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Isaiah 9:2-7

How often does God speak a word to us that takes longer than we’d like before it begins to make sense?

In this text, Isaiah is prophesying a coming king meant to right the wrongs of King Ahaz, who failed to lead Judah in its occupation by the Assyrians. The coming king Isaiah believes he was speaking of would most likely be King Hezekiah, who would go on to marry Isaiah’s daughter and become a profoundly righteous and holy leader of Judah.

But, we read it today and know that Hezekiah’s kingdom, dedicated by Hezekiah to YHWH’s rule and reign, lived only as long as he did. His son, Manassah, inherited the crown and instituted polytheistic religions of both native pagans and neighboring kingdoms, slaughtering prophets and disciples of the prophets in the process. Many passages of scripture condemn him for his brutality and bloodthirst.

Who, then, is this child of endless peace, of righteousness from this time onward and forevermore? Who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?

This prophecy was spoken in a time of darkness, a season of injustice and distrust, as the land of God’s people is occupied by foreign, pagan powers. Isaiah speaks a word of a great light soon to dawn on this deep darkness which has settled over his nation like a fog. The hearer of the text in its original time might have perceived this as a prophetic declaration of what this coming King would one day do. However, the prophecy is in the present tense. The child is not king yet, Assyria has not left Judah, the cloud of oppression doesn’t appear to have lifted, but Isaiah says that a great light has arisen, that joy has been restored, that the rod of the oppressor has been broken. The Hebrew language may just have less concrete rules of language surrounding the tenses translated here into English. But, there may also be some element of spiritual truth, beyond the scope and immediacy of Isaiah’s present moment, where this prophecy reveals some core truth about the character and persons of the trinity that will one day be made flesh in Christ Jesus.

In the prophecy, Isaiah speaks first of the righteousness that has and will take place, describing it in vivid detail, and then tells us who it is that will accomplish it. The people of God have had their lives colored by sorrow, lament, oppression, and loss. Isaiah’s prophecy engages with that dark coloring and repaints it, piece by piece.

First, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. The people of God have caught a glimpse of light dawning like the sunrise, replacing their sorrow with hope.