Isaiah 9:1-7 and the First Advent of Christ
Typically, there are a few passages of Scripture that are highlighted on Christmas cards when it comes to celebrating the First Advent of Christ. Amongst them is Isaiah 7:14, which states, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Another special one is Matthew 1:23, The New Testament quotes this passage from Isaiah to verify its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ. God’s Word declares, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
“God with us,” what a glorious concept! The God of the Bible is not far off, unconcerned, and detached from His creatures. Though He is Transcendent, above, beyond, and outside His creation, He is also Immanent. This means He interacts, intervenes, and intercedes to brings us near to Himself through the merits of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25). Ephesians 2:13 reveals, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
There is, however, a premier Scripture that rises above the rest of prophetic announcements concerning the Savior’s birth as a majestic mountain exceeds the foot hills. It is Isaiah 9:6, 7, which states:
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. 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.
This passage, in and of itself, is chalk full of revelation, sound theology, and grand doctrine. Chief amongst them are the coming of Messiah, the deity of Christ, and the advancement of His Kingdom and government in the earth. To fully comprehend the glory of this passage, however, one must investigate the previous verses in Isaiah 9:1-5 that prepare its way. These passages reveal the context and condition of mankind as the Good News is being heralded by Isaiah.
Isaiah 9:1 states, “Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles.” This speaks of a time of judgment. Gloom, oppression, and distress plagued the world. Yet, in the midst of this bleakness, a promise was granted by God. A Promise One will come to bring deliverance to His people.
How should we liken this in our day? America is a debtor nation due to our avarice, impatience, governmental theft, and poor economic policies. Many Americans, themselves, are also enslaved by debt. Imagine a Great Benefactor seeing you drowning in a sea of debt that comes to your aid and pays it off (Matthew 18:21-35). All the gloom, oppression, and distress would disappear in a heartbeat. It would be replaced by unspeakable joy that is full of glory.
Isaiah 9:2 proclaims, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” This powerful passage is repeated in the New Testament (Matthew 4:16). Once again, the Old Testament prophesied and looked forward to fulfillment. The New Testament reveals God’s faithfulness in establishing His Word, and we can now look back with the assurance, “It is finished” (John 19:28-30). It happened exactly as God predicted with no deviations or shadow of turning. No other so-called “holy book” of any other religion can duplicate this accuracy in foretelling the future.
Isaiah 9:2 pinpoints the wretched condition of our fallen race. We walk in darkness, enslaved by sin, under the sway of the Evil One, and are hell bound. Death with all its uncertainty stalks the minds of men with great fear, whether we acknowledge it or not. To cope and manage, we look for love, meaning, value, security and stability in all the wrong places. Drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality and a host of other vices rush in to fill the void of our empty, longing souls. We get burned time and again and yet press on in our vain conceits. Eventually, disappointment, disillusionment, bitterness, hard hardheartedness, seared conscience, sickness and death take its toll as men fade into perdition.
Now imagine in that miserable setting that was exemplified by Plato’s Cave allegory where people who live in a cave of darkness are oblivious to this great light. Tragically, they are not aware of the reality of an outer world (The Kingdom of God) that has light, life, truth, love, and salvation. These dejected creatures in the darkened cave are chained and a great wall separates them from these realities. If one does escape, he is first dazzled by the light and then adjusts. His clarity eventually focuses in to the new reality. Slowly but surely, he comes to the truth as revealed in the light. Immediately, there is a sense of responsibility to go back and rescue those still deceived in the cave. Instead of receiving the messenger of light, however, those in the cave kill him. They are much more at home with the familiar darkness than they are with the unaccustomed light.
It appears Plato, a Greek Philosopher, was inspired by natural or general revelation. He aptly pointed out the plight of man in a fallen world filled with sin and demons. Though he did not use this allegory to reveal Christian truth, its depictions are Biblical. Regardless, those sitting in the cave, chained in darkness and dwell in the shadow of death will see a great light. No, it is not a philosophical light as Plato envisioned. It is the greater light of God Himself coming to this earth as a helpless babe in a manger (Luke 2:7). God’s Word, which is God made flesh, dwelt amongst us and we beheld His glory (John 1:1-14). Jesus Christ is the true light that lights everyman coming into the world (John 1:9).
To those who repent, believe, and follow Christ, we become children of light. Based upon this truth, the Apostle Paul admonished, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” To those outside the saving faith of our Lord, he cried out, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14).
God’s light exposes, brings clarity, and manifests truth, which is the only liberating force available in our poor fallen world. Jesus taught, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). God sent His light to shatter the darkness and set the captives free. There is a problem, however. It is one that Plato stumbled upon in his analogy. Men love darkness more than the light and they will kill (In word or deed) any messenger who disturbs their cave (John 16:2). Jesus warned:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (John 3:19-21).
It was sinful men inspired by demonic power that crucified the Lord of glory. It appeared darkness had triumphed and Satan’s cave remained undisturbed. His arms were folded and his goods were secure. Yet, three day later, the light, power, and presence of God exploded in a tomb. Christ was raised from the dead! His truth keeps marching on and this “Stronger One” bound Satan and plundered his goods (Mark 3:27). Indeed, to this day, there are those who still meander in darkness and draw near to death. The light of Christ still radiates to break their chains of darkness and mend their broken hearts (Luke 4:18).
Isaiah 9:3-5 states:
You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
These verses precede the promise of the coming of the Christ Child. Notice the theme is “Joy to the Word, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King.” These passages first speak of a joy that comes with receiving a mighty harvest. Imagine the preparations, the hard work and the great risk that goes into planting, watering, and overseeing this agricultural venture. With men, it is a tossup, whether or not, a harvest succeeds. The origin with this harvest does not rest with men, however. It is heaven that is superintending this Kingdom crop. It will not fail to produce good Kingdom fruit. Though there may be struggle along the way, God’s Word promises, “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalms 126:6).
Next, these passages reveal the battle. It reveals the spoils that come from waging a good warfare. Picture a small army facing an overwhelming enemy intent on their utter destruction. No prisoners, no mercy, and nowhere to retreat. Our deliverance in this battle is reminiscent of the four lepers chronicled in 2 Kings. Lepers were outcasts who were ostracized by society. They are sitting in the place of defeat and all their prospects were death. They decided they should at least march towards the enemy’s camp and surrender. But as God would have it, instead of seeing four pitiful, pathetic lepers, the enemy hears a great army approaching. Apparently, God turned up His amplifier in heaven that shook the enemy to its core. The Syrian army abandoned their post, dispersed, and the lepers inherited all their spoils of war.
Mankind is helpless and defenseless against a three-fold enemy, which is our sinful flesh, Satan and demonic power, and this illegitimate world system that is in rebellion to God’s loving and just rule. In the midst of the fray, Jesus steps in as our Mighty Champion and Great Deliverer who “saved us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” Now, the field that contains all of His Kingdom treasures is available to us. Provided, we experience the joy over discovering it and then go and sell all that we have to buy that field (Matthew 13:44).
Through Christ, His Kingdom, and great salvation amongst men, the rod of oppression is broken as Isaiah 9:1-5 promised. Our captivity has ceased. The harvest of deliverance has come. The night of wrong has ended and the light of right has dawned. The promise is fulfilled. How is all this possible? “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:5). Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year in God’s Kingdom.