Assyria was quickly becoming the world’s superpower. Its conquering armies threatened all of the ancient Near East. However, Assyria’s growing power was not the result of political skill, military dominance, or economic strength. It was divine intervention. The Lord raised up Assyria to execute judgment on his unrepentant people. Resin of Syria and Pekah of Israel sought to establish a treaty with Ahaz of Judah, hoping their coalition of nations would stave off the armies of Assyria. Ahaz refused to participate. So Pekah and Resin turned against Ahaz.
This political intrigue is the occasion of our text. The armies of Assyria were on their way. Judah’s supposed allies had turned against them. These were dark times for Ahaz and Judah. Yet God’s faithfulness to his chosen people, covenant promises, and redemptive plans had not changed. His faithfulness would be put on display by the most unlikely means.
Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The almighty God would deliver his people through a little child. Isaiah 9:6 emphatically declares, “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.”
These divine promises of a coming child spoke to the crisis Ahaz and Judah faced as Assyria advanced. Yet they are promises that would not be fulfilled for centuries to come. When the wife of Ahaz became pregnant, Judah rejoiced. But that was not the promised child. When she gave birth to a son, Judah rejoiced. But he was not the promised son. Judah rejoiced when that son named Hezekiah became king and led the revival and reformation of the nation. But he was not the promised king. The ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy would happen seven hundred years later.
A virgin named Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph. In Luke 1:31-33, Gabriel tells Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Have you ever received a birth announcement? They all have one thing in common. Birth announcements are sent after the child is born. Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary before she conceived. This angelic announcement is a divine sequel to the prophetic announcement of Christ’s birth in Isaiah 9:6-7. This is the real meaning of Christmas. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth was the arrival of the ruler of the world!
What does the birth of Jesus mean?
The Birth of Jesus was a Miracle.
Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “The son of David.” In Matthew 22:43-45, Jesus responded, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” No one could answer. They did not ask Jesus any more questions after this. The religious leaders were stumped. How could the Christ be David’s son and David’s Lord?
The answer to the dilemma was the person who asked the question. Isaiah 9:6 testifies to the identity of Christ hundreds of years before his birth: “For us to a child is born, to us a son is given.” Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Jesus is complete deity and perfect humanity. Jesus is all God and all man at the same time.
- God became a fetus.
- The creator of life was created.
- He who is larger than the universe became an embryo.
- The omnipotent one made himself breakable.
- He who had been spirit became pierceable.
- The ancient of days became of the infant of days.
- The one who sustains the world with a word chose to become dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
This is the dual nature of Christ. On one hand, Christ is a child born. He is one of us. The question of the ages is, How can one know God? In Jesus’ day, the answer was shockingly simple. You know him the same way you get to know anybody else. Walk up, shake his hand, introduce yourself, and ask, “How are you doing?” Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize without our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus was a child born. He is just like us without sin. Yet Christ is also a son given. The birth of Jesus was no coincidence of history. It was a gift of divine grace to unworthy sinners. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The gospel is about the Person and Work of Christ. It is about who he is and what he accomplished. One without the other is no gospel at all. The Person of Christ does not benefit us without the Work of Christ. And the work of Christ avails nothing for our salvation without the Person of Christ. Many people died on Roman crosses. Two thieves were crucified on the left and right of Jesus. They could not save themselves, much less anyone else. Jesus alone is qualified to be our Savior because he is who he is, and he did what he did what he did. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…”
Isaiah 9:6 proclaims the Person and Work of Christ: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” The Work of Christ is emphasized in the prepositional phrase: “to us.” “To us” means “for us.” This is a direct reference to Judah. Ultimately, it refers to all who believe in Jesus Christ. He was born to die for us.
Isaiah 53:4-6 says: “Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The Birth of Jesus was a Revolution.
Verse 6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” A king exercises authority. A king also bears responsibility. The king’s duty to exercise authority for the good of his people was described as putting the government on his shoulders. A crown, scepter, and robes symbolize the government being on the king’s shoulders. This is Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of Christ. The baby Jesus rested on Mary’s shoulders after she nursed him. Yet the government rested on the shoulder of this baby.
Matthew 2:1-2 says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” Standing before the appointed king, the wise men asked about the whereabouts of the true king. This is what Christmas is all about. Two words: “born king.” A thousand times in history, a baby has become a king. But only once in history has a King become a baby. Isaiah declares, “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.”
Isaiah 22:22 says: “And I will place on his should the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” In Revelation 3:7, The Lord Jesus instructs John, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” The government is on the shoulders of Jesus. A congressman was asked if a Christian could be a politician. He answered, “Can a Christian not be a politician.” Christians are revolutionaries who advance the cause of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is what the Great Commission is all about. Matthew 28:18-20 declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The claims of Jesus are political, not religious, spiritual, or theological. The question of faith is not, “Do you agree?” It is, “Will you follow him?” Christian worship, witness, and warfare are based on the fact that the government is on the shoulder of Christ. Ray Pritchard paraphrases: “The weight of the world will be on his shoulders.”
In Believe and Belong, Bruce Larson writes of counseling struggling people to have faith in Christ. Occasionally, Larson would ask his counselee to walk with him to the RCA building on 5th Avenue in New York. In the entrance was a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who strained to hold the world on his shoulders. “That’s one way to live,” Larson would say. On the other side of 5th Avenue is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Behind the altar was a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, holding the world in one hand. “That’s the other way to live,” Larson would advise. You can carry the world on your shoulders or put your trust in Jesus, who holds the world in his hand.
The Birth of Jesus was a Gift.
It is customary to give a gift when a baby is born, especially a royal child. This is what the wise men did when they found the baby Jesus. Matthew 2:11 says, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Jesus deserves our best gifts. But he does not need them. He is the gift of God to us. And we desperately need him.
Verse 6 says, “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.” Kings were given royal names to honor their majesty. The prophet ascribes four names to Christ. These names are not merely honorifics. They reflect the total sufficiency of Christ to meet every need in our lives. Jesus alone is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Wonderful Counselor. Older translations render these words as separate titles. But it is best to interpret them together: “Wonderful Counselor.” This is how the prophet described God in Isaiah 28:29, “This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”
Isaiah applies these attributes to the coming Messiah. Jesus is wonderful. He was wonderful in his birth. He was wonderful in his life. He was wonderful in his crucifixion. He was wonderful in his resurrection. He will be wonderful in his return.“Wonderful” is that which is supernatural, extraordinary, or miraculous. It cannot be explained or explained away by human logic, intellect, or understanding.
Isaiah prophesied that Christ would be wonderful in his counsel. A nation rises and falls on the wisdom of its leader. Knowing this, the leader surrounds himself with wise counsel. This is how 2 Samuel 16:23describes David’s trusted advisor: “Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.”
The president has aides, attorneys, analysts, and advisors to help him make decisions. But the Lord does not need cabinet officials to help him know what to do. He keeps his own counsel. Are you confused about the big questions of life? Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor! Colossians 2:3 says: “In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Mighty God. The title “Wonderful Counselor” could have caused the people to look to a mere man. But “Mighty God” makes it clear that Isaiah was pointing to someone more than a man. This title is how the prophet speaks of God in Isaiah 10:20-21: “In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”
In the Old Testament, men were given names that reflect God’s work in and through Israel. No one was called “God,” much less “Mighty God.” But this is who Jesus is. In Mark 4:41, the disciples asked, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” He is the Mighty God. Adrian Rogers said: “The little baby of Luke 2 is the mighty God of Genesis 1.”
- Jesus is the Mighty God who defeats Satan.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who breaks strongholds.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who overthrows evil.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who forgives sin.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who heals sickness.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who answers prayer.
- Jesus is the Mighty God who liberates people.
Everlasting Father. There is only one God. Yet God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons of the Godhead are coessential, coequal, and coeternal. Yet it is somewhat strange that Jesus is called “the Everlasting Father.” This language is not meant to blur the lines of the Trinity. To the contrary, it confirms that Jesus is everything that God is. Colossians 2:9 says: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
This reference to Jesus as “Father” is more political than theological. Christ does not reign like a cruel dictator. He reigns like a loving father. A father cares for his children. A father provides for his children. A father nurtures his children. A father disciplines his children. A father protects his children. This is what Jesus is to those who trust in him.
I was blessed to have a good father, who died when I was sixteen years old. I remember how confident I was about the future because of my father’s presence. And I remember how troubled I was about the future after my father’s death. This is why you should put your trust in God, not man. The best of human fathers is fragile, limited, and temporary. Only Jesus is the everlasting father. Bethlehem was not the beginning of Jesus. His origin is rooted in eternity, not maternity.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 8:58, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Prince of Peace. We define peace as the absence of hostility, animosity, or warfare. But that is not necessarily peace. No one is fighting at the cemetery. But you should not go there for peace. The Old Testament word for peace was positive, not negative. It was about the presence of blessings, not the absence of conflict. It is health, prosperity, favor, strength, and happiness. True peace is only found in God. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. Jesus gives past-tense peace. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The unredeemed sinner is at war with God. But by faith in the finished work of Christ, are sins our covered, our iniquity forgiven, and our transgressions are not charged against us. Jesus gives present-tense peace. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not our hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Jesus gives future-tense peace.
Verse 7 says: “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 righteousness from this time forth and forever.” All human kingdoms are limited by time and territory. They can only last so long. They can only go so far. But the government of Jesus is not limited by time and space. It will grow and prosper and last forever. And Christ will reign with justice and righteousness. In the meantime, Jesus teaches us to pray in Matthew 6:9-10: “Or father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
We do not know when these prophecies will be fulfilled. But Isaiah tells how these promises will come to pass at the end of verse 7: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” These hosts are heavenly. They are the countless army of holy angels that wage war in the unseen spirit realm on behalf of the kingdom of heaven. Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” God is the Lord of hosts. God is the captain of armies of angels. God is the ruler of the holy angels. And the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
To be zealous is to be jealous. It is not jealousy as we know it. Man is jealous of what belongs to another. God is jealous for what belongs to him. God is a husband to his people who is passionately determined to love his bride and will not share her with another. It means the Lord of hosts will not give up on you. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do it. If you want proof, run to the cross and look at Jesus. The baby in the manger was nailed to the cross for your sins and mine. They buried him in Joseph’s new tomb. But the zeal of the Lord of hosts raised him up on the third day with all power in his hand.