God’s Gift to the World (Isa. 9:6-7)

(© Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 1992, 2011)

Isaiah 9:6-7: The Final King

Suppose you visit a church.  The sermon is about how to succeed in life.  Point one is to be kind to yourself, for Jesus said that we must love our neighbors “as ourselves.”  It is negative not to love ourselves.  Point two is to think positive thoughts, for how can you achieve success with negativism?  Thus, believe in yourself.  Point three is to follow three easy steps to financial success.[1] After all, God wants to bless His children, doesn’t He?

If someone who knew nothing about Christianity were to visit this church a dozen times, hearing basically the same things, would he understand what Christianity is all about? Does this sort of teaching help us to know Christ?

Now suppose you enter a Mosque.  You hear: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  You attend a dozen times, and always hear that creed and the Koran explained.  Would you know what Islam is about?

What is wrong with this picture?  Can we win spiritual battles with materialistic mantras while Islam teaches their people the essence of their faith?

In this season of the year, it is good for us to remember that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, even now, not just in some distant future, which is what Isaiah tells us.  He speaks of the One God promised Isaiah: the coming of the final King who would rule the world with peace and righteousness.  John Watts states:

Christian exegesis of the Old Testament is keenly aware of the elements which the New Testament understands to be fulfilled in Jesus. Foremost among these are the royal aspects of Messiah. Jesus is understood to be the Son of David, heir to divine promise of an everlasting and universal throne.

This understanding of Messiah is founded on 2 Sam 7:11b–16 and on the royal Psalms (including Pss 2, 45, and 110). These proclaim a very high view of the king and the kingdom, in which God is directly involved with both. Among the OT passages which present such a view, none ranks higher than Isaiah 9:5–6[6–7] or 11:1–5. The first lists throne names for the Davidic king of Zion (see below), while the second announces, or prays for, the spirit of the Lord to so fill him that he achieves the highest aims of the kingdom.

What the Old Testament, including Isaiah, can only record as promises and ideals that contrast starkly with human reality, the New Testament invites the Christian to see fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Son of David and Divine King of Heaven and Earth.[2]

Here is my proposed translation of Isaiah 9:6-7:[3]

(1)   For a child is born to us,[4]

(2)   a Son is given to us;

(3)   And the administration will be on His shoulder.

(4)   And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of eternity, Prince of peace.

(5)   Of the increase[5] of His administration and peace there will be no end,

(6)   Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from now and forever.

(7)   The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

The larger context concerns world peace and government.  Isaiah gives three reasons for joy in verses 4-6, each verse beginning with a “for.”  The first reason for joy in v. 4 is that sin has been dealt with.  In v. 5 the second reason is that the instruments of war have been destroyed.  The third reason is in vv. 6-7, which brings us to the translation above, the coming King.

(1) “Child” is put first in Hebrew for emphasis.  Notice that this refers to His humanity, and that He will be born, signifying the manner of His first coming.  As Isaiah says earlier, He will be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14).  “The divine ruler will not merely be God, but although partaking of the divine attributes, will have the most human of all arrivals upon the earth, namely birth.”[6]  Oswalt adds, “This is clearly an eschatological figure, the Messiah.  The Targum explicitly identifies the person as the Messiah.”[7]  The targum was written before Christ came, but after His birth, the Jews have reinterpreted this to mean the birth of Hezekiah, or some other.

(2) The “Son” is given, for as eternal deity He cannot be born.  Notice the accuracy of the language.  The Son cannot be born because He is eternal, thus He is given (John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son).  The child is born, which refers to the humanity that He gained at the Virgin conception.  We have here the prediction of the God-man, God and man in one person.  As man, He is born, but as God He is given, signifying His previous existence.  Indeed, He is without beginning (John 8:58)!  Very early Messiah was known as the God-man, not only from the many theophanies, but also from passages like this one.  (See Isa. 48:16 for the Trinity.  Gen. 4:1 may possibly be rendered “I have begotten a manchild, even the LORD,” though most reject that translation.)

(3) When world power was threatening to undo the people of God, God promised a child who would rule the world for His people.  He would not only rule, but the very “administration” (many versions render it “government”) itself would rest on Him.  The Hebrew word “administration” is not only the kingdom of God and grace but also nature and power (see Matt. 28:19, 20; Col. 1:15-19).  He would rule it all; that is, the kingdom of God and the world at large.  He would rule the kingdom of the world by sovereign might providentially, whether anyone liked it or not (Ps. 2:7-9), which would include not only nature but also the kingdoms of mankind.

(4) There are four names for Messiah in these verses, as supported by the Massoretic accentuation, not five as some translations have it.[8]  (a) “Wonderful Counselor” is a clear statement of His deity, for in Judges 13:18 the Angel of the LORD, using basically the same word, says His name is Wonderful.  As you may recall, the Angel of the LORD is God Himself (Exodus 3:1-14).  He is also “Counselor,” indicating that it requires wisdom to sit on David’s throne, and in Messiah “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom” (Col. 2:3).  “So this counselor is a wonder because his counsel goes beyond the merely human.”[9]  The Messiah therefore is a qualified statesman.

(b) He is called the “Mighty God” as a title of undisputed deity (see Isa. 10:21).  The word for “God” is “El,” which in this singular form is used only of God Almighty in the Old Testament.  “Whenever el gibbor [mighty God] occurs elsewhere in the Bible there is no doubt that the term refers to God (10:21; see also Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18).  This king will have God’s true might about him, power so great that it can absorb all the evil which can be hurled at it until none is left to hurl (53:2-10; 59:15-20; 63:1-9).”[10]  As Mighty God He is able to execute His plans, for He is our Hero of war.

(c) “Father of eternity” indicates one who is a Father to His people, for He is our guardian, a father in the sense of Ps. 103:13.  “This person’s fatherhood is claimed to be forever.”[11]  The United Pentecostals wrongly use this passage to say that Jesus is God the Father, thereby denying the most basic belief of Christianity of all time, the Holy Trinity.  But Jesus is a Father to His people—not a Father in relation to the Trinity.

(d) “Prince of peace” indicates the kind of ruler He will be.  “To elevate the Davidic government to a government of eternal peace is the end to which He is born.”[12]  (See also Zech. 9:9, 10; Micah 5:2-5a.)  “It is appropriate that this title should come as the last of the series, for it is the climactic one (see. 32:17).  What sort of king is this?  He is a peaceful king, one who comes in peace and one who established peace, not by a brutal squashing of all defiance, but by means of a transparent vulnerability which makes defiance pointless.  Somehow through him will come the reconciliation between God and man that will then make possible reconciliation between man and man (53:5; 57:19; 66:12; Luke 2:14; John 16:33; Rom. 5:1; Heb. 12:14).”[13]

(5) Peace and government are mentioned together, which is what the world is always seeking and not able to obtain apart from Him and His administration.  We see that Messiah’s reign will be perpetual and progressive.  Jesus’ kingdom will increase until He delivers to the Father a conquered kingdom at the end of the world:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed isdeath. (1 Cor. 15:22-26).

As Keil and Delitzsch rightly observe of the idea for increase:

Ever extending dominion and endless peace will be brought in by the sublime and lofty King’s Son, when He sits upon the throne of David and rules over David’s kingdom.[14]

And John Calvin is also very insightful in his commentary on Isaiah 9:7:

Now, this continuance, of which Isaiah now speaks, consists of two parts. It belongs both to time and to quality. Though the kingdom of Christ is in such a condition that it appears as if it were about to perish at every moment, yet God not only protects and defends it, but also extends its boundaries far and wide, and then preserves and carries it forward in uninterrupted progression to eternity. We ought firmly to believe this, that the frequency of those shocks by which the Church is shaken may not weaken our faith, when we learn that, amidst the mad outcry and violent attacks of enemies, the kingdom of Christ stands firm through the invincible power of God, so that, though the whole world should oppose and resist, it will remain through all ages. We must not judge of its stability from the present appearances of things, but from the promise, which assures us of its continuance and of its constant increase.

(6) Furthermore, His reign is to be over David’s throne and kingdom.  Let us observe several things here: (a) The reign is said by Isaiah to begin with the birth of the babe (“from that time forward,” which means from the time the child is born and the Son is given), which the New Testament confirms:

31 [An angel says to Mary:] “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

29 [Peter speaking:] “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’  36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (Acts 2:29-36)!

(b) A 1,000 millennium is not forever, and the text says His rule is to be forever, beginning with His birth, having no end, and gaining in momentum over the centuries.

(c) “Administration” and “kingdom” are used synonymously, indicating that both began at His birth.  We see the same thing in Daniel where God said that in the days of the Roman empire that He would establish a kingdom that would destroy all other kingdoms, would fill the whole earth, and would last forever.

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)

44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure. (Dan. 2:44-45).

The saints received it from the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9-14, 18, 22, 27).  We know assuredly that Christ received the kingdom at His ascension and that it is now spreading over the whole earth (Acts 6:7; 14:22; 20:25; 28:23, 31).  In fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant that he would be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; Gal. 3:8), the sovereign King of kings gave his apostles the great commission that the kingdom was now for the whole world:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt 28:18-20)

(d) This One will be the final King as seen in that His kingdom will never end, “from now and forever.”

(7) This indicates the certainty of what will be accomplished.  “In itself this zeal . . . designates the deep love which God has for His people and . . . His profound desire to protect and guard them and their welfare.  But even more the word signifies a determined jealously to protect the divine honor and to vindicate the divine purposes.”[15]  There is no power and no person, not even Satan, who can stop the good purposes of this King!  Christians are winners!  Let us remember that the Lord of glory came to earth not only to save His people from their sins, but also to establish a kingdom that would be perpetual and progressive, “for He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).

Even so, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Let us remember the reason for the season.  Amen.

 


[1]  (Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about finances, and there is a proper time to teach on these matters, but not when we come to worship God and proclaim His Gospel.)

[2]John D.W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 24: Isaiah 1-33, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998, CD ROM, on Isa. 9:6-7.

[3] I teach Hebrew in seminary.

[4] In this section of Isaiah, the Hebrew is one verse behind the English.

[5] The Jewish commentators made much of the final mem that is not final but occurring up front in the word.  It just seems to be a scribal error.

[6] John A. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, p. 245.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Only an arbitrary emendation can produce five names.

[9] Oswalt, Isaiah, p. 247.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Keil and Delitzsch, electronic version.

[13] Oswalt, Isaiah, p. 248.

[14] K&D, electronic version on Isaiah 9:7.

[15] E. J. Young on Isaiah 9 in his commentary.

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