Imagine living in a world with no enemy armies or criminals, on land so fertile (uncursed) even the desert blooms, and with rainfall thats abundant and predictable (30:23). Each day is so peaceful and full of Gods Spirit that the sick and injured are healed. Not even animals become ill or attack one another, and no person is poor or outcast. In such an atmosphere everyone lives out their full life-span, and since children dont die prematurely families become enormous in just a matter of a few generations. Yet there is still plenty of food and room for everyone. Its a place so safe no one keeps a weapon and people even allow their farm animals to roam freely (32:20).
Imagine a government with absolutely no corruption; a court system that makes only just decisions based on all the facts; local leaders who really care about you and are happy to pray for you. National and regional jealousies are kept firmly under control and there will be no political prisoners.
Imagine a world in which atheism and all forms of false philosophy and religion have ceased. Everyone knows Jesus is Gods divine Son though some still refuse to follow Him in their hearts (26:10). People from every part of the globe will make pilgrimages to Jerusalem in order to learn from Jesus and worship Him; and the age-old separation between Jews and Gentiles will cease. And for a thousand years this remarkable atmosphere wont change with passing generations. Children will routinely grow up to love God and follow Him.
Over and over again Isaiah presents us with snapshots of the world as it will look during that future age when the Messiah comes. And you and I will be part of those events because Jesus will resurrect us and bring us with Him when He returns. Given the glorious future thats waiting for us its no wonder that Isaiah heard God say,
be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people, and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying (Isa 65:18, 19).
What does Isaiah say? (Isa 9:1-7)
V 1 Zebulun and Naphtali were the two northeastern tribes living on the land west of the Jordan. Later the region was know as upper and lower Galilee.
The area was attacked and depopulated by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 15:29) in 733 B.C. Samaria, the capitol of the northern kingdom, was conquered in 721 B.C. bringing that kingdom to a complete end.
See Matthew 4:12-17
The way of the sea is the region to the west of the sea of Galilee through which runs a major trade highway connecting Mesopotamia and Egypt (via maris).
The land on the other side of the Jordan is the portion of Naphtali which lies east of the Jordan River.
Galilee of the Gentiles is the most northerly region of Galilee populated by a mixture of Gentiles who settled there after the Assyrians removed most of the Israelites.
V 2 The people there were ignorant of the true God and lived sinful lives. But God would send the Messiah to that place to bring revelation and salvation.
Isaiah describes the exact boundaries of the area where Jesus lived and conducted most of His ministry. All but one of His disciples also came from here.
V 3 Isaiah addresses the Messiah directly and says He will bring many people to God. The family (nation) of true believers will explode in size.
Not only will there be more true believers, but His presence among them will make them very happy. They will rejoice like farmers who have just completed a successful harvest or a victorious army that divides among themselves the enemies riches.
V 4 The Messiah will free His followers from those who have oppressed them. Even if their oppressors are very powerful and greatly outnumber them, He will work a miracle just like He did for Gideon against the Midianites (Jgd 7:1-25).
V 5 The Messiah will win a military victory against an enemy army which will attempt to destroy His people (Armaggedon)
V 6 The Messiah will be a human child born to the family of David (v 7), but He will be Gods gift to all humans.
He shall receive the rulership of this earth from the Father (a king, a ruler, a sovereign).
The name Isaiah gives Him tells us who He really is. And His name shall be called:
1) Wonder: He Himself will be an incomprehensible wonder (Jdg 13:17, 18)
2) Counselor: He shall guide us with supernatural wisdom; a righteous judge (Isa 11:2; Mic 4:9; Ps 16:7; Ro 11:33, 34; 1Co 1:24; Col 2:3).
3) Mighty God: (El Gibbor): As a mighty warrior (hero) He will destroy the antichrists army. Messiah is divine.
4) Everlasting Father: (LXX: Father of the age to come): He shall be a king (father) to His people eternally. He will govern the Messianic Age (Millennium) He is our Source for eternal life.
5) Prince of Peace: The Messiah will bring Gods glorious kingdom of peace to the earth (Hos 2:18; Eph 2:14; Lk 2:14).
V 7 The Messiah will be the son promised to David who God will establish as a king forever (2Sa 7:12, 13; Da 7:13, 14). His rule will be marked by justice (everyone is treated kindly and fairly) and righteousness (people will live according to Gods moral laws).
God promises to send this Messiah regardless of whether or not any humans obey Him.
Read: Luke 2:8-14
Three reasons to rejoice
Its difficult to describe the things God does using everyday words because the dimensions in which God works are so much larger than our common human experience. The word joy which we are looking at today is an example of this. We all recognize joy as an emotion we feel when we hear good news (relief, anticipation, thanks). But we also know this type of joy passes away quickly like every other positive emotion. So when we turn to Isaiah we should not be surprised to find a type of joy that goes far beyond what we normally experience, a joy thats deep and lasting. And this is because it finds its source in God. For Isaiah, joy is essentially a spiritual experience. In this passage he gives us three reasons to rejoice:
1. The Messiah is coming (9:6)
I have a great future. No matter how bad things may be at the moment, its only temporary. This night will pass and a glorious new day is waiting.
My perspective on what I can expect from this life changes enormously. In my thinking the purpose of life takes me on a very different role. This world becomes a place of testing and training for what lies ahead, not a racetrack where Im running against my fellow human beings to prove myself worthy before I die (this is why full-surrender breaks certain kinds of depression).
Isaiah shouts to us: Look! Pull your head out of the sand and see where you are going.
God in His goodness has overruled our sin and given us a wonderful future in spite of ourselves. Look at His grace and rejoice.
2. Glad in Your presence (9:3)
There is a new reality at work in my present circumstances. The same Holy Spirit who will create such a glorious world in the future already dwells in me and will create joy now if I will only do my part.
There is an emotional lift in buying stuff or hearing good news, but it passes quickly and the quiet desperation returns. But there is a consistent source of joy thats available to us: we can find joy whenever we break through into Gods presence. Because of the New Covenant we are the ones who now limit how much of the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, not Him.
Spiritual joy is the delight I feel when Im close to God.
In the future:
the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14; Isa 11:9).
Now: Im given foretastes of the age to come, I can draw near to the Lord and He will draw near to me.
Joy is the atmosphere of heaven. God is joyful.
Me: A delightful sense of being loved; having a future of undamaged potential (Im not ruined or handicapped by the past), of being surrounded by someone so strong that nothing including death can hurt me; of being suspended in time (not aging for a moment); of exhilaration at the beauty of Gods holiness; of gratitude for the privilege of effecting someone elses eternity; of relief at having a real adult in my life who knows what Hes doing and can guide me to make the right choices (I want a leader. I want to follow someone. I know I dont know what Im doing. To me the issues of life are overwhelming).
3. The increase of His government (9:7)
God is at work in me turning the focus of my attention off myself and onto Him and others. Surprisingly, the more I invest in helping others find Him the more joy I experience.
Its counterintuitive: one would think that the more I comfort myself the happier I would be, but experience proves that introspection and selfishness leave me lonely and depressed. When I set my own needs aside to serve the Lord I become happy.
The pressures of serving force me back to #2 (above).
Isaiah 54:1-3 and Acts 1:8
We feel the Holy Spirit working through us. We sense His strength and see results beyond ourselves.
This is what I was made for! I wish I could quit my job and do this full-time.
Isaiah says, when Messiah comes
sorrow and sighing will flee away. Our mental health will be restored along with our physical health.
And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isa 35:10).
1) Have you experienced the delight of Gods presence in worship or prayer? Try to describe what its like as best you can.
2) Have you ever seen God work powerfully through you and thought, This is what I was made for!? What were you doing at the time and what made you feel so strongly?
3) What do you look forward to the most about the return of Jesus?