The first part of Isaiah 9 brings us a well-known poem of the birth of Christ. The introduction to this poem and the first few stanzas may be read over without much study, as they are not as clear to our way of thinking.
Isaiah 9:1 (HCSB) Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.
Zebulun and Naphtali were northern tribes that were decimated by the Assyrian invasion; whose king established three provinces in the northern kingdom: Magiddo (Galilee), Du’Ru (the Way of the See), and Gal’aza (the land east of the Jordan). Knowing this makes the opening verse more clear: the northern kingdom was reeling under the heavy boot of Assyria and YHWH was promising a future of victory over them. Was this a temporal victory to reclaim dirt, or was Isaiah revealing something spiritual about the eternal kingdom?
Isaiah 9:2-3 (HCSB) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. ⌊The people⌋ have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
Here the Spirit reveals what is termed “prophetic perfect”, when that which is future is presented as present, now. Assyria had brought darkness to Israel, just as sin had brought darkness to the whole earth. A light has dawned – John wrote of this:
John 1:1-5 (HCSB) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
The light that overcomes the darkness is Christ Jesus. The nation that is enlarged is the body of Christ, wherein all who believe are one in Him. In Christ is unending joy that is firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus and not circumstances. This brings rejoicing at harvest time (when the harvest of souls is complete) when the rewards of labor are realized. We can understand while ethnic Israel saw renewed prosperity in the land as the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the references to Christ throughout tell us who are indwelt by the Spirit that something greater than Moses is here!
Isaiah 9:4-5 (HCSB) For You have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as ⌊You did⌋ on the day of Midian. For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.
This references the victory over the Middianites when God worked through Gideon (Judges 6). But it also speaks of the breaking of the yoke of sin when one is brought to new life in Christ, as He gives victory over sin that cannot be overturned. How do I know this? Because of what comes next.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (HCSB) For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.
While some have said that Hezekiah or Josiah are the one herein prophesied, none but Jesus fulfills all of these superlative descriptions. Not the government of ethnic Israel, but of the whole of creation will be on His shoulders (ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, Jesus announced, Matt 28:18). Who but Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace? As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus is identified as perfect wisdom. Mighty God shows Him to the Son of David. Eternal Father reflects His unity with God the Father and eternal nature as God. And no one brings peace with God to wretched sinners but Jesus. “Come to me, all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest! Peace I give, my peace; not as the world knows it. I have said these things to you so you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart – I have overcome the world!”
This the breaking of the heavy yoke, the giving of the light yoke. This is peace with God that the world can never provide nor understand. If you do not have peace, turn from those who promise peace, peace where there is no peace (politics, wealth, ease) and turn to the One Who, alone, can reconcile wretched sinners to God and bring unsurpassed peace to your soul.