“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 (Isaiah 9:6-7).”
This passage of scripture, when taken in its context, is speaking of the hope found in the coming of the Messiah. That the Messiah would deliver his people and that the Messiah is a mighty ruler who comes to redeem his people and rule. Who or what does he rule? In the ultimate sense he rules over all; the believer, the non-believer, the grass, the birds, the animals, all of creation. There is not one single rogue molecule not under the governance of King Jesus. As this passage begins, it is telling us of who is to come; a child and a son. A human child who is the Son of God. In fact, this makes him the only baby that is a true miracle to ever be born. He is born as the God-Man, God incarnate, and God the Son. All other babies, past, present, and future pale in comparison to this. Though marvelous, and truly gifts from God, all others born are of a natural, human, fallen nature. Only the baby born to which this prophecy pertains was born a human, but also had the full nature of God, the fullness of deity simultaneously. This is why we can boldly and confidently claim that he was God and man at the same time without compromising either, losing the nature of either, or conflicting with either. While he was born of human parentage (through Mary), he was entirely given to us by God with a mission: to redeem his people through his life, death, burial, and resurrection and to establish his kingdom.
As the verses continue, we get to a deeper description of just who this baby is. He is a Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. These two descriptors are names harkening back to the idea that he is Immanuel, God with us. He is also named as Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace which speak to the conditions that are present because of who he is as God the Son. When we consider the name “Wonderful Counselor,” do we often times think of what that means or to what it truly pertains? Probably not. The idea of wonder in the Old Testament is the idea of something supernatural. So to say that he is Wonderful Counselor is to say that he is a supernatural counselor, and/or he is one who gives supernatural counsel. Both of these are blessings to us, but it is of infinite importance if he is in fact a king. Especially if he is “Mighty God” on top of being a king. The decisions made by a king can, quite literally, make or break an entire kingdom. Kingdoms rise and fall on the decisions of their rulers. How important it is that the Everlasting King be one that himself is able to provide supernatural, eternal counsel. He needs no other counsel than that of his own, for all wisdom pours forth from him, the source. Being that he is Mighty God as well, we ought to sing praises for his wisdom. For in his wisdom, in his mercy, in his grace, we are oftentimes shielded from what it means for him to truly be mighty. In our modern vernacular the idea of something being mighty is that it possesses great and impressive strength and power. The biblical idea of might, or of one being mighty, is not too far off. The term mighty was applied to those great warriors (such as David’s mighty men) that were renowned for feats of strength, power, and martial ability. Oftentimes we don’t like to think about the Lord being a great and mighty warrior because that does not give us the warm fuzzies. However, as Scripture states in Exodus 15:3, “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” We must ask ourselves, why does the idea that he is a warrior or a Mighty God make us uncomfortable? If we are in Christ, then we are under this mighty King’s protection. Those who rebel and strain against him are the ones who should be worried. For the gates of Hell and the evilest of men shall never succeed in toppling this King from his throne. In fact, as the psalmist states in 59:8, “But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.” Not only will they not prevail, but they will be laughed at by the King and he will contemptuously mock and ridicule them. Keep in mind, when we speak of the idea of him being a great and mighty warrior, we are not just talking in a physical sense. While it is true that you would never, in a completely hypothetical situation, want to square off against the Lord on a battlefield due to the fact that you would die before you even realized what happened, we are actually getting at the fact that he and he alone is truly mighty in his rule and reign. We also understand this to not be only in a physical sense, but in a spiritually ultimate sense as well. The powers of Satan and sin are nothing before the might of the Lord.
Due to these qualities, he is able to guarantee his people’s preservation (through his great wisdom) and liberation (through warrior strength). It is because of these two overarching qualities that the conditions spoken of in the names Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace come to pass. When it discusses the idea of him being an Everlasting Father, it points toward the concern he has for the least of these, the helpless, to his care and discipline of his people, and to his people’s reverential response of loyalty and love. In him is also found all peace, and the idea of being the “Prince of Peace” is that he himself is the whole man, fully integrated, who is at one with God and mankind. As such, and as a prince, he is able to fully administer these great benefits to his people as well. Because of who he is, we are who we are. His unchanging nature and his perfection lead us perfectly into the final ideas found in verse 7 of the above verses. In this verse, we move away from him specifically to briefly discuss the rise and quality of his government, or his kingdom.
While we understand that Jesus is of the line of David, as is shown in the genealogy of Matthew 1, we never quite understand the tension between the idea of Jesus being the God-Man. While he is a descendent of, arguably, the greatest mortal king to ever walk the earth, and so he is in line for the throne, he is much more. His kingship is also that of God; being ruler of all creation. This is why the Jews of his day were so confused as to the idea of him being a king or having a kingdom. They were looking for someone who would overthrow the Roman Empire and rule from a physical throne. To them, that was a vital part of the Messianic prophecy; that he would rule. What they failed to realize, many Jews still fail to realize, and many people today fail to realize, is that Jesus does exactly that. He rules and reigns presently and forevermore. His kingdom is built upon the foundations of justice and righteousness. Not justice as we understand, but on God’s justice and upon the righteousness only found in God. Many get hung up on the fact that there is still pain, sadness, sickness, evil, death, and so forth in the world. For them it is proof that Jesus is not presently ruling and reigning. However, these are actually examples of how our king is longsuffering, patient, gracious and merciful. Though these all exist as a result of the fall, the fact that creation still moves forward and people are still saved and redeemed through it all screams to the loving mercies of our king. In reality, the argument that the existence of such “bad things” proves that he is not presently reigning falls flat when held against the light of Scripture. These are just a few biblical examples of Jesus himself discussing his kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15),” “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (Luke 17:20-21),” “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17),” and finally, a greatly misunderstood verse, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world (John 18:36).”
Now, while we will not get into a great exegetically steeped discussion on the ins and outs of such verses (kingdom theology will have to wait for another series of posts), we can simply say that Jesus himself made it clear that he is a king. The final verse just shared, John 18:36, when taken in context with the surrounding verses, shows an exchange in which Jesus never denies that he is in fact a king when speaking with Pilate. All he simply states is that his kingdom is not OF this world. While only two letters, there is a lot to unpack in the tiny word, “of.” Jesus is not saying that his kingdom is not in this world, is not throughout this world, is not over and above this world, or that all of creation is not within the borders of his kingdom. What he simply says, quite literally, is that this kingdom that is referenced, his kingdom, is not of this world; it is unlike any earthly kingdom we can comprehend. In fact, because his kingdom is unlike any that came before, his is the only kingdom that has been established that will endure forever. Since his kingdom and his kingship exist for all of eternity, since his coming onwards, he is the only one that can rule for only he is of the eternal nature required. It is his perfect, abiding, jealous love that makes all this come to pass and all this true. It is his zeal, or his enthusiastic pursuit, of the cause of his glory that causes all this to come to pass.
We must understand that as these two verses end, they end with the idea that this mission of God will succeed, and it is due only to his nature and to who he is. His love and his glory will not suffer contest, nor will they give way before any lesser nature or will. As all things have been created by him, all will and nature is subservient and lesser than he. It is also this same love that moves him to save his people and to use them to fulfill the purpose for which he has created them. All of this determination and zealous will to accomplish all he has planned and purposed stems from his very nature, and that nature is a nature that saves his people and crushes his enemies. We can take heart in such a powerful message spoken through the prophet because of all that is packed into such a prophecy. All too often we dilute such a beautiful, magnificent truth to a cheesy hallmark card, or some quick little meme posted on social media. While there is so much more to say about who God is, the birth of Christ, who Christ is, his kingdom, his nature, and so forth, we must also be able to look at a passage such as the one above and marvel in its glorious truth. As we celebrate our King’s birth this advent season, let us repent of our lack of reverence and awe at who he is and let us thankfully and passionately worship the God of the Bible and the birth of our King on high.