Let the Word Speak!

Isaiah 9:2-7: Don’t Overlook the Joy

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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.
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 with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

English Standard Version

 

Our God is a God of joy!

Much of the message of Isaiah and his peers confronted the sinfulness and rebellion of God’s people, and the inevitability of the results that would come from that rebellion. At the same time, Isaiah and the other prophets also spoke of God’s plans for restoration and of the joy that would come with that reconciliation to God. In this particular passage, Isaiah shows God’s determination and power through a number of contrasts:

Out of a broken nation will come a strong and growing nation.

Out of the darkness will come light.

Out of slavery will come freedom.

Out of the temporality of earthly life will come the eternity of life with God.

God is bringing this about in ways that contrast our expectations as well. Instead of a mighty warrior and leader, a child will come. The first title used to describe this holy Child is “wonderful counselor”, one who advises us and shares wisdom with us, not one who exercises authority to command us. That this Counselor is also called the Mighty God emphasizes this remarkable means of salvation even more. The Messiah is not the drill sergeant to train us into proper soldiers, but the eternal Light encouraging and urging us to leave the darkness.

The final contrast is between our troubled ways and the ways of the Prince of Peace. We strive and fail, creating division and uproar. Our Savior heals, unites, and creates everlasting peace. We struggle in our search for happiness, but God gives us miraculous joy. Isaiah tells us God acts with zeal, enthusiastically bringing about the peace and joy that God so deeply wants us to have.

In one sense, we know that what was foretold in this prophesy has happened—Jesus came to live with us, to experience humanity, and to show us the Way. We know just as surely that God still comes to live with us and in us today. God still counsels and guides us into experiencing Life as God intends it for us, and that we have the joy and peace of Emmanuel, of God With Us, always.

We miss the breadth of what God is giving to us too often. We recognize the reconciliation, we are deeply grateful for the forgiveness, and we value the guidance, for these things we can add into our schedules while still maintaining enough control to meet all our obligations. That is not what God wants for us. Peace and Joy, in the overflowing measure that God is eager to provide us, requires us to release our illusion of control, to “wait on the Lord”, and to let God lead us.

This is the “gospel”, the good news, of Christmas—we are not alone, trying to make the best of the messes we have made. God has come and remains with us to free us from ourselves, to give to us blessings that we could never earn and do not deserve, and to overwhelm us with Love. Joy has come to the world for every one of us!

 


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.
Copyright © 2014 Jonathan Morris
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