ISAIAH CHAPTER NINE
A PROPHECY OF THE COMING MESSIAH
Please note that God is referred to as the “Lord Almighty” three times in this chapter. The Almighty is going to provide a Savior for those who turn to Him and who will trust in Him. This chapter contains one of the best-known Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.
Just as the first series of judgment prophecies (chapters 2-4) ended with a prophecy of hope (4:2-6), so now after Isaiah’s final predictions of suffering and darkness, in chapter 9 he gives us an astonishing rendition describing the birth of a royal Savior who will establish a kingdom of righteousness and justice.
Isaiah 9:1-3: NRSV:
1 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
If you like nice orderly writing where everything follows in a logical time line, you will have a great deal of trouble understanding the book of Isaiah. In verse1, Isaiah refers to two events that occurred in 738 and 733 BC. Those events being the Assyrian invasion and capture of those two cities. These and other events are what sent the nation of Israel into a time of national darkness. But then he refers to the coming of Jesus Christ which would occur some 700 years later, and in just a few more verses to the second coming of Christ in the end times. The bottom line is that even though Israel and Judah will be punished, there is still a great deal of glory for that nation in the end. The coming of Jesus is likened to the coming of light to remove the darkness of captivity. The first part of verse 3 is yet another confirmation of the promise God made to Abraham to multiply his physical descendants as the sands of the seashore (Genesis 22:17). Verse 3 most likely refers to Israel as a restored nation in the end times.
Isaiah 9:4,5 NRSV:
4 For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.
5 For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
These verses imagine conditions that would apply in the world during the long centuries of Israel’s exile from their land after the destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple, by the Romans in A.D. 70, and all the suffering they would endure. Isaiah describes here the sad legacy of the nations of the world until Christ returns to establish peace forevermore. You may be familiar with what Matthew wrote, but this would be a good time to listen again to Matthew 24:6,7:
6 And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately.
7 The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.
These are the conditions that have existed for human beings throughout history. Wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes will continue until Jesus Christ returns to put an end to all the hatred and suffering.
Isaiah 9:6,7 NRSV:
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Beautiful words. Couldn’t you just listen to them over and over again? Not only are they beautiful and comforting, but these two verses also give us one of the most complete prophecies of Jesus to be found in the Scriptures. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” tells us that Jesus will be both fully human and fully God. He was to come into the world as the Son of a virgin without a natural human father but conceived of the Holy Spirit. He was God in the flesh. How could this be? We won’t know that until we get to Heaven. But for now we can understand it to be one of those supernatural capabilities that only God could understand and make happen. Jesus came from Heaven as a free gift of grace for the salvation of all human beings.
“The government will be upon His shoulder” tells us that Jesus is destined to rule over the entire universe. “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” His name is wonderful because He is wonderful. Just look at the things He accomplished and what the Bible tells us He will accomplish in the future. He is Counselor because He comes to us and reveals the will of God for us. He reveals to us the only way for a person to travel safely through a world of sin. He gives believers all the power of God through the Holy Spirit in order to please Him.
He is also called Mighty God because He is God and because He will accomplish all of those things described in verses 1-3. Everlasting Father assures us that Jesus Christ will be the Father of His people through all eternity.
Prince of Peace promises that one day at His second coming Jesus will provide peace for all the world. Until that time, having made peace with God for mankind by His blood on the cross, all who put their trust in Him have peace with God. As we learn to commit our lives to God, peace fills our hearts and controls our lives.
Verse 7 refers to the covenant (promise) that God made with David. God made a covenant with David that David’s Son would sit upon the throne and reign in righteousness forever. When John the Baptist was born, about six months before the birth of Jesus, his father, Zacharias, prophesied that God had raised up a “horn of salvation” in the house of His servant David. Luke writes in Luke 1:69:
69 God has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant.
Ever since the time of David’s reign as king of Israel it was the Lord’s promise that the inheritance to that throne would last forever, and there would never be a time when the line of successors to David’s throne would be broken.
Although there were years when no one sat on the throne of David, the ancestry was never broken. Jesus, on His mother’s side, was from the line of David, and because of her marriage to Joseph, who was heir to the throne, the throne rights passed to Jesus. Jesus, however, has not yet taken His seat upon the throne of David. He will not do that until His Second Coming. Today, right now at this moment, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of His Father on the throne of Deity. Soon He will return in glory and will take His own throne, which was the throne of David, and will reign in righteousness over all the earth. These promises will be fulfilled because the zeal of the Lord will make it happen.
8 The Lord sent a word against Jacob (Israel)[fn], and it fell on Israel;
9 and all the people knew it— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria— but in pride and arrogance of heart they said:
10 “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”
11 So the Lord raised adversaries against them, and stirred up their enemies,
12 the Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west, and they devoured Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.
Though Isaiah was writing to the nation of Judah he often used the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also called Jacob) as an example of the fact that God judges His sinful people. The message was one of coming judgment on the North. When these words were written, the Northern Kingdom was already in some danger. The coming fall of Israel in 722 b.c. should have warned Judah, the Southern Kingdom, that God is active in the affairs of His people.
Judah should have realized that she too would be destroyed if she persisted in the same kind of behavior as the Northern Kingdom. The coming judgment on Israel would be severe, but it would not be enough to turn her back to God. Ephraim, one of Israel’s largest tribes, often represented the entire Northern Kingdom. Samaria was the Northern Kingdom’s capital city. Apparently Israel’s inhabitants were arrogant enough and confident enough that they would experience only a temporary setback, and in that proud confidence thought they could rebuild whatever was destroyed. In fact they felt that they would be able to make their nation better than ever. But this was not to be the case. Aram, also called Syria, was an ally of Israel as we’ve already learned, and these people were Arameans. They were from the east and the Philistines were from the west. But even this judgment did not appease God’s wrath because the people continued to refuse to deal with their sin. So God would continue to discipline them. This section ends with a statement which is repeated three more times in the following verses: “For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still” (12, 17, 21; 10:4). This repetition heightens the effect of God’s intense anger and underscores the certainty of continued judgment.[fn]
Now I don’t know about you, but when I read these verses I can’t help but making a side-by-side comparison between the nation of Israel in Isaiah’s time and the United States today. I believe we could well have been receiving a number of warning shots from God for the last several years. I remember an occasional major catastrophe when growing up and as a young man but never anything with the growing intensity that we’ve experienced in the last thirty years.
Beginning in the 1960’s there was a complete breakdown in government leading up and to the resignation of a president in disgrace. Iran captured and held hostage several hundred Americans for almost a year. Terrorists began attacking various U.S. installations around the world. Another president was almost impeached because he had a little problem with honesty and liked to have sex in his office with young apprentices. Then 9/11 when we lost almost 3,000 people in an attack worse than Pearl Harbor. We’ve had many severe hurricanes ravage Florida and severe forest fires leveling the beautiful timberlands of the Southwest, West, and Northwest. Droughts ravaged farm crops over much of the country in 2005. Then Katrina, which has to be one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. Aids, a disease that came about originally because of homosexual relationships is killing more and more people all the time. Scientists are now worried about the possibility of a worldwide epidemic of bird flu. And there are any number of other things that I could list here.
And what has the response of the United States been? We’re going to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, just as Israel believed they would, and do something about it because of our tremendous resourcefulness as a people. We don’t need to turn to God, we can do it ourselves. What a big, big mistake! Do you remember what we just said a minute ago about Israel (in the box on the previous page) believing they could rebuild and make things better than ever? Well let us say the same thing again and this time substitute the United States for Israel and see if it makes any sense to you.
The coming judgment on the United States would be severe, but it would not be enough to turn her back to God. The national media which exerted a great deal of influence in forming national opinion, along with the powerful and wealthy believed they could do almost anything they wanted to do. Apparently Americans were arrogant enough to be confident that they would experience only a temporary setback and in that proud confidence thought they could rebuild whatever was destroyed. In fact they felt that they would be able to make their nation better than ever. But this was not to be the case. Terrorists from the East and terrorists from the West began to squeeze the vise closed on the United States.
Frighteningly similar circumstances, don’t you think? But now let’s get back to Israel.
Even this judgment did not appease God’s wrath because the people continued to refuse to deal with their sin. So God would continue to chasten them.
The repetition of such events emphasizes God’s intense anger and underscores the certainty of continued judgment. Let me read for you what God wanted Israel to do and what He wants the United States to do. 2 Chronicles 7:13,14:
13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Israel and Judah both ignored God’s instructions and because they did so, they were destroyed. If the United States does not do so, there is little doubt in my mind that we too will be destroyed or overrun by some enemy. The other possibility is that God has determined in His infinite wisdom that it is time for the end to come. That might explain why we’re seeing so many of these catastrophes all over the world. I pray each one of you will take this seriously and pray seriously every day for God to forgive our country and send leaders that would bring about a revival and a turning to God, because without that commitment to Him, we don’t stand a chance.
13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, or seek the Lord of hosts.
14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day—
15 elders and dignitaries are the head, and prophets who teach lies are the tail;
16 for those who led this people led them astray, and those who were led by them were left in confusion.
17 That is why the Lord did not have pity on their young people, or compassion on their orphans and widows; for everyone was godless and an evildoer, and every mouth spoke folly. For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.
Even though the Northern Kingdom of Israel had suffered at the hand of God, they still had not returned to Him. So their continued refusal lead to more judgment. Israel was like a child who stubbornly refuses to obey his parents and therefore is punished more severely. Israel’s refusal to turn to God would result in the most severe judgment imaginable. The whole nation, from rich to poor and from old to young, would be cast aside. Elders (the head) who are wise in their own eyes and false prophets (the tail), who teach lies, and young people, orphans, and widows were all ungodly and wicked and therefore would be judged by God.[fn]
18 For wickedness burns like a fire; It consumes briars and thorns; It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame And they roll upward in a column of smoke.
19 By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother.
20 They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm.
21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, And together they are against Judah. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away And His hand is still stretched out.
People may think lightly of sin and pay little attention to the solemn warnings that God gives concerning its evil effects, but if they persist in their rebellion against the will of God they will find that wickedness does indeed burn as a fire and that those who refuse to turn to God in repentance will have to endure the judgment that they’ve brought upon themselves.
Famine is then added to their wretchedness and misery. Yet, instead of turning to God and confessing their sin and seeking forgiveness, they blamed one another for the troubles that had come upon them. Instead of turning to the Almighty for strength, help, guidance, and salvation, they court the judgment of the Almighty.
We’ve seen here how God deals with nations who do not trust in Him. But what about you as an individual? When trouble comes, do you seek out some sort of alliance with a group that ignores God? Do you turn to astrology or other psychic means to figure out what to do? Or do you seek the authority of the Almighty, the Lord God of Heaven, the One who is all-powerful and who loves you very much? If you are not sure just how to seek guidance from God be sure to come and speak with one of the pastors. We will be happy to assist you into a relationship with the Lord.
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures . Victor Books: Wheaton, IL
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures . Victor Books: Wheaton, IL