Perhaps no words more encouraging than these have ever been written:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa. 9:6–7)
There is no more stirring, encouraging prophecy of the birth of Jesus than this one. But I’m afraid that you can be familiar with this prophetic poem, because you hear it every Christmas season, and yet miss the core message of its words. Isaiah is saying more than that the Messiah who was to come would be wonderful in a variety of ways. Isaiah is preaching to us a truth that is way more profound, faith-stimulating, hope-giving, and life-altering than that. Take a moment right now to carefully examine and reflect on the names that Isaiah attaches to the Son to be born and the things he says about him. On reflection, did you see Isaiah’s radically hopeful message?
With words carefully chosen, because they were carefully directed by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah is telling us that the Messiah Son is exactly what every sinner desperately needs. He is the ultimate answer to every destructive thing that sin does to us. Isaiah, with beautifully poetic words, declares to us that Jesus is all we need. He is the solution to the sin that we cannot avoid or escape. Long before we were born, God had appointed for us the One who would be the remedy for every symptom of the sin that would infect us all. Consider these words.
1. The government would rest on the shoulders of Jesus.
What do sinners need? We need to be freed from the bondage of self-rule and welcomed to the rule of the One who is the definition of everything that is good, right, true, and loving. Jesus came to liberate us from the kingdom of darkness and transport us to his kingdom of love and light. This is essential, because our self-rule is our doom.
2. Jesus would be a Wonderful Counselor to us.
Sin reduces all of us to fools. In our foolishness we see the world inside out and upside down. We look at what is false and see truth. We look at what is foolish and see wisdom. At the epicenter of our foolishness is a street-level denial of God—not philosophical atheism, but a denial of our need for God and a belief that we can live life on our own. As the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus comes to rescue fools from themselves.
3. Jesus would unleash almighty power on our behalf.
Sin doesn’t just reduce us to fools; it also renders us unable. So Jesus came to do by divine power what we could not do for ourselves. Sin causes us all to be unable to be what God de- signed us to be and to do what God created us to do. So Jesus would unleash his power to defeat sin and death and then empower us to desire and do what we would not be able to do without his power working in and through us.
4. Jesus would lavish on us his fathering care.
Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection welcomes us into his family once again. He is the door by which we have access to God. He lavishes his fatherly love, and we are blessed with all the rights and privileges of being his children. No longer separated, lost, alienated, and alone, we live forever as the sons and daughters of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
5. Jesus’s reign would be righteous in every way.
In a sin-broken world, where all our lives are touched by the corruption, selfishness, and injustice of those who rule us, it is sweet comfort to know that the One who would establish his rule over us is righteous all the time and in every possible way. It is sweet to know that all corruption and injustice will end someday, and he will rule over us in perfect righteousness forever.
6. Jesus’s rule would never, ever end.
How sweet it is to know that the blessing of the grace of the King who was to come would never, ever end. His grace would never grow weary. His grace would never run out. He would rule in grace, giving us every needed grace, now and for all eternity. This means that hope now and hope then would no longer rest on our wisdom, our strength, our performance, or our track record, but on his unstoppable rule of grace.
7. God would make sure that what he promised would happen.
And why can we bank on Isaiah’s promises that all of our needs as sinners would be met in this way? We can bank on these things because God has placed his zeal upon every one of these promises. What does that mean? It means he will unleash his almighty power and authority to guarantee that all that was promised in the birth of Jesus would be delivered to each one of his children.
There is nowhere you and I can look to find better news than this. So much more than decorations, gifts, and lots of food, this season is about hope for sinners, carried into the world on the shoulders of Jesus.