I'm tracking the kings and prophets through the last days of the Israel and, soon after, Judah.
The timeline is a little fuzzy with II Kings, II Chronicles, and going in and out of the various prophets, who covers multiple kings. Here's a recap of where we are.
- In Israel: After the final hayday of Jeroboam II, Israel cycles through 5 kings in pretty quick succession. Assassination and regime change are the flavor of the day. We've arrived at Pekeh who reigns for a couple of years and is know for his brutality. (There is only one more king after him.)
- In Judah:
- Uzziah was a good king that turned sour and made some big mistakes. Uzziah's time was very prosperous and victorious.
- Jotham is considered a good king also, but didn't take care of all the idolatry. Jotham, like Uzziah, flourished and was prosperous and victorious.
- Jotham's son, Ahaz was not a good king and did terrible, reprehensible things, like sacrificing his sons to Molech.
- Because Ahaz does evil, the Lord begins the process of trying to correct him. Aram (Syria) and Israel come against him and have victory around Jerusalem, although they are not able to breach the actual walls of Jerusalem.
- The Lord tells Ahaz of a plot to breach the walls and offers to give Ahaz the victory, even going so far as to offer proof by any means Ahaz asks for it. Sadly, Ahaz declines the Lord's offer and, instead, gives all of the treasury to Assyria to help. Eventually taking on a new altar and new gods alongside the Lord's altar. He further breaks down the items in the Temple to pay Assyria's tribute. So...not good.
Hope is Jesus: Verse 1-7
Chapter 8 ended heavy-hearted. People were seeking wisdom from mediums, starving and hard-pressed, they curse their king and God. Eventually, they are all driven into darkness.
And then Chapter 9 begins with a whole new tone.
- The gloom will lift
- He will change His contempt for Zebulun and Naphtali to glory, as Jesus would come from the land of Galilee.
After Jesus, the Christ, is tempted in the desert by Stan and prevails, and John the Baptist is arrested, the Lord begins His public ministry. In Matthew 4:15 we see the fulfillment of this promise as Jesus brings honor to this area by beginning the next part of His ministry where there had previously been such destruction and judgement.
Verse 2-5: Prophesies of Better Days to Come
- The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
- The people who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.
- They will multiple and be glad
- They will be glad in the presence of the Lord- in harvest and in spoils (victories)
- There yoke will be broken and the punishing staff on their shoulders gone
- No need for the clothes of war.
And why? What is the basis of all of this new hope and good things?
For a child will be born to us, A son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6
And His name will be called
- Wonderful Counselor,
- Mighty God,
- Eternal Father,
- Prince of Peace.
Take a close look at what happened between the dark, grim end of Chapter 8 and the child Savior being born in the beginning of 9.
Nothing happened that we know of.
The people didn't repent and change.
The people didn't perform some ritual to earn it.
We did nothing. Because there was nothing we could do.
It was all grace. Every bit of it. Jesus comes to the Galilee area and it is glorious. That's not even in Judah. It's in Israel. That's how much grace and mercy is offered to us.
Let's never forget that. There is no good in us apart from Jesus who came to bring God's glory to our grim darkness.
While verse 6 tells the tale of his beginning as a child and His Name, verse 7 summarizes the rest of the story:
- There will be no end to the increase of His government
- or of peace
- On the throne of David and over his kingdom
- established and upheld in justice and righteousness
- from then on and forever
- The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Amen and Amen.
What an amazing promise. Especially in the midst of such wicked behavior. Mind bending, really.
Just briefly, as a bit of an aside, I wanted to speculate about the interesting name choices. God, and specifically Jesus, have many names. Why these 4?
- The one that first made me ask was Eternal Father. It was interesting to me that the Son would be know as Father. It made me wonder if the other Trinity aspects were represented.
- Prince of Peace seems to be a clear name for "Son".
- And I wondered if "Wonder Counselor" was the Holy Spirit, since Jesus tells us He has to go away that He could send us a Helper.
- Mighty God seems like all three.
Ryrie offered some support in my theory by explaining that "Wonderful" regularly means "supernatural". Also, it states that "mighty God" generally refers to Yahweh.
MacArthur doesn't support my take and Ryrie disagrees, stating this would make the persons of the Trinity indistinct. Multiple references say it's a more accurate translation to say, Father of eternity.
Judgement On Samaria
Sadly, the brief hope provided in the prophesies of verse 1-7 ends and Isaiah resumes his prophesies of the the end of Israel and out own end times.
The Lord sends a message against Jacob and it falls on Israel.Isaiah 9:8
Isaiah is, generally, a prophet to Judah; but he uses the imminent judgement of Israel as a warning of what happens if Judah stays on the similar path.
The fall of the northern kingdom is imminent. The people are proud and arrogantly claim that their defeats will turn to success- refusing to ask themselves why God is forsaking them.
So God raises up more enemies and spurs them on. On every side they attack and God does not hold them back.
And still, the people do not turn to Him or seek Him.
And so, God's grace, mercy, and blessing runs out. Verse 14 tells us, "So the Lord cuts off head and tail from Israel, both palm branch and bulrush in a single day."
Verse 15 tells us that the head is the elder and honorable man; and the tale is false prophets. In verse 16, Isaiah tells us that the leaders are leading the people astray and the followers are confused.
Verse 17 explains God's unwillingness to relent. The young men don't bring God joy and He doesn't even have sympathy for the widows and orphans that are, usually, at the top of His list of whom He cares. They are all godless evil-doers. "And every mouth is speaking foolishness."
Wow. Not good, Israel.
And not good, America. We are definitely in a season in which it seems that every mouth is speaking foolishness. Up is down. Boys are girls. The best way to enjoy free speech is to cancel anyone who disagrees with the mob...
Fire and Worse
Verse 18: Wickedness burns like fire, burning briars, thorns, and thickets. Sending the smoke into the heavens.
Verse 19: "By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up. The people are like fuel for the fire.
No man spares his bother. (No compassion left at all.)
In verse 20, they start slicing off their hands and arm and eating it, but are not hungry or satisfied.
Finally, in verse 21, Manasseh and Ephraim devour one another and turn against Judah. The MacArthur Bible Commentary points out that Manasseh and Ephraim were brothers. So an additional image of brothers turning on one another, as in verse 19.
Throughout this section, verse 8-21, Isaiah keeps using the refrain of God's anger not being turned away and His arm being stretched out against them. It's a terrifying image. The Lord Creator and leader of the heavenly armies stretched out His hand against you. As opposed to pulling you close and holding you in His hand.
Chapter Thoughts and Conclusions
It's always a bit disorienting when we read about God's judgement, then a brief respite into prophesies about the coming Savior and then God burning everything to the ground. However, I have to keep reminding myself that the Chapter breaks, numbering, and all of the Bible's organization is man-made. These were likely separate scrolls, written by Isaiah. By the same token, the same kind of disorientation is found in Revelations, with the world burning and Jesus arriving to end the war.
It's also worth repeating that the terrible imagery and finality of the prophesies here are regarding Israel. Amos has similar promises of the guaranteed judgement of Israel. However, Isaiah is telling of these prophesies to Judah. There is still hope. Still time to repent. Their end is not so definite. Or, it didn't have to be.
I also want to hold onto the idea that the Child was born to us, not be any of our doing. God unimaginable grace and inconceivable mercy- despite the fact that the young men no longer brought Him joy and that not even the widows or orphans could rouse His sympathy anymore.