The middle portion of Isaiah 9, beginning with verse 8, brings a shift in focus. From the exceedingly good news of Christ as the Son of God to Jesus as Lord who will bring chastisement upon ethnic Israel for their continued rebellion.
Isaiah 9:8-9 (HCSB) The Lord sent a message against Jacob; it came against Israel. All the people— Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—will know it.
YHWH brought a message against Jacob and Israel – both the south and northern kingdoms; nobody in the Mosaic Covenant community escapes. Everyone – from a lesser tribe of Israel to the “mixed breed” people – will know this, that the God of Israel brings judgement against His people. At the end of the age, when Christ Jesus comes the second time, bringing judgment to the world, everyone on the planet will know it. Only none of the saints will suffer that judgment, for He will gather the sheep to Himself.
Isaiah 9:9-10 (HCSB) They will say with pride and arrogance: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.”
This short passage reveals the underlying problem that plagued ethnic Israel. They declared, many generations before, that some may trust in horses and chariots but they, the people of Israel, trusted in the name of YHWH! Yet they generally lived in mostly open rebellion against Him, trusting in wealth and seeking approval of pagan nations. They boasted in their ability to rebuild what had been torn down – as if God dwelt in houses made of stone.
Isaiah 9:11-12 (HCSB) The LORD has raised up Rezin’s adversaries against him and stirred up his enemies. Aram from the east and Philistia from the west have consumed Israel with open mouths. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.
Rezin was king of Assyria; YHWH raised up adversaries against him, stirring up enemies who also consumed Israel. Many times God had raised up pagan nations to punish national Israel for their rebellion. Sin against the Creator is not a light thing and His anger is not removed by cries of anguish and false tears of contrition; He will mete out His wrath on those who do not repent and embrace the Son.
Isaiah 9:13-16 (HCSB) The people did not turn to Him who struck them; they did not seek the LORD of Hosts. So the LORD cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. The head is the elder, the honored one; the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher. The leaders of the people mislead ⌊them⌋, and those they mislead are swallowed up.
Chastisement of His people is intended to remind them of their promises and His faithfulness; just as discipline in the New Covenant congregation is intended. Yet Jacob and Israel did not repent, did not turn back and seek their God. So their God “cut off Israel’s head and tail” – a picture of complete destruction. We learn that head and tail are leaders who led people astray, and those who were misled were swallowed up. Be careful who you follow, test all things in light of Scripture – else you and I could be swallowed up in the error of our leaders.
Isaiah 9:17 (HCSB) Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over Israel’s young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows, for everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised ⌊to strike⌋.
This last verse is some of the saddest in Scripture. YHWH will not rejoice over the young men nor have compassion on the fatherless and widows amongst His covenant people. Because EVERYONE is a godless evildoer and every mouth speaks folly. Without union with Christ, being born from above and indwelt by the Spirit, we would each and everyone be godless evildoers, speaking folly. For all who are apart from Christ, God’s anger is not removed, His hand is still raised to strike.
Judgment Day is coming. Are you trusting in your stuff or are you trusting in Christ Jesus and His completed work of redemption? What happened to ethnic Israel was for us, that we would not sin as they did (Rom 15:4, 1 Cor 10:11). While ye yet have breath, cry out to God, pleading with Him for mercy and new life in Christ. He is coming again. Not to deal with sin, but to gather those who eagerly await Him.