The prophecies to Ahaz in chapters 7 & 8 continue to be worked out here in chapter 9. “Immanuel” was a sign of both salvation and judgment: salvation for the people of God and judgment for the rest. Isaiah 9 picks up the same theme but assigns the metaphors of light and dark to them. “Darkness” showed up in chapter 8, with the birth of Mahershalalhashbaz, the rising river, the stumbling stone, and the gathering darkness. Here, though, the night is coming to an end, and the dawn is upon us with the coming of the Messiah and a new age.
Isaiah 9.1-6 — To us a child is born
The gloom is not final. It never is. Whether historically, individually, or spiritually, we take heart in that for God’s people darkness is never the end. Any darkness we experience is redeemed by God to mature us, deepen us, and teach us. Notice that God doesn’t shield us from the gloom, nor necessarily even take it away when we pray. So many people blame God when they’re in the valley, or shake their fists at him in anger. But God doesn’t stop the gloom. What he does is use it to make us more Christlike.
V. 2: “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.” The darkness had been absolute, as if there was no hope. BUT THERE’S ALWAYS HOPE. On the earth, in a contest between light and darkness, light always wins. If you light a light in a dark room, light always wins. Light is taken for granted, but for people in darkness, it’s miraculous. When you have been in darkness, light is hope and life, renewal and restoration. There is light for these people because their sin and rebellion are not enough to keep God from manifesting himself to them. True, they could not continue to choose their sin and have the light, but if they wished to be freed from their sin, nothing could prevent God’s light from shining, as it, in fact, has in Jesus.
V. 3: “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.” These are all images of blessing, life, success, relief, security, comfort, and peace. As a result of God’s revelation of himself through his Messiah, joy sweeps over the people—the joy of abundance. Instead of depopulation and dwindling away (7.20-23), the nation swells and grows (49.19-23); instead of the harvest being meager (5.10), it is abundant (35.1,2); instead of becoming spoil themselves (8.1), they will divide the spoil (33.23). What is dealt with here are all the elemental fears of people, and the prophet says that in place of fear there is joy.
V. 4: “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.” The literary, verbal images are strong ones: shattered, burdens, and oppressors. Desperation will be met with the power of freedom.
Look at what is happening here: all of these images of sickness, despair, hopelessness, and darkness are being being splintered and demolished: Instead, the Lord has come! He brings with him LIGHT, LIFE, and FREEDOM!! It’s a spectacular scene of hope and expectancy.
V. 5: “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” If you are like me, you don’t throw out something you think you might need again. This is not just a hope for peace, but a guarantee of it. It’s not just the end of an era, for there will always be another war. No, this is a change in history.
V. 6: “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.” Here it is—the answer to all the gloom and doom. The answer lies in a person.
WONDERFUL: Unfailing in his depth of wisdom which lies beyond human conception or natural occurrence.
COUNSELOR: Always discerning what is right and good.
MIGHTY GOD: Strength, vitality, and victory.
EVERLASTING FATHER: He is the possessor of eternity: faithful, wise, and strong forever as a caring loving Father King
PRINCE OF PEACE: As a warrior King of strength and victory, he uses his might for the good of his people and to secure peace among all nations. He brings peace not by crushing and oppressive war and squashing all defiance. He brings peace by justice and righteousness which make defiance pointless. Somehow through him will come the reconciliation between God and man (53.5; 57.19; 66.12; Lk. 2.14; Jn. 16.33; Rom. 5.1; Heb. 2.14).
What a fantastic passage of hope.