In my last post (What Child IS This?) we saw who Jesus was prophesied to be. Now we’ll look at what Isaiah said He will do (Isaiah 9).
While Jesus was born in Bethlehem, His childhood years were spent in Nazareth until He began His ministry. Nazareth sits due west of the Sea of Galilee. Contrary to confused people, Jesus didn’t travel to India or Tibet to learn the secrets of the eastern masters. That’s just ridiculous.
He stayed home and grew up just like every other good Jewish boy did. He learned the Torah, learned a trade, and took care of his mother, Miriam, after His earthly father, Joseph, died. When the time came for Jesus to begin His mission, He left home and made His ministry HQ in the town of Kfar-Nachum (Capernaum) on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus’ growing up years and ministry emphasis (outside of Jerusalem) was primarily in the Galilee region, “Galilee of the Gentiles.” It was called Galilee of the Gentiles because of what the Assyrian army did to Israel 730+ years before Jesus’ birth.
Due to King Solomon’s sin of rampant idolatry, God stripped 10 tribes from David’s royal line, which split the nation into two. (Yeah, Solomon didn’t follow the wisdom God gave him.) This created the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. While Judah had their ups and downs with idolatry, the northern kingdom pretty much composted spiritually from the start. Once the northern kingdom’s first king, Jeroboam I, set up golden calf idols on the kingdom’s northern and southern borders, it was all downhill from there (2 Kings 12:25-33).
What was God’s judgment for Israel’s covenant violation of idolatry? One of His judgments was to call a hostile nation to attack His people. In short, God said, “You abandon Me? Then I will abandon you… into the hands of your enemies,” resulting in His people being exiled. He even foretold through Moses this would happen,
“All the nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this intense outburst of anger?’ Then people will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, which he had made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt… The Lord uprooted them from their land in his anger, rage, and intense wrath, and threw them into another land where they are today” (Deuteronomy 29:24-28, bold author).
The Assyrian empire was God’s hammer to Israel’s anvil. In A.D. 734-732, the Assyrian forces hit Israel hard from the north in repeated strikes, devastating the nation. After conquering a people group, the Assyrians had a great tactic to prevent peoples from rising in a future nationalistic rebellion. The Assyrians simply exiled most of the population, dispersing them through their empire and then replacing the population with other people groups they had conquered. So, the Israelites were exiled to the east, and Gentiles were moved west and planted in the land (2 Kings 17:6, 24).
What was once a Jewish nation (the northern kingdom) became a majority mix of imported Gentiles scattered among the remaining Jewish remnant. Hence, “Galilee of the Gentiles.” But something fascinating happened. After being attacked by lions, the imported Gentile refugees cried out to the Assyrian king, “The nations that you have deported and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the requirements of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them that are killing them because the people don’t know the requirements of the god of the land” (2 Kings 17:26). So the Assyrian king sent back an Israelite priest who “began to teach them how they should fear the Lord.”
But the Gentiles simply added the Israelite religion to their idolatry. Plus, the remaining Jews often intermarried with those Gentiles (*gasp*)! Over time there arose a mixed people with a confused faith. This is why there was such animosity between the southern Jewish population in and around Jerusalem and the northern Galilee region with the “mixed” Samaritans (Jewish/Gentile) and other Gentile villages in Jesus’ day. What was once an area of “light” (God’s revelation) was now spiritually dark, lacking the accurate revelation of the One True God.
So what did Isaiah see about this “dark place” hundreds of years before Jesus? What did God show him? This light, this Child, would shine the revelation of God in a never before seen way!
Galilee of the Gentiles, the humbled and despised place of “gloom” and “distress” would someday be the place where God’s light, the true revelation of the Father, would dawn. This is so cool! It wouldn’t be in Jerusalem, where the magnificent Temple stood that God’s finest revelation would appear in its fullness. God’s “light” would rise in the back-country, broken-down area of humiliated and scorned half-breed Jews and Gentiles.
According to Isaiah 9:1, the dishonored people will receive honor by God’s grace to watch God’s Son in the flesh grow to maturity before their very eyes! God’s best revelation that humans could understand, Immanuel “God With Us,” would slowly, quietly, and peacefully rise from the darkness of Galilee of the Gentiles.
Jesus wasn’t raised in Jerusalem, for He doesn’t belong to the Jews alone. He wasn’t raised in the Decapolis, east of Galilee, for He doesn’t belong to the Gentiles alone. He came to a dark place, inhabited by Jews and Gentiles, sinners and mixed up people of all kinds, to turn up the spiritual light for all who would see. And for those who saw, great joy broke forth!
Isaiah’s Child, the Son who would be given, would bring great joy.“You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils” (Isaiah 9:3). How much joy? As the angels proclaimed over the shepherds in Bethlehem, “great joy that will be for all the people… the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11)
Man, I love that! For all the people! That means God’s great joy is meant for you, right now! Messiah, the Lord, Jesus, is for you even if you’re mixed-up, humiliated, scorned, disregarded, and despised by other people. He is for you. I pray the light of that revelation floods your soul!
In Jewish cultural terms, the joy “this Child” will bring will overshadow the immense joy of a full harvest that delivers a year’s provision, providing security and peace. It will be more intense than rejoicing over spoils after a great battlefield victory. These aren’t ordinary joys. They come after much toil, trouble, and fear. Those things amplify joy when it comes. Jesus is God’s amped-up joy sent to a down-trodden world.
This Child will bring deliverance and the end of warfare. “For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as You did on the day of Midian. For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire” (Isaiah 9:4-5)
The yoke. Isaiah was picturing what the Assyrians had done to his northern kinsfolk. After Israel was conquered, the people were now under Assyria’s oppressive, unyielding, and inescapable yoke. How descriptive of our enslavement to sin and death! And yet, the Son-who-was-given shatters Satan’s oppressive, unyielding, and inescapable yoke and binds us to Himself with a light and easy yoke to walk with Him in peace and joy (Matthew 11:30).
The rod. The shepherd’s rod is a short wooden stick used to guide compliant sheep or discipline rebellious ones. This was Isaiah’s picture of Assyria’s army. God alone reserves the right to discipline His people, but He applies it with justice and mercy. Through His justice tempered by mercy, Jesus removed our punishment for sin from our shoulders by accepting a rod of wood across His own.
The staff. The shepherd’s staff is used to exert the shepherd’s authority, to pull the sheep back to the fold, and move the sheep per the shepherd’s direction. Isaiah prophesied that Assyria’s harsh authority and power would one day be destroyed. In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s Son would ultimately break Satan’s authority, free His sheep from their enemy’s control, and guide them into the green pasture of His presence forever. How easy would this be?
Defeating Midian. As easy as it was for a small group of three hundred Israelites under Gideon to defeat a vast hoard of Midianites (Judges 7:12). It took less than a day for Gideon to defeat the Midianites. Isaiah’s promised Son, Jesus, took less than a day to route humanity’s greatest and seemingly undefeatable enemy. And He did it all by Himself.
Boots and bloodied garments burned. Burning war boots means no more threat because the enemy is no more. Bloodied garments refer to the act of smearing blood onto one’s battle clothing from previous battles to intimidate an enemy. Therefore, there will be no more intimidation from our enemy for Jesus has destroyed sin and death.
And finally, this Child will have the government on his shoulders. “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders... The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
According to the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Bible Commentary, “The ensign of office used to be worn on the shoulder, in token of sustaining the government.” Jesus was sent by His Father to create the conditions for God’s kingdom on earth (redeemed humanity through His sacrifice) and upon His return, Jesus will begin His long-prophesied reign as He “shoulders full responsibility” over His Father’s kingdom. God’s never-ending kingdom began in His people when the Spirit arrived at Pentecost and God’s never-ending physical kingdom is yet to be fulfilled. That physical kingdom will center on Israel and reign through every person on a restored earth as well.
The best part? Messiah will rule with absolute righteousness and justice. What a blessing that will be. And how long will God’s kingdom last? Only forever!
This Child, so long ago prophesied by Isaiah, is Jesus. Yes, Isaiah was prophesying of his own son as a confirmation of God’s word through him at the time of the Assyrians. But as is so common in scripture, God’s word is fulfilled in His Living Word, Jesus His Son, given by our Heavenly Father to live, and die, and live again so we can live with Him forever.
Rejoice in good tidings of a great joy, for Jesus was here, is here, and will return to “take up the throne of His father David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forth and evermore.”
How will this happen? What must we do? Nothing!
“The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts