hope of all people living in perfect peace under His perfect leadership.
6. Read v. 7b. What does it mean for him to "reign on David's throne and over his kingdom" (2Sa 7:12-13, 16; Jer 33:15, 20-22)? Describe the way in which he establishes and upholds his kingdom. How can we receive His kingdom (Rom 3:25-26; 4:1-3)?
** It simply means that Jesus is the one promised to come from the line of David's faith in the Lord (and his promises). It goes then to the authenticity of Jesus as the Savior.
** Very simple: by securing two values (or agendas): righteousness and justice. Ultimately he did this by he himself dying on the cross for our sins, so we would all be set free from the power of sin and death, and be made righteous and holy.
** By faith in His blood.
7. Read v. 7c. Why do you think the Lord Almighty is so zealous in accomplishing this (Song of Songs 8:6-7)?