Unto Us a Child Is Born

Unto Us a Child Is Born

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The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:2–7 NRSV)

This passage further expands on the light that was introduced in verse 1, explaining exactly what the nature of the light is. It is not an idea, nor a program, but a person. This is always the case: ideas and programs are important, but without a person to embody them they go nowhere. In this case, this person’s effect will be remarkable. Because of him the nation increases in size, but more than that, it increases in joy. What a contrast with 8:16–22.

The reference to “the day of Midian” (v. 4), referring to the deliverance that Gideon worked for his people (Judg. 6–7), helps us to understand the reason for the joy. This person to come is a great judge, a deliverer from all the oppressions of this world. In one sense, we may think of this promise figuratively. The great oppressions are sin and death; all the other oppressions in the world gain their power from these. If we are truly to be delivered from the darkness of this world, we must be delivered from these. That is what this person will do (see Romans 8:2). But if the “yoke,” the “bar,” and the “rod” are to be removed from us, and the bloody garments of oppression are to be destroyed (Isa. 9:4–5), there must be some sense in which this is the literal truth. That is what the promises of a new heaven and a new earth point to (see Isaiah 65:17–25). There will come a day when God rules his world in the peace, the shalom, the wholeness, for which it was intended (see Revelation 21:22–27).

So who is this person who will defeat all the power of evil in the world? He is a child. Surely not! If the monster of oppression is to be defeated, we need someone equally monstrous, although in the right direction. But it is not so. Throughout this entire segment from chapter 7 onward, Yahweh has been making his points through children. The power of God is not the power to be more oppressive than the oppressor, but to take all that the oppressor can do, and give back love. That is power. But this prominence of children does not begin with Isaiah 7. It goes all the way back, at least as far as Abraham, to the miracle child born to Sarah. And it extends right through the teaching of Jesus. According to him, it is as children that we enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:15). To trust God genuinely, we must become childlike again.

But who is this child? He is a son of David, so he must be a human. But he is at the same time “mighty God, everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). Surely that is no human; that is Yahweh. So who is this? Furthermore, he will rule in justice and righteousness, something the Servant of Yahweh is said to make possible in the world (see Isaiah 42:1, 3). In short, the picture here is of the God/Man, of whom there is only one in the universe: the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

  1. What are some of the qualities of a child that are particularly appropriate to the kingdom of God? Why would Jesus use this metaphor?
  2. How do sin and death foster oppression and bloodshed?
  3. There was a time when people believed that the church would bring about a day when bloodshed and oppression would cease. What is the flaw in that idea? Although it is flawed, why can we not cease seeking to move in that direction?

The Bible study The Book of Isaiah: Part I (Chapters 1–39) is now available from our store. If you enjoyed this entry, you’ll appreciate the profound lessons that can be learned from Dr. John Oswalt’s exposition of this important text. View this study in our store here.


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