We return our attention to the prophet Isaiah for a second helping of his timeless message regarding our Messiah. In chapter 9 the prophet builds upon chapter 7’s intriguing revelation that the Messiah will be born of a virgin and given the designation, “God with us.” In an extraordinary passage filled with the imagery of expectant hope, we are told, beginning in v. 2, that, at some unspecified future point, a people living in a land so distressed that their lives are characterized as though they walked in darkness and in death’s shadow will, nonetheless, have a great light shine on them.
Isaiah identifies this brilliant light with the coming of the Messiah. The impact of His arrival will affect not only Israel, but will also have international repercussions. He will bring both joy to Israel and salvation to the nations. Many rabbis through the centuries have correctly agreed with Christians’ interpretation that this passages’ promised, future light can be identified with none other than the long-awaited Messiah (albeit while disagreeing over whether Jesus is that messianic figure).
Any ambiguity regarding the promised light source is removed by the prophet in 9:6-7, where Isaiah enumerates three notably unique qualities of the Messiah. First, the theme of the child’s birth will once again be picked up from the virgin birth promise of 7:14. Once again it is reiterated that when the messiah enters the world stage, it will be through the human birth process. He will not suddenly appear, fully mature as an adult. He will be born a child. There is no question that for Isaiah, the coming Messiah possesses the attributes of humanity.
Yet in addition to affirming the humanity of Messiah through the promise of His birth, Isaiah also reveals a second quality that demonstrates just how much more there is to the Messiah than may be initially expected. Two striking titles are attributed to the Messiah in 9:6. The child is described as both el gibbor, “Mighty God” and avi ad, “Father of Eternity.” It is hard to argue that either of these titles are ever or should ever be attributed to anyone other than the Lord Himself, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. As readers, we are forced to simply accept at face value the prophet’s stunning revelation that the Messiah will be more than merely human. In some mysterious fashion not elaborated upon by Isaiah, we see that the Messiah will share the attributes of both humanity and deity. In other words, Isaiah teaches that the coming Messiah will be both God and man.
The third notable quality Isaiah revels regards the Messiah’s royal role. The Messiah will be a rule as king. The prophet assigns two powerful descriptions to make the point. First, the child is calledpele yoetz. This title should not be misunderstood as a reference to the coming Messiah’s exceptional therapeutic counseling abilities. Nor should the two words be divided into the separate designations “wonderful” and counselor” (ala the KJV). In the context of the ancient world of the Bible, to be called a “wonderful counselor” meant to be an acutely insightful warrior, capable of designing successful battle stratagems.
Isaiah’s accompanying pele yoetz as the second royal description of the Messiah is sar shalom, “Prince of Peace.” This title works in tandem with the one previously given. Through the Messiah’s exceptional ability to defeat all enemies through warfare, He is able to both make and keep the peace. In fact, the prophet’s readers are told that there will be no end to the increase of the government which will rest upon his shoulders. Isaiah is careful to specify which government is being referred to. It is the government of the united kingdom of Israel and it is from His father David's throne that the Messiah will rule. That the Messiah is a descendent of David, and thereby rightful heir to the Covenantal promises to David, will be developed in the exploration of Isaiah 11:1-10.
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