“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 is among the most well-known prophecies of the birth of Jesus in the Old Testament. Young children often memorize it in school at this time of year. There is a popular part of Handel’s Messiah which uses the words of this verse. It is a beautiful description of who Christ is. However, because the verse is so familiar, there is a danger for us simply to read over it without ever thinking about the significance of it and its connection to the following verse. To do so is to overlook a passage that is both instructive and comforting for us. Isaiah 9:6-7 underscores who our Lord Christ is, the nature of his reign, and the confidence we have in him and in God.
Verse 6 reveals who Jesus Christ is in three ways. One is the list of names given to him. He is called “Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” What beautiful names for him! Focusing on only two of the names, Scripture tells us that Jesus is on the one hand the mighty warrior God, the God who is never defeated, the God whose purpose always stands. Yet the same verse calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. He is of royal blood, and his rule over his kingdom is a rule of peace. No spiritual harm can or will befall the citizens of that kingdom. What a comfort for us to know this! Our Lord Christ is the all-powerful God, and he is also our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
Verse 6 also reveals that Christ is the one on whose shoulder the government rests. This emphasizes his rule and his dominion. He is the one to whom Psalm 72:8 refers, which reads, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” He is the rightful ruler. Therefore, he is divine—no being of any less power and authority than God himself could rightly assume such a throne and such great authority.
Lastly, Christ is born and given unto us. This means that he is born for our sake. The second person of the Trinity did not become incarnate for his own benefit. Christ came into this world with a single ultimate purpose: to die for the sake of unworthy sinners such as we are. That’s amazing! Further, the fact that Jesus was born and given unto us shows we play no role in this work. The salvation Christ came to purchase on our behalf was exactly that: on our behalf. In no way do we contribute. Jesus Christ was born and given unto as our salvation. The very name Jesus shows this: the angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was “of the Holy Ghost” and to “call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
However, Jesus Christ is not only Savior; he is also Lord. As such, he reigns over creation. Isaiah speaks to this truth as well in verse 7, which says, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” We read that the increase of his government and peace will be without end. This reminds us that the kingdom of Christ can never be defeated, and it never will. In the end, every knee will bow before him, and every tongue will confess him to be Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Isaiah also says that Christ’s rule is one of judgement and justice. He executes judgement on sin both temporally (shown throughout the book of Revelation, for example) and eternally. At the end of time, when every knee bows to him and every tongue confesses him, Christ will judge all people according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13). This does not mean that salvation is based on works, but it does mean that there will be varying degrees of reward and punishment into eternity. Christ judges wickedness in this way, but he is also just, and he rewards his people according to what they have done too (see also Revelation 22:12).
Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy emphasizes the confidence we have in God. The Old Testament Israelites did not have the luxury that we do of looking back on the coming of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Yet they were assured of its future fulfillment. This is because of the one who promised it: the Lord of hosts. He is God; there is none beside him. His decree is always fulfilled. Isaiah also told the people that it would be God’s zeal which would bring this about. God’s zeal refers to his ardent love for his people. Because God loved his people Israel (us included), he did fulfill this prophecy in the birth of Christ. Because of the zeal of the Lord of hosts, Israel had confidence that the Savior would one day come. Because of this same zeal, we too may be assured of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God born unto us.