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The Promised King

Tim Chester | November 18th 2021

What’s the biggest threat we face at the moment? The fallout of a global pandemic, perhaps. Or climate change or intergenerational inequality. Or shifting geopolitical power. How do you see your personal future? Perhaps you face growing health issues or you worry how you’ll manage in retirement. For many people the future feels gloomy.

In Isaiah’s day, the future looked gloomy for God’s people too.

Threats in Isaiah’s Day

 In Isaiah 7 King Ahaz is king of Judah, and he has a problem. After the death of King Solomon in 931 the nation had divided into two. The two southern tribes of Israel’s twelve tribes formed the nation of Judah (the nation ruled by King Ahaz). Together Ephraim and another nation, Aram, have ganged up against Judah (Isaiah 7:1-2).

So Isaiah says to King Ahaz, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid” (Isaiah 7:3-4). It’s the eighth century BC equivalent of the famous British wartime poster: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” In other words, trust in God and everything will be all right (Isaiah 7:5-9). 

The Response of King Ahaz

Isaiah even invites King Ahaz to ask for a sign (Isaiah 7:10). Perhaps Isaiah can see that Ahaz is uncertain, and so he says, in effect, Let God reassure you. Before you bet your future on the Lord, let the Lord give you a sign.

Ahaz replies, “I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). It sounds rather pious. But basically Ahaz is saying, Thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to look for help elsewhere. I’m going to do a deal with Assyria.

God’s Reply

So God gives Ahaz a sign that he’s not looking for: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:12-14). 

It’s a famous Christmas promise. But originally it was a word of judgment. Ahaz is a descendant of King David, and God had promised David that his line would always rule over God’s people.

Into this distress, darkness and gloom, light is coming.

So it looks like God needs Ahaz so God can keep his promise to David. But here God is saying, I can bring the reign of David’s godless sons to an end and then start again with a virgin. King Ahaz thinks he can do without God, but it’s God who can do without Ahaz. God can judge the house of David and still fulfill his promise to David by raising up a king from a virgin.

Light is coming

This is the dark backdrop to the wonderful promises of Isaiah 9:1-7. Into this distress, darkness and gloom, light is coming:

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Isaiah contrasts the past judgements and threats to the nation with what will happen “in the future.” The promise is that a light is coming, and it’s going to come to them first. The distress, darkness and gloom with which Isaiah 8 ends are going to give way to light. “There will be no more gloom” (Isaiah 9:1). “A light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Gloom will be replaced by joy. Isaiah 9:3 talks about joy four times:

“You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (Emphasis added)

An end to conflict

Both Isaiah 9:4 and 9:5 begin “For...” In Isaiah 9:1-3, darkness will be replaced by light, and gloom will be replaced by joy. Why? Here are two reasons:

“For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,

you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,

the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor.

[For] every warrior’s boot used in battle

and every garment rolled in blood

will be destined for burning,

will be fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:4-5)

Reason #1: God is going to end oppression—he will shatter “the yoke that burdens them” (Isaiah 9:4). All the injustice, exploitation, insecurity, unfair wages and corruption that scar our world will be eradicated. As a result, we will rejoice “as people rejoice at the harvest,” because we will enjoy the fruit of our labour (Isaiah 9:3).

Reason #2: God is going to end war—“every warrior’s boot” will be burned (Isaiah 9:5). Isaiah is reworking the promise of 2:4, where he talked about swords being beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. And we so will rejoice like “warriors ... dividing the plunder” (Isaiah 9:3).

Watch any television news program or read any newspaper and you will readily see what an amazing promise this is. This is unbelievably good news.

A king is coming, a new King David (Israel’s greatest king), who will reign over God’s people in justice and peace. This is Jesus. 

But how will it happen? Isaiah 9:6 also begins “For...” Here’s the means by which God will end oppression and war:

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and for ever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This is the son promised in Isaiah 7:14 and the son promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-14. A king is coming, a new King David (Israel’s greatest king), who will reign over God’s people in justice and peace. This is Jesus. 

This article is adapted from Isaiah For You by author and pastor Tim Chester. The book is part of the God’s Word For You Series—expository guides by trusted Bible teachers that walk you through books of the Bible verse-by-verse in an accessible and applied way. These flexible resources can be read cover-to-cover, used in personal devotions, used to lead small group studies, or used for sermon preparation.

Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a pastor, author and teacher. Tim is a faculty member of Crosslands Training and has written and contributed to over 40 books. He has a PhD in theology and was previously Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK. Tim is a trustee of Keswick Ministries, and lectures and teaches widely on Missiology and Christian spirituality. Tim lives with his wife Helen in rural Derbyshire and loves to walk. He has two adult daughters.

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