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THE SPIRITUAL SUITE
Our chief interest here is in seeing the grandeur of the journey, forecast, and already largely fulfilled but especially that through the window of Isaiah 9.
Thus it is expedient to cite from the Ch. 12 of Messiah, Jesus Christ, some coverage of Isaiah 7, in its broader biblical setting, and thus oriented, to turn to Isaiah 8-9.
In Isaiah 7, the abasement that sin brings to the quivering psyche, this time that of the equivocating King Ahaz, seeming to be both double-minded and double-tongued, neglecting the offer of the millenium from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, even when in direst trouble, is made apparent. When GOD makes an unconditional offer, when troubles rise like a wall of scalding steam suffusing your house, when enemies not only teem but team together in inveterate hate and lust, THEN to forego inimitable and illimitable blessing seems a testimony to a fallen heart, a sickened mind and a desolate soul. It assuredly led to trouble instead of triumph, not only for that King, but for a people in much, all too ready to accept such leadership.
This in turn warns us not to become heroic about leaders, as if they have to be mini-gods, or maestros in person. It is better to have a reliable and faithful leader, with his head still attached to his heart and his life still free from nugatory uplift, like mountain ranges newly arriving, than the pet of the people, the icon of the young or the wonder of the admiring. If the leader be admirable, fine; but first let there be courage, redoubable resolve, understanding of truth, perspective in peace, power to overcome merely personal overflow, love of the people and desire for what is enduring in goodness. That is just a start!
Leaders ? they exist not only in political schemas or schemes, as the case may be, but in the fields of science and philosophy (cf. Colossians 2:8), where theei baleful presence has often misled many, as with Darwin, for example - cf. The gods of naturalism have no go!) or Hitler, as in his evolutionary twist to racism, which neither accounts for race, nor understands it, nor life, which so far from being strife for superiority, requires recognition of its spiritual source, point, purpose and design, that it might, like anything else wonderful in nature, be fulfilled. Fulfilled ? yes, and deployed aright, in terms of its grand scope, necessary premisses and whatever promises of good may be available.
Through Jeremiah, then, God gave a highly specific leading. Stop gate-crashing the party of life and find the host! (this being one element of his message as in Jeremiah 2:14-18).
Jeremiah 30-32 is in one sense, for Israel what Isaiah is for all. It is not that the Gentiles do not enter (as shown in Jeremiah 16), but that the focus is dramatically and constantly consolidated on Jacob (Jeremiah 30:10), the Lord's servant who went astray in the LAW, and is now to have a new law, one for the heart, an internalised covenant so that ANYONE who belongs to THIS one, IS the Lord's, from the least to the greatest. It is an internally regenerative covenant, and you CANNOT be related to it, as one under it, unless God Himself be over you, even your heart, even changing your entire disposition.
Thus in Isaiah 65, even in dealing with the millenium, when they shall not hurt nor destroy "in all My holy mountain," yet there is still the sinner who at one hundred years shall die ACCURSED. It is not a total conversion of citizens that is in view, but the creation of a citizenry so internally and eternally the Lord's, that a citizen of this kingdom IS the Lord's. There will be the oddities within the landscape, but they are not the character of the thing, now utterly changed (Isaiah 11). In fact, there have to be rebels to institute the rebellion at the very end (Revelation 20:7-10), so precipitating eternal judgment itself (Revelation 20:11). Indeed, Christ showed, the tares, the corruptives, the weeds, these do not entirely disappear, however muted, till the very judgment itself (Matthew 13:13-20).
But to return to that day of spiritual sight, at last granted to Israel and leading on (Romans 11:25), the oddballs will be spiritual ones, and the character of the nation will no more be merely political, but under a High Priest who IS the Lord for all His people everywhere, and a KING who IS God. You see this directly in Jeremiah 30:9, 33:5,16, and indirectly in Jeremiah 30:21-22,as in Micah 4:1-3, where in the very flesh of Israel, will come, deity, the eternal God of heaven, reigning on earth, as in Psalm 72.
In emphasis, Jeremiah 30 is rather about God coming to Israel, and Jeremiah 31 about Israel coming to God, even through the salvation wrought through a virgin (Jeremiah 31:22 cf. Isaiah 7:14, SMR pp. 766, 770ff., 916), associated with the New Covenant (in His blood, as in Isaiah 53). As to Israel (or Jacob, Jer. 30:10, or the children of Israel - Micah 5:3) coming back to the Lord, whom once this nation knew and served, how poignant is Jeremiah 31:18-20. Just, then, as the child is staggering as a potent sign, launched through the virgin, so later what was backsliding towards oblivion is suddenly restored (as in Isaiah 66:7ff.), in a nation reborn, not as if from what is then a rejected Israel (Isaiah 65:13-15), as if flesh could launch spirit (contrary to John 3:6): not this, but as born FROM THE LORD Himself, as always in spiritual things.
This restoration rejoices those mourning for a lost ZION (Isaiah 66:10), as in Deuteronomy 32:43. So to the King, to the Covenant, to the incarnate One, now offered as brother they come (Hebrews 2), in the one new covenant of the one God (Jeremiah 31:16,31ff.). For this purpose, the need is for utter and entire regeneration, whether for any or for many amid the human race, for this time, the law is to be written in the heart! This is the spiritual nature of the kingdom, to be potent in Israel as the Lord at length intervenes, not only in bringing them back to their land, but back to their Lord, in their New Covenant.
This Israel, the one formerly the Lord's, it is that of a long history, being the one which slid away, and is now restored (Jeremiah 31:4 - "again will I build you!", paralleled in Jeremiah 30:13-16, "on its own mound" - Jeremiah 30:18, and in Zechariah 12:6, "Jerusalem will be inhabited again in her own place - Jerusalem."). The Lord is SO emphatic that it is almost as if He is addressing rather a dull student and removing any possibility of its wandering, the way some sheep tend to do, even with an excellent sheep dog.
The fallen, forsaken, routed Israel, brought back, is to be restored (as in Jeremiah 30:1 - 31:14), where it first left, and to be made to prevail despite assault (Zechariah 12), in its very own place, as unconditionally appointed (as in Micah 7:20 and Genesis 17:7-8), and then to find its King Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15ff.). Indeed, the Jeremiah 31 is largely given up to tracing the restoration of the forsaken, the movement back to base of the apparently abandoned, the contrasting peace to the dispersion, restoration to the duly inherited horror of transgression against their Lord, and the New Covenant to become available when at last, they are permanently back! Even the solemnity and accuracy of these promises is sworn to; and more, their prodigality and liberality is attested, to this extent, that anyone presuming the Lord doing these things, had better be able to change the astronomical works, and contest with the Almighty (31:35-40). Jeremiah 33 fortifies and in part recapitulates. Indeed, "in those days, and at that time," Jeremiah 33:15, the Messiah will be on earth, executing judgment and righteousness on the earth, fulfilling that good thing promised to the hitherto smitten Israel, suffering dispersion before its eventual conversion as in Zechariah 12.
Thus not alone is the happy holiness in view; for Its exile is as predicted likewise (Leviticus 26), its mistreatment clearly shown (cf. Isaiah 51:21-23), its return as prognosticated, its tenure as asserted (Jeremiah 31, 33): and the name to back all this ? it is that of the LORD. When you want a guaranteed defeat, the choice is easy: fight against the Lord! So many nations are now doing precisely that, pre-empting victory with an almost obliterative defeat to come (Isaiah 2, Micah 7, Revelation 19).
So it is back to Israel that Israel comes: the denationalised to the renationalised, those forsaking God, the God of their fathers, to become those awakened to Him and in so being awakened (Romans 11), awakened to the forecast New Covenant, of which more anon. No more blind (Romans 11:25), they see, and see in sorrow, Him whom they once crucified, as a nation so that a fountain at last, for sin and uncleanness can be opened even in this self-same Jerusalem itself, a national thrust in the most public of manners (Zechariah 13:1).
Now this becomes a site for a new segment of Christ's people, distinctive certainly in terms of this, their history and land, from the first assigned for display of the testimony of truth, the word of God first written, then smitten (Isaiah 43:21, 59:21, 59-55). The Messiah indeed has made use of it for international expansion, and use of it will made (Micah 4, Isaiah 2, Jeremiah 23, 30:8-9, 33:15), nationally and internationally, soon after Israel's return first to its land, and then to Christ (as in the two stages shown in Ezekiel 37:4-24), and His then imminent return to Israel, indeed to this entire smitten world.
Israel back to the land but before its conversion and spiritual restoration, as in Zechariah 12, is in a special situation. Secure is Israel, but not sovereign, in the autonomous national sense (Micah 4, 6:7ff., Isaiah 19); for its new and real allegiance is to Christ who is all and in all, for any race, any person who trust in Him, though about to come (Zechariah 12:1-9), awaits fulfilment, till it becomes a holy happening as in Zech. 12:10, and Romans 11:12,25. Then, all under the one Christ, His kingdom comes. Israel the nation within it, has a new licence for bringing the truth of Christ to the world, as refreshed, do all Christians (Micah 5:6-8). What had become almost puny, in these stages of return, restoration, pardon and conversion, regeneration and redemption, becomes a divine protectorate, not just for survival, but in revival. So it will now play its part in the Christian Church, for the Messiah, whom it killed, was first of all, its own. One Gospel, one God, one generosity, one peace now rules the earth as in Isaiah 11, 65, Psalm 72.
Thus we find in a good, sound, round biblical coverage, the basis for perspective. In Isaiah 7 is the virgin in startling manner giving birth, actually discerned though virgin, as with child as shown, giving birth to one nothing less than fitting the name, Immanuel, God with us. In Jeremiah, this is linked with what is called a new thing IN THE EARTH (Jeremiah 31:22), just as in Isaiah 7, it was a matter of a staggering sign, in the order of magnitude of going up to heaven, or down to hell, as were its parameters in the rejected offer through Isaiah to King Ahaz. Its rejection is what made the latter more relevant; but its acceptance, and its eventual realisation goes entirely to heaven as the source, even to Him whose goings are from everlasting (Micah 5:1-3), the Lord Himself, come from trinitarian wonder (as in Isaiah 48:15ff.), to terrestrial service (as in Ezekiel 34).
On to the New Covenant the text in Jeremiah 31 surges after the virgin announcement of 31:22, with its regenerative restoration of people who find the Lord in it, providing an internal realisation, beyond any mere conformism (Jeremiah 31:31ff.). Further, in this trio of revelation, in this very environment of Messiah, new thing in the virgin birth, and new covenant (cf. Jeremiah 23:5, 30:20-22), Israel the nation is to be restored after a dispersion healed for such an advent (Jeremiah 30:28-31), one indeed seen here in its majesty and culmination of Christ as King, so notable in Psalm 2. But everything in its time (as Paul points out in Romans 11:25ff.).
Reverting to our interest in Isaiah, with these surrounds stabilising the understanding, to our point passing by the penalty of unbelief, in terms of a vast assault by Assyria to come to Israel, earlier faced with lesser fears, following Ahaz's time of folly, we come to the lament that such invasion is into "Thy land, O Immanuel," as in Isaiah 8:8. In this, the divine nature of this Being is implied once more. Though He is not yet there (in the sense predicted), it is His land; though it is horror that Israel has inherited for the time, yet in Him there is a complete reversal to come. It is HE who is to BE the covenant, the new one which changes the heart by the Spirit of God (Isaiah 42:6), in the Messiah, who will not break the bruised reed (Isaiah 42:42:3), and be even "a light to the Gentiles."
Already Israel is the land of the Messiah, since it is here His salvation (as in Isaiah 49-55) was at that time, to be fulfilled, and it is there it now has been fulfilled to the spiritual zenith, in its offer to all mankind (Isaiah 49:6, 55). Sad is the plight of the benighted, affronted, invaded Israel of Ahaz's day, however, and beyond, as we come to the end of Isaiah 8, for the case is like this:
"Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness,
gloom of anguish, and they will be driven into darkness."
THE DELINEAMENTS OF DEITY
The issuance of sin is judgment or mercy. It now faces man, looming like a mountain, with assistance to the level of the conveyance. It may be reached through the bridge of repentance, heeding the call to come, to go from iniquity, indifference, indolence, and to find in the midst of the intense desire to pardon, cleanse, to reconstitute, on the part of deity, nothing less than deliverance from evil dynamics and the very salvation of God.
Yet the call is not a mere emotion, vast though the desire is; nor is it only a wake-up alarm, though it is no less. It in one way is like the day of vast research culminating in a cure; except that this research was anticipated in deity, by an eternal wisdom; but the acts required are not eternal. They had to happen here. The heart was there; the power was placed here for this purpose, in this new thing with this new covenant amidst this new return of a fallen Israel, back to her mound, to her place, where she was before. For this, a new heart is required and supplied, even to very many in that land.
As to these divinelyh directed actions: There was one day before they were done, and there was one after it. God acted. He always sustains not by words alone - except in this, that HIS words HAVE power to perform, and when so directed, do that - but by deeds. The action was timeless in significance, but not in performance. It was forecast as to WHEN it would occur (Christ the Citadel, Ch. 2). From the very first it was clear WHY it was to occur (sin in devious schemings caught out the initial pair and so led to a competitive alliance with the hater of holiness by the name of Satan, that devil who destroys where and as he can). These predictions and predications of deity came another answer. It told with what results they would come: that is, the crushing of the active, evil agitator, hence of his power so to perform, and the liberation of those in any nation who received the goodness of God in the Saviour who held it, with pardon in peace (Isaiah 11:10).
The COST also was clear. This was to be, as it was, borne by the Creator. It was not a manufacturing defect, to use that image, but a peculiarity of a prodigy of creative works, the making of a free being relative to foundation. It was the result of this which had to be corrected, and where the will has this certain freedom, then the heart suffers from its misuse, complicating the issue enormously. Hard ? but not too hard for God. Searching even of His love and His mercy ? but of course, but since God is love, nothing to the contrary weighing into His character, that is not too difficult. He met it too.
Result ? Thus a person might actually choose to founder or respond to the call to be founded; to revolt or to rely on God, who made him. Death was the name for the former, since denial of the Former is to deny the form given, as well, and so to foil one's own life (cf. Matthew 16:26). Being creative with what you are without the power either to understand or to duplicate it: this is a fussy business, like the work of a child lighting a fire in a house, and then being scorched. It is neither wise nor wonderful; but to many, it has a vast allure. In a perverse spirit, it often appears to clamour for recognition, as if it were some RIGHT or other to be and to do wrong. It has overtones very frequently of new functions, though in fact it merely causes the connection to the Creator to atrophy, like a fighter airplane which voluntarily loses all connection with its aerial oil supply, the pilot hoping by being very bold, and filled with derring-do, to make it unnecessary. The type of crash is the only question that then remains, except there be repentance, in time...
To the Creator, the cost borne in rectifying this situation, without making the remedy either to be inhumanly forced on the rebel, or conditional on a fallen nature, was vast. Inhabiting the nature of man, by nothing less than incarnation, once and for all, and hence becoming vulnerable to its lairs and lurks, conditions and quirks, yet this without being inhabited by its sin, being tested in all points to make it real: here was a challenge fit even for the Eternal One. This was merely the beginning, and it is foreshadowed in Isaiah 7 and gloriously exulted in, in Isaiah 9, while its enormous need which it was to meet, as it did in due course meet it, is signalled dramatically in Isaiah 8, as above.
It is summed in significance in Hebrews 2, the nature of the offering for sin which the Saviour constituted, His deity being heralded in Hebrews1, Here is true deity, it indicates, not a matter of angels; of the eternal, not the temporal. Nor can the remedy be merely temporary, for the issues and the results are eternal, hand-crafted for what bears His image for fellowship and understanding.
Its precise payment - not a pound of flesh, selected near the heart, as in the case of the Merchant of Venice from Shakespeare's pen, but the whole body as from the script of the Almighty, found in the Bible just as the sacrifice was found in Jesus the Christ, He came. As whom ? It was as the Messiah: He the One to be murdered in satisfaction of sin, a contempt despatched by evil, amid evil, at a cost to cover shame and cancel guilt, so that man might live. Even the selection of the motivation and the murder as the mode, was apt, since evil does evil and seeks to overcome good, so that evil men did evil to overcome the goodness of God, though they dressed it up differently as is both normal and natural to sin, before which truth falls, as man before his assassins. Their wickedness provided in this manner the way out of it, and the more 'successful' it was, the more triumphant was the method supplying a just ground for pardon! (cf. I Corinthians 2:8).
How great, then, is the contrast when the arrival of the Saviour AS man, in the form of a baby, an amazing act showing the total control of God in the situation, persistent, consistent (as in Psalm 91), so that the apparently impossible is precisely what is done. Here power is used for the pursuit of peace, of pardon, by a Prince become commoner, yet uncommonly able to keep what is committed to Him, against the very day of Judgment (II Timothy 1:12). There is that about the actions of deity: which often focusses on what to man is impossible.Nor will it wisely be called so when God is concerned! Impossibility for the One who made the possible actual, is a weighted term, heavy with misconception (Isaiah 14:27).
Does human nature rebel at the very sight of God, in fact as distinct from theory or vision ? Then amid human nature will this babe be brought, and yet grow to manhood to accomplish His mission.
Does man therefore move on an incline, strongly tilted against truth, as if to make the substitutionary sacrifice of the Saviour on his behalf, useless, a futile act of divine fancy ? Yes he does (I Corinthians 2:14); but is God to be sunk by His own creation, as if caught out in ignorance or weakness ? Only if by a voluntary submergence to rise again, pre-emptor of death, prevailing against the waves, making immortality a victor, by His use of it, and granting the result to the object of His desire, this human race, as many as receive Him, and hence also this, His sacrifice.
Is mortality too much for its Maker as a result of sin ? Is life too hard for Him, who constructed it ? Is human sin too sovereign to permit His rupture of it, without abasing liberty to mere programmatic surveillance, a thing in name only ? Does His presence render a fault of nature final, and a flaw in man irreparable, a function distorted His master ? Does not God know man, and all about his spirit, its pollution and natural state, its projects and regrets, its tenure and texture, its state and what it is beyond pathology ? Is there a limit, even for God, in His knowledge of His creation! Then who imposes it, and what is this which mars the hand of the maestro who made it, and all the conditions and ingredients for it, with the plan and purpose for it, and the results of it, in a plan infinitely beyond that of the invasion of Europe, through Normandy, complex and intricate as that was. Is the Maker subject to man, outwitted, outdone by this object of His imagination, made real ?
Hardly. His own, those who are His (II Timothy 2:19), He knows; where love reaches He discerns: and He has done so before sin or even creation entered, Himself the supreme architect of man (Ephesians 1:4). Could He miss any ? of course not, even Judas being both foreknown and foretold as to his action, again and again in the preceding Psalms (as in Psalm 69, 109 for example). Would He weary of the application of His grand redemption plan ? With God, fortitude is not an optional extra. You see that in Psalm 22, where both the vulnerability, pain at scorn and nails is exceedingly apparent, but the simple call on His Father is so no less, so that NOTHING could abort the plan or crush the spirit of supplication and reliance!
Why then, it is no wonder at all that in Isaiah 9, as it moves to the actual deposit on earth of this divine gift, God as man to accomplish salvation, the opposite pole to the atomic bomb which would slaughter humanity by an inherent power vested in the creation of matter, that there is a scene of commotion. What is this ? It is one of a sublime rejoicing both elemental and zealous; for the babe, the Son, the Eternal Ruler appointed and willing, has come, ready to perform not perfunctorarily, but passionately and with precision, all that is required (as in Psalm 40's exposure of the word of the Coming One).
Here is what is both waited for and needed; here is
the beginning of a reign never to end. Here comes the King who, though to be
smitten, with even more horror resulting from that (as in Micah 5), yet
will USE this very evil to institute the plan through which the procurement of
life from evil and all its agencies, and all its untempered results will
proceed. It is both wise and deep.
THE TRIUMPH TOLD IN THE NAME
At once, Isaiah 9 moves from the gloom of the end of Ch. 8, to the vigour of light, dismissive of darkness, and the site where much will be seen is at once announced, namely Galilee (9:1), where much of the marvel of the self-identifying mission of God, and the power behind it, was shown as seen in the Gospels. Precise fulfilments of such things is routine in the Bible, an important assurance in the area of history, of the pertinence of principles, procedures and commands of the Lord. Faith is necessary; reason underlies, revelation has its own testimony.
While Isaiah 53:1 asks us WHO has BELIEVED the report, while moving on to itemise its ingredients of salvation, here in Isaiah 9 we find that some at least have been transfixed in the power of a light which has the savour of deliverance. Indeed, though the nation remains astray, those who do believe and so receive what is to transform because of truth, and deliver because of divine action, DO see it. For them there are many grounds of joy, and Isaiah proceeds through the divine inspiration, a number of these, beginning for each, with the conjunction "FOR"!
Here comes one who is to rule the nations, whose kingdom will not end, but only increase, contrary to all the other empires listed in Daniel, this is the one which DOES NOT END (Daniel 7:13-14). That is its distinctive. Paul brings several inspired reports in this field, as in I Timothy 1:17 or II Timothy 4:8, or I Corinthians 15:42-55, or I Corinthians 1:30:
"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -
and righteousness and sanctification and redemption - that, as it is written,
'He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.' "
Let us look at the first:
"Now to the King, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise,
|be honour and glory for ever and ever: Amen."
That is written in the period AFTER the advent of Isaiah 9, that of the babe to become Prince of peace. But now our concern is for what is written before the event, the advent, but graphically as if happening at that very moment, in anticipatory style.
Here we see the unfolding of the glory in this same advent; for In this arrival of the child, there is latent an end to such things as the blood-stained robes of battle, and the footwear of war, as to the "noisy battle" where the seeds of sin show their strength. How is this so ? It is, says Isaiah 9:6-7, because those on whom the light has shined have something to report. A child, the one so long pre-announced, is now seen as actually coming to earth, like a flight that in the end, lands, in a particular aerodrome, its occupants about to disembark, bringing hope to sight.
It is a child, in fact a son, and a gift is its nature. Little though He is, the entire government of the human race is to be His affair, His kingdom to increase, having no limits, never an end, an aggregative reality that at last will encompass all - that is left in this world, and continue with Him, at length indeed, even when this world itself is gone as in Isaiah 51:6, 26:19.
He has a name ? What is it ? Then unrolled are the 5 wonders, picking up portents and concentrating them, as sunlight may be focussed by a magnifying glass, being carefully adjusted to cover just at one point. Here is that point, concentrating the light! indeed, it is better yet, a great light by its very nature.
But that name ? that significance-bearing name, that declarative name, tell us what it is! It is WONDERFUL (a name for God famous from Judges 13:18). In that notable case, there was a progressive indication of this deity status of the visitor to the prospective father of Samson, until the actions and name given to the visitor make the position clear. Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!", but she pointed out that if this were so, the Lord would not have accepted their burnt offering, itself a picture of the path for peace by admission of sin and its cover.
"What is your name?" had come the question from Manoah, to this celestial visitor, "so that when Your words come to pass, we may honour You." WHY ask ? was the response. It is not necessary to ask, said the visitor, about to leave in a manner indicative enough in the setting, "since it is wonderful." It is apparent; it is different; it is a marvel, exciting wonder, it concerns one not bound by this world or its ways, and who has the denotative title applied to Himself, of wonderful. It is quite a contrast to the case of John in Revelation 19:10.
In that realm, with whom would you be dealing, but the Lord, and from whom does such bounty, power, control over events come but from the Lord! Why then ask, since in the actual name is a uniqueness of feature which is confirmed by the uniqueness of nature, action and motivation! It is entirely clear, so wonder on, for it IS wonderful, and wonder is its character, blessed over man and derivative from his Creator.
This famous feature of a major hero (if a grievous one) in the history of Israel is thus encompassed in Isaiah 9:6, and its base brought in, so signifying that there is here an answer to the same question: "What is Your name, so that when Your words come to pass, we may honour You." The name, by which He is to be called, it is WONDERFUL. That is the word, that is the character, that is a criterion of the Being concerned, undimmed, undiminished, unleashed, glorious. That sets the tone and puts down the carpet for the rest of name, spilling out from the revelation from heaven through Isaiah.
This is not an itinerary of the one who sends, the revealing visitor, any more than with Samson, but of the nature of the ONE sent. The concern is not to talk of the sending base, but of the sent servant in view, of his status, name, place in affairs. WHY ask! implies no matter of degree, but of the incomparable, the obvious, the ONLY ONE! The immediate point was the child and his mission.
It is the procedure that is compared. It is that WHAT IS BEFORE US being revealed, has a name, which is indicative of what it (He, in this case) is. It is first of all wonderful. What other features does it have, then since there is no interruption of speech as yet and we are finding out about this child and His status, place and mission ?
What else is He to be called, this prodigy of divine performance, this passing of all preludes, this actual coming to earth of God in the form, of all things, of a man - a race that had become a sinful creation, to share this nature. This, being God, He would come for His purpose, successively revealed, amid sin, but personally subject to it, without its control. Thus He was coming to inhabit the infested, yet without infestation, and to be liable to its horrors, yet without yielding to them. WHO, and WHAT ? what more is to be said.
It is this. His name will also be called Counsellor. Who else but God inhabits this realm of wisdom for man ? Does not Isaiah 44-45 make this massively clear, like a mountain on your back door step, making you look aghast in wonder. What are these human prodigies which attract attention, is the derogatory message there in Isaiah 44: your prognosticators and wizards, what are they ? Does not God so act as to make obvious their fraud! On the other hand, does He not fulfil ALL to the last, that He Himself says, that there can be no possible logical or linguistic question! Is it not He who "frustrates the signs of the babblers and drives the diviners mad, who turns wise men backward..." (Isaiah 44:44:25). It is God who so speaks, beyond all comparison, making is almost unnecessary to say; for there being none like Him, and no deeds like His, then His personal utterance or naming simply reflects that fact, without limitation, intimidation, question or reservation.
On the other hand, when the heights of merely human wisdom are thus reduced to their proper place, as in Isaiah 44, when it is just this which is vested, a work merely of man, what then ? Then the Speaker is He who "confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers," and then it gives a massive word of wisdom about coming events and their reason.
When however the title has place without limit, when final and authoritative counsel is in view in terms of a Being, then as in Isaiah 40, it is laughable to have doubts about who is indicated. We read: "With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice ? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding ? Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket..." Come in the flesh, His name is simply COUNSELLOR, neither in the plural or with qualification or with additives, conditions, qualifications or restrictions.
Here then is the end of all wisdom, and its beginning, the distinctive eminence of wonder and the acme of wit. HERE is wisdom. Thus COUNSELLOR is the second name of this babe, for whom the character depiction comes with the name, like a picnic hamper with the people for it.
But some may say, Why not let us have it direct ? But of course, so the third name is "Mighty God," the same term as used in the very next Chapter (10:21), the One to whom Israel is to return, the Lord who performs all those things in that Chapter as maestro, power, placement author, to whom all come, from whom any go, who is the Lord over all. Such is the way for the babe: God in this novel situation, God on earth for a purpose of purity and power, central to mankind, to earth, the universe and without precedent or alternative ending. It is GOD, and there is no other, nor any other wisdom, and THIS is the kingdom which goes on increasing, never to end.
Can the Mighty God fit into a babe's form and ambit ? Yes, if such is His wish, such is the decision of the Trinity, certainly He can. Indeed, the life of this One is to illustrate that fact in word and in deed. Were it less, if His power were feeble, if there were tough nuts beyond Him, of His own construction, how do such a thing ? But His constructions have no restrictions for Him, on whom they depend continually for very being.
Thus since the aim is the provision of what is sufficient for the entire human race (Isaiah 49:6, Psalm 2), if it will, if it will believe, if it will receive, if it will open its eyes to the light, so that love is amply satisfied and action is adequate to the uttermost for the purpose in hand, then it is comprehensible. Then the action is not excessive. It was required, it is pervasive, not invasive, and may be rejected, though not casually, for the Lord knows His own, and has done so before the creation and its Fall. Actual love, as distinct from mere mouthings, is like that. Since this is God, neither do you need intermediaries (as in I Timothy 2), nor should you suffer any such to dim the dynamic of the gift (as in Matthew 23:8-10). HERE IS the ultimate; you need no penultimates to parade their false glory and be put on show when the ultimate IS the gift.
But what else is in this name ? what is the next column of meaning in the name ? It is this: THE EVERLASTING FATHER. Here is He whose everlasting arms are there for His people, for as in Deuteronomy 33:27, where the message was this: "The eternal God is your refuge. And underneath are the everlasting arms...", so here is no transient wonder, but wonder itself! That is the babe's very NAME, as is Counsellor.
Here lies the basis of strength, fortitude and courage. Indeed, in Jeremiah 31:9, we see this glorious feature focussed:
"They shall come with weeping, and
with supplications I will lead them.
I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters,
in a straight way
in which they shall not stumble:
for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn."
The Father of Israel is not limited in His outreach: His light that shines is too great for Israel alone, but is for the Gentiles no less - Isaiah 42, 49:6, 24:16, Psalm 48:10, 65:5, 72:5.
Here now is the ultimate of the intimate, the height of the soaring, the epitome of the glorious, for this child is not some derogation, some minor, some degradation of the glory of the alpha and omega of all creation (as in Revelation). He not only CAN but DOES bare and wear the very name of the everlasting God, in His most warmly receptive relationship to the human race. He has all the power of His Father, though rendered vulnerable in His mission of sacrifice for sin (as in John 15:16, 5:19-23). As the Father acts, so He acts.
Again, this revelation contained in the name in Isaiah 9:6, is both startling and ultimately revelatory. No wonder there is such a spiritual fanfare, glorying, delight in triumphant caress in words, concerning this One who will do such deeds, in such a very prodigy of attainment, that He wanted to come, to come for this purpose and in this form!
But it is not yet finished. The last part of the self-revelatory name being assigned to the babe by "the parent" as normal (babes don't assign their own names) is this. This name, which joined to the others in this palpable row of columns, this cluster of wonder, not to be broken by mere desire, but acknowledged like Stonehenge, as an ensemble, is "prince of peace." Now a prince may be authorised to bring victory through terrible deeds; and THIS Prince will do that (as in Psalm 2), though the terror is only to those unwilling to receive Him, who contest for control of the creation which is not theirs, which they seek to pirate for their own purposes, after so long a time, given in divine patience.
Meanwhile, the solution to sin and the sovereign over rebellion comes, but in the form of a babe, and as John declared, NOT to condemn the world, but that it might be saved. This is the delicious mission and message in this Incarnation Forum, for us. One ULTIMATE glory on the one hand, for the nations, is PEACE (Micah 4:3), for when the Messiah has come and reigned,
"He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off.
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
Then, with the One to whom it is due (Ezekiel 21:27), what is now unattainable because of philosophies, tantrums, tirades, tensions of illicit power and systems of forces, fears and deceptions, betrayals and perfidies, is simply there. He rules, and so it is as the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, this before its dismissal (Revelation 20:4 - 21:1). What is tantalising now lost, is then systematically gained, the Prince of PEACE in power. What is now never gained, is then always in place.
Now, Peace in such a conglomeration of contrary codes is as likely to come as evening in the morning, or coolness in the sun, and less so, because this is war in principle, because of rebellion against truth and the necessary confusion resulting.
Here, displayed in Isaiah 9:6 is the Prince of Peace: here is the One to whom it is natural, whose rule brings it, because it is foundational in the Everlasting Father, and in the Wonder which making man, knows him and can lead him (as in Psalm 23, for example). When evil has had its opportunity for every evil flower, and its Summer is past, though long it was, then weeds extirpated, the agent of dissension and confusion judged, there is the natural peace of the divine creation, divinely ordered, till a new heavens and a new earth come into being, creation itself not merely purged, but given up for a new thing. The power that made the universe is not limited, any more than an author is limited to one book. At HIS level, these things are not so very much; though at ours they are exceedingly wonderful; and it is He who IS wonderful, to whom they are not too much.
What more is said in explanation of Prince of Peace ? It is this. As Prince, He could have two types of end. He could fail and fall after little or no time; or He might not fall. Then He might die or perish in due course, and leave a mourning populace, or He might not, being immortal. This One is immortal, for thus alone could His kingdom increase without limit, "from that time forward, even forever." That the "zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this," is simply one more index to the fact that this is a sublime, infinite act, dwarfed by nothing, overcoming all, though the time may be long and the way of infinite cost (as in Isaiah 53), yet the results are sure and steadfast. Though increase may take time, it will also take all.
THE WAR ON THE WORDS AT THE OUTSET!
As Revelation 12 shows, this transmission into flesh of the very truth, riled Satan enormously. If there is one thing he detests, it is a combination of humility, devotion, dutifulness, responsibility and realism. Here it was all combined in one package, where reliance (as a man) on the Everlasting Father would be paramount to death, as if the very essence of Satan, self-assertion and unrealism, mixed with a love of elevating potency to the heavens, were deliberately being contradicted. In fact, it is he who has deliberately sought to controvert these things. However, vexed in passion, you see him in Rev. 12 waiting to snatch the babe, and a reasonable attempt was made through the then ruling King Herod who, appointee of Rome, killed male children under two as far as he could, to remove the possibility of the Messiah being one of them; and at war with God, he of course failed. God's plans are not subverted. Why did he so act ? it was following the advent of the wise men from the East, with their message and gifts for the King of the Jews. No normal King was this who would bring them from so far with such gifts for so small a nation! He must be eliminated.
You have the same negative passion at work in such rulers (now past) as Ahmadinejad, who was bent on the destruction of Israel, by his mind illicit, though it has been robbed of most of the Palestine given it as a homeland by the League of Nations after World War I, in confirmation of the British Balfour Declaration. Justice does not matter where confrontation with God occurs; indeed, since He IS just, it is sure then to be blasted. The Jews however are now back on schedule (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9), and their conversion and vast turning to the Lord, await. All things come to their end, except God, and that to which He has put His hand (as in Jeremiah 33:19-26).
PEACE, its Prince, that is the last of these titles, moving naturally on to the revelation of the endless kingdom which is His.
This is to come, much has come, and much will be contested, to the end (as in the explicit confrontation of Revelation 19:19). However, now that the babe is not available for butchery, what is ? Well, there are Christians, and that proceeds at a galloping pace (as forecast in John 16:2, Revelation 12:4-10).
So now that the first stage of the redemption is complete, that covering the souls of those who believe, pending the second, the resurrection of their bodies to be WITH their Saviour, the mighty God, tis there perhaps even a further place of attack. Why not attack the naming ceremony, foretold around 6 centuries in advance by Isaiah!
Why not see if there is not some other way to 'interpret' the naming, so that the glory may be muted, the reality disputed and the result, if possible commuted!
Thus various attempts have been made to divorce the 5 pillars from the naming ceremony of Isaiah 9:6, of the King of the Eternal Kingdom. It is to be done in part or in this or that way. What if it is made that this be the translation of the Hebrew text ? ... It is a wonderful thing that is counselling the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end ...
It does not here matter who tries this on, it is the thrust that matters.
In that case, the babe is part of the naming party, ludicrous enough. In this dispersive scenario, you have the ludicrous situation where the Prince of Peace is counselling with the Father that the name will be largely a matter of describing the Father. Here is the babe in the naming ceremony peeping up, saying, I agree with Dad, this is the stuff, let's have it so. Wanton folly is such a concept! What moreover IS the wonderful thing being counselled ? We are in this way told by both the object of reference for the name, the babe, and the subject for reference, the Father, that they are having a wonderful counselling session. What it is is not then told! We are told about their thinking... A marvellous annunciation indeed. It is like a captain on a cruise liner announcing to the passengers that there is a wonderful thing, and he is naming his day after it, a thing of endless delight and joy. It will be taken in ships and train. However what it is, he then would be failing to announce.
We here then learn that the One being named is going to have a lasting kingdom, but what is His counsel we do not know. One of the structural facts of His kingdom is then mentioned, here He is, this is the long-lasting thing with Him, but what is HE ?
To combine the named and the namer in a naming ceremony is the height of the ridiculous, a self-contradiction in the procedure. It is one where the ONE who is NOT the babe is the focus, where he the babe is in a process of counselling with another, and they jointly give a name to the babe, in the ceremony seen as so active. The title giver is joined by the title receiver, in assigning the name, and the main content of it is the title giver, in concert of course with the One who so lacks the distinctives available. We hear about the Father at this party, but of the Son who is the cynosure, the revealed, the exposed, the flashing fulness of the Father, in His own filial character, we learn approximately nothing.
It does nothing to explain the new one, the born one, though the name is assigned with such a fanfare as never was. In fact, the explanation in the name is the call to be met, for it is WHO HE IS who is to have the kingdom, which is the entire pith of the matter. It is that GOD, previously known in many ways, is coming to do this thing, that is the function for the fanfare. Think of it, in contrast, as it is. He who is to come as the babe, bears the multiple names and functions of deity! The babe is RECIPIENT of the names, not co-donor, His nature is revealed, not the already known one of the Sender. On the endeavour to subtract the focus from the naming, the revelation from its centre character announced, the babe from the topical crux, there is this void left. In that case, his grounds of power are not discovered, nor is the situation explained, nor his character described, but only left in mystic uncertainty, in some vague talking about counselling, not action.
But action is what it is all about. It is HAPPENING, at last. What is His name who so comes ? How is He to be characterised who does such things in power ? What is His background, basis and mode of Being who shall so work ?
Again, such an attack on the annunciation through naming disrupts and disperses the five pillars, set one after the solemn array, one after the other without discrimination, in the naming answer. It is a structure, and to subject which to intrusive stricture is disruptive of its form, is simply an eisegetical invasion, a rupture without reason, and contrary to the poise, persistence and mutuality of the array provided. Such separation into different grammatical uses is a work of destroying the revelation in its schematic cohesion, without warrant. It is a work of dwelling on the nature of God, and evacuating the context of the important point at issue, the nature of the child. It is not a matter of a name for an act as in Isaiah 8; it is a name for an eternal and increasing kingdom never to be put to rest, on the part of its revealed Head, whose indubitable name, prince of peace, is one of a series, issuing as such into the finale of eternity!
Moreover, only the sequential reading of the name, specified as to come, gives any rational explanation of the juxtaposition of Everlasting Father and Son. The Son is to have the government upon His shoulder, this is first revealed, and then postulated in this disruption of translation, we turn to expose what is already known of the Father, which is no announcement whatever, in the very place of one of the most dramatic revelation, scens and scenarios in the entire Bible. D for dunce is the only outcome for such an egregious distortion and severance, intrusion.
In rational terms, let us see what is there, then. We learn that as to this child to be born, It is here, in the textual cohesion and sequence, that there is an ascending wonder, leading to the revelation of EVEN THIS, that to this babe the title "everlasting Father" is not inept, but rather captures the very transcendent character of the Being, who in heaven where there is no question of generations, is not in this subordinate position. Thus on earth, when His name reveals His identity, it is possible to do what in other respects would be ludicrous, confusing and inept: join the two. It is a teaching device, as well as a name. To the uttermost reaches of glory, the Son in His pre-incarnation habitat, is entirely at one with the Father, and shares His glory without exclusion.
Changing this to an imaginary joint declaration of both about the child, explains nothing and invents everything. Babes are not normally counsellors, let alone in the midst of the most deep and profound exposition! Indeed, it makes the naming a matter of counselling*1, not action, whereas action is the very character of the entire proceeding. HOW in that approach is the everlasting Father conjoined quite directly with the Son, in a joint counselling session, so that the One IS the other, each in line giving name to the babe ? There the everlasting Father, on the one hand, and the Prince of Peace on the other, the latter on the throne of David, have something to say. How are they conjoined as one then, babe and Father, for it is the babe who is the focus at this almost hilariously distorted ceremonial institution! Then the Davidic Messiah, prince of peace, and the one specifically differentiated Father, as to being a person, the babe that the revelatory ceremony is all about, becomes co-divulger... This is verbal calisthenics gone electric, engendering a short-circuit.
Were not those in gloom to be given by action, a light, and was not this to be transformative, altering the entire character of history, and was not this one of the chief impactive points, for joy! How then is the name about something being counselled, when the entire passage reeks of SOMETHING SEEN AS ALREADY DONE, in the normal prophetic manner (for which the 'prophetic past' is the customary name)! How then is the name IN THE VERY MIDST OF ALL THE OCCASIONS FOR JOY ON THE ARRIVAL of the Son to be born, to be brought back to a matter of something actively being counselled! It is not counsel but performance, not Father but Son, not rehearsal of the known but expression of the unknown which brings joy, for it is seen graphically in prediction, as done!
How ... ?
Consider. What the Father has, is what the Son is to have. They do not jointly declare it, but of the babe, the Father declares, concerning the Son He attests His name, that is His nature. The babe is not conceived as a proponent of supernatural revelation while in swaddling clothes. There is a limit to the ridiculous, in facing reality. This is no tipsy party, but the expression of the nature of the everlasting ruler who is to be the Messiah promised to David (9:7). Of this category, there is just one, whose word and rule is final as in Isaiah 11 and Psalm 72. The Father is revealing their total equality in status, and exposing this of the Son, a matter of profound rejoicing, for THIS sovereign, even one on earth, is to be like this!
How then is it possible so to confuse the simple reality, though its topic is profound ? It is easy. Just imagine it. Imagination however and prophecy are never kindred, for reality is prophetic material, and dreams are readily despatched by comparison (Jeremiah 23:16-29). But this is not the announcement of a dream, but the attestation of a fact seen as hot off the press, just presented, cause of elastic joy that increases, ecstatic rejoicing that will not decrease.
It is, quite simply, exegetically impossible to interrupt a series of names with an intrusive knife, putting some this way, and some that, without contextual warrant; and that is not only missing, but when the knife is applied, the whole point of the passage is left out, action becomes thought and the rational progression from joy, to naming by which the child is to be called, a series of names, so that the natural and reasonable result in the kingdom of the One so named, in accord with these same names, is gratuitously smashed. Now you can do this sort of thing; but not rationally. You can seek to interpret thus, but in so doing you add what is not there, interrupt what is, destroy the normative sequence from naming to name and name to result, and blast your way through the actual text, into a reserve battalion, kept for the purpose of ADDING to the word of God, wholly forbidden, and that with good reason (Proverbs 30:6).
As noted when this matter was discussed earlier (On Biblical Translations Ch. 2), you can also add words, as well as thoughts, to make a new rendering; and this has been done, but with the same fatal error in terms of addition, as that above.
Each attempt to divorce the names from the announcement that His name would be called, and to institute a contrived combination of some kind, or dispersion of the names, or an allocation to another being than the babe, or to tell us about the sender not the sent, when the latter is to be made the subject of annunciation nominally, as already phenomenally, is merely a crusade to conquer the word of God, subjecting it to dismissive irrelevance to the occasion, disruptive dispersal of the five pillars which God has place in concert, and that not for no reason.
God is one who never propagandises, and this is one of His most beloved features. The truth is good, and that is good enough. There is neither need nor spirit for exulting in what is not in point of fact, exalted. When names are given, they do not exaggerate any more than equivocate, nor are they produced to procure the favour of anybody. Truth does not bend for advantage: it is its own advantage. Thus here the word of God is providing a testimony to the Prince of Peace, though one human by incarnation, as being nothing less than deity Himself, so that NOTHING HUMAN MERELY or essentially is the Saviour of the human race. It is by self-humbling that God does it; and Jesus the Christ is humble only for that reason, that it is becoming to His task and form, and nature; but He does not humble His words (John 8:58), when it comes to the all-important point of His own identity, without belief in which, there is neither Christianity nor salvation nor wisdom nor knowledge, but only a vaguely related continuum of inadequate ideas.
For a more extended treatment, see On Biblical Translations Ch. 2 at Isaiah 9:6.
Professor E. J. Young makes an important point in his trilogy, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 1, p. 333, in terms of grammar. If the suggested translation were to be followed, then the wor d for counselling' would in that case be a participle. Why, he asks, should it be this and not an imperfect ? In other words, what is the point of being told about an active counselling session when the point is not that, but the result. As noted above likewise, what is the point of a naming when the conferees are not only both the namer and the named, who counsel together about things, but the one is not enduing the other with a name! There are prodigies, but this is too much. The namer is Himself the Prince of peace, a man! seen in babe's circumstances, actively conferring on His name.
Just as there is a time for action, so is there for conferring. When action is the pith, then performance is the requirement, and counselling is out of place.
Indeed, what is this PROCESSIVE matter being given to view on such an hypothesis, designating apparently some kind of celestial looking at the matter in progress, and how does it relate to a name actually and actively being assigned! It is grammatically not only an enigma, on such a view, but contrary to the action context and the done deal status in view. As such, for this reason alone, it is a violation of the theme and approach of the text, inventing an entirely different story.
Invention has its place; it is not when interpreting other people's words.