The Glory of the Son with the Government on His Shoulder
This is the second in a series of three meditations on the ways that Christ came to fulfill the Prophets (see Matt. 5:17). We turn from the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 to the wonderful promise of Isaiah 9:6.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined…For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government of and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This is the glory of Jesus Christ! The “great light” that has “shined” is what Paul describes as “the light of the gospel of the Christ” and “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:4-6). This is the light that shines in the darkness of our Godlessness as the glory of His Person is revealed. He is a child born to Mary, but He is so much more. He is also the Son, who was not “born” because He never had a beginning! He is the Son who was given by the Father.
And not only was He given to us by God the Father, He Himself was given a government by God. It rests, even right now, on His eternal shoulder. It is a mantle He wears by right of creation – all things were made through Him (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16). And it is a mantle He wears by right of redemption – all things are subject, Paul tells us in I Cor. 15, to the resurrected Son.
And of the increase of His government – ruling as King of kings and Lord of lords – there will be no end. It will never end because it has no inherent weakness or lack of integrity. His throne is founded on justice and righteousness. This is who He is and it is the way He rules. His kingdom is one of everlasting peace because his throne is one of perfect righteousness. And this eternal kingdom is guaranteed by nothing less than the zeal of the Lord of Hosts! God will fight for this, and see it done, as Psalm 2 shows us!
Reflecting on this description of Jesus, I was reminded of an essay by C.S. Lewis where he was explaining his view of democracy. My thoughts went to Lewis because the picture in Isaiah 9 is not a democracy! It is a monarchy. Jesus is pictured here as an absolute, totalitarian, sovereign emperor. And yet we have been trained to believe that democracy is the highest and best form of government! So how should we position our hearts to receive the picture of Isaiah 9 as gospel? Lewis helps us.
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the idea that mankind is so wise and good that everyone deserves a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is . . . Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
Beloved, Jesus will reign as God’s absolute monarch. He will be king. We will be His slaves! And that is good news for us because He is the one man in all of history fit to be Master! This is the unique glory of Jesus Christ. It will be manifest in fullness at His second coming, but it was fulfilled in a real and powerful way, in His birth. That is what Matthew is telling us when he quotes Isaiah 9 in Matt 4:15.
Furthermore, this is the imagery John uses in chapter 1, In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…the true light, which enlightens every man, was coming into the world…and when did the light arrive?...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christmas time! (I hope this is the reason you have in your heart and explain to your kids for why you drape your house with lights at this time of year!)
Listen to the gospel in Isaiah 9! Listen to the way Jesus is fit by the Father to be our Master:
Jesus came as our counselor – which is good news because need wisdom and guidance.
Jesus came as our might – which is good news because we need strength and power to live every day pleasing to the Lord.
Jesus came to unite us to the Father – which is good news because we need gentle care and firm discipline and faithful provision, especially if we haven’t known it here.
Jesus came as our peace – which is good news because our souls need quietness and rest and freedom from trouble.
But that’s not all! What makes Jesus so glorious, and His coming truly “gospel” is that:
His counsel is wonderful – Jesus has better wisdom for your life than anyone. It is amazingly and wonderfully different from the advice of the world. And His leadership over your life is perfect.
His might is divine – there is no greater power in all the universe than His. In Him all things hold together. In Him all things are worked by God for our good. He prevails. He succeeds. He will have the victory!
The Father He connects us with is Everlasting – Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. He has come to make the Father known – and He has done so well that Jesus can tell Philip, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). And this Father is everlasting. You will never attend this Father’s funeral, physically, emotionally, or mentally. He will never leave you like an orphan on your own. He will never abandon His care of you. The resources of His love and care and direction and provision and discipline will never come to an end.
His peace is maintained by his princely authority. The government shall be upon his shoulder as a great prince, and therefore his kingdom will be everlasting peace.
This is the kind of child that God promised would be born 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem! This child would be born as a man, but given as the Son of God – who has always been! You can hear a similar emphasis at the climax of John’s prologue, “the Word became flesh.” The Son is the Word and the child is the flesh. There was never when the Word was not! He was in the beginning with God. He was God! Eternally existing at the Father’s side. But there was a moment when the given Son was born as a child. And because He was God-Man, he could shine the gospel light of Isaiah 9:6.