Hundreds of years before Christ was born, Isaiah wrote these prophetic words concerning the coming Messiah. Handel made some of these words very familiar by including them in his "Messiah," which is sung at Christmas time throughout all English speaking nations. In these seven verses in Isaiah we find a large number of declarations that were fulfilled by Christs coming, including verse 6 which starts off with the words, "for to us a child is born." As the Alexanders wrote, "Isaiah sweeps his listeners far into the future with this glorious vision."
But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
Matthew 4:12-16 quotes this verse as fulfillment of Christs ministry. Nazareth, which was Christs boyhood home was in Zebulun, and Capernaum which was Jesus headquarters during his ministry was in Naphtali. So it really was fulfilled that "he will make glorious" this area. In this verse Galilee was specifically mentioned. We see that Isaiah looks at this area as a land of contempt. The reason for this is the Northern kingdom intermarried with the Gentiles and it was always considered contemptible by the Judean Jews. This is why even in Christs day Nathanael could ask, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
To think that the areas which received the bulk of Christs ministry would actually be identified in scripture 700 years before they occurred is indicative of how God weaved his plan for humanitys redemption throughout the ages.
Matthew Henry remarks, "Nevertheless it shall not be such dimness as sometimes there has been. Note, In the worst of times God's people have a nevertheless to comfort themselves with, something to allay and balance their troubles; they are persecuted, but not forsaken, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. And it is matter of comfort to us, when things are at the darkest, that he who forms the light and creates the darkness has appointed to both their bounds and set the one over against the other."
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
When Christ came, it was a dark time in Israels history. They had been under the oppression of Roman occupation. The Maccabean revolt had been crushed and the Roman presence was everywhere. Besides the civil unrest, there was also great spiritual darkness. Many of the Jewish rulers had lost their zeal and commitment for serving God in humility and obedience. Instead they had become a religiously arrogant people, whose actions were far removed from what God intended. It was during this time of civil and religious darkness that God sent light into darkness by sending his son. As John wrote about Christ in John 1:4-5, "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."
McGee comments, "When the Lord Jesus began His ministry in that area, the people did see a great light. They saw the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the world."
Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
Throughout Christs ministry, there were many who rejoiced at his coming the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon and Anna in the temple, and all those who had experienced his miracles. But I think this verse was especially fulfilled at Christs triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the whole city came out to lay palm branches and shout hosannas. This verse tells us, "they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest." And so it was Christ began the great harvest of the souls of the world. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem marked the beginning of the great outpouring of Gods Spirit onto all nations. After Christs death many of these same Jews became the nucleus of the early church which spread the gospel message throughout the entire Roman Empire.
Matthew Henry points out, "This is very applicable to the times of gospel light, spoken of in vs. 2. Then God multiplied the nation, the gospel Israel. ... The gospel, when it comes in its light and power, brings joy along with it, and those who receive it aright do therein rejoice, yea, and will rejoice; therefor the conversion of the nations is prophesied of by this, Let the nations be glad, and sing for joy."
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
"The day of Midian" refers to the deliverance of Israel under Gideons leadership. In the same way, Isaiah predicts that the yoke of oppression will be broken in the future. And so it was that Christ delivered us from the bondage of sin which was the yoke of our oppression. We have been set free. We are no longer under the control of our own wrong desires or evil impulses. Our thoughts and actions are now guided by the Holy Spirit. Although sins may have controlled us in the past, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we are spiritually set free. We receive strength to overcome and we find that those old desires and habits no longer have a hold on us.
What has bound you these many years? What staff has enslaved you, or what oppression have you experienced? Know that when Christ came, he broke the rod of oppression. He has come to set our souls free from those things that so easily beset us. Accept his deliverance. Rejoice in your new freedom. Allow Christ to work in your life.
Heres a wonderful poem that I thought was so appropriate for Christmas.
Would We Know?
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
As we celebrate this Christmas season, we think of that child who was born 2000 years ago for us. It was Gods own son who was given. As John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." The son was given. Gods Christmas gift to us was his son. As Barnes comments, "The Messiah is often represented as having been given, or sent; or as the rich gift of God. The Messiah was pre-eminently the gift of the God of love. Man had no claim on him, and God voluntarily gave his Son to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world."
Notice the different names given for Christ. He will be called . . .
Wonderful as all of us who have experienced the love of his forgiveness can testify,
Counselor he is always by our side to lead and guide us,
Mighty God Christ was not just a baby in the manger; he was God with us,
Everlasting Father Jesus came as a man, but he was fully God as this verse clearly shows. We may not quite be able to understand how the son who was given by the Father can be called the Everlasting Father, but our lack of comprehension does not diminish the full deity of Christ,
Prince of Peace he brought us peace to our souls as well as peace with God.
During this Christmas season, have you experienced this son who was given? As you allow Christ to reign in your heart, you will find that he is wonderful. You will discover that he is your best counselor and advisor. He is the Mighty God with all power to deliver you from whatever is afflicting you. His care and mercy is extended to you from everlasting to everlasting. The same one who created the universe can fix your problems. And he is the Prince of Peace. He will grant you peace in your spirit this Christmas season. Jesus will bring comfort and peace to whatever you are facing whether depression or anger or frustration, whether loneliness or feelings of abandonment, whether you are hurting emotionally, suffering in your body, experiencing mental anguish, or facing spiritual confusion. He is the Prince of Peace, and this Christmas season, he is offering you his peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Christs kingdom is established forever. There will be no end to it. It will be upheld with justice and righteousness. At this Christmas time, wouldnt it be a good idea to be part of Gods family? Notice this verse tells us Christ will be with us "from this time forth and for evermore." We never need to feel alone or abandoned again. For to us a son is given. Accept this free gift from God. Allow Christ in your heart. And this Christmas you can experience the true peace that only the Bethlehem baby can bring.
This study on Isaiah 9:1-7 © 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
David and Pat Alexander: Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible pg. 381 © 1973, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Nathanaels statement is made in John 1:46
Matthew Henrys Commentary, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 3, pg. 220 © 1983, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Matthew Henrys Commentary, electronic version © 1996, Biblesoft
Would We Know? by Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Barnes Notes on the Old Testament, Isaiah vol. 1, pg. 191, Baker Book House