The last verses of the eighth chapter picture a horrible state of wretchedness and despair: “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth, and behold trouble and darkness dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness. But see what a change awaits them !
Isaiah 9:1. Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vacation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
Read the fine translation of the Revised Version: “But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish.” What a marvellous light from the midst of a dreadful darkness! It is an astounding change, such as only God with us could work. Many of you know nothing about the miseries described in those verses, but there are some who have traversed that terrible wilderness; and I am going to speak to them. I know where you are: you are being driven as captives into the land of despair, and for the last few months you have been tramping along a painful road, “hardly bestead and hungry.” You are surely put to it, and your soul finds no food of comfort, but is ready to faint and die. You fret yourself: your heart is wearing away with care, and grief, and hopelessness. In the bitterness of your soul you are ready to curse the day of your birth. The captive Israelites cursed their king who had led them into their defeat and bondage; in the fury of their agony, they even cursed God and longed to die. It may be that your heart is in such a ferment of grief that you know not what you think, but are like a man at his wit’s end. For such as you there shines this star of the first magnitude. Jesus has appeared to save, and he is God and man in one person: man that he may feel our woes, God that he may help us out of them. No minister can save you, no priest can save you — you know this right well; but here is one who is able to save to the uttermost, for he is God as well as man. The great God is good at a dead lift; when everything else has failed, the lever of omnipotence can lift a world of sin. Jesus is almighty to save! That which in itself is impossibility is possible with God. Sin which nothing else can remove is blotted out by the blood of Immanuel. Immanuel, our Saviour, is God with us; and God with us means difficulty removed, and a perfect work accomplished.
Isaiah 9:2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Jesus came to Galilee of the Gentiles, and made that country glorious, which had been brought into contempt. That corner of Palestine had very often borne the brunt of invasion, and had felt more than any other region the edge of the keen Assyrian sword. They were at first troubled when the Assyrian was bought off with a thousand talent of silver; but they were more heavily afflicted when Tiglath-pileser carried them all away to Assyria, for which see the fifteenth chapter of the second book of the kings. It was a wretched land, with a mixed population, despised by the purer race of Jews; but that very country became glorious with the presence of the incarnate God. Even so, at this day his gracious presence is the day-dawn of our joy.
Isaiah 9:3. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
The Revised Version reads, “Thou hast increased their joy.” If Christ comes to you, my dear hearer, as God with us, then shall your joy be great; for you shall joy as with the joy of harvest, and as those rejoice that divide the spoil. Is it not so? Many of us can bear our witness that there is no joy like that which Jesus brings.
Isaiah 9:4. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
Your enemy shall be defeated, “as in the day of Midian.” Gideon was, in his dream, likened to a barley-cake, which struck the tent of Midian, so that it lay along. He and his few heroes, with their pitchers and their trumpets, stood and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” and Midian melted away before them. So shall it be with our sins, and doubts, and fears, if we believe in Jesus, the incarnate God; they shall vanish like the mists of the morning. The Lord Jesus will break the yoke of our burden, and the rod of our oppressor, as in the day of Midian. Be of good courage, ye that are in bondage to fierce and cruel adversaries; for in the name of Jesus, who is God with us, you shall destroy them.
Isaiah 9:5. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
When Jesus comes, you shall have eternal peace, for his battle is the end of battles. “All the armour of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall even be for burning, for fuel of fire.” This is the rendering of the Revision; and it is good. The Prince of peace wars against war, and destroys it. What a glorious day is that in which the Lord breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder, and burneth the chariot in the fire! I think I see it now. My sins, which were the weapons of my foes, the Lord pile in heaps. What mountains of prey! But see! He brings the fire-brand of his love from the altar of his sacrifice, and he sets fire to the gigantic pile. See how they blaze! They are utterly consumed for ever.
Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
How is it that the Lord Jesus becomes glorious in our eyes; And he whose name is Immanuel is now crowned in our heart with many crowns, and honoured with many titles. What a list of glories we have here! What a burst of song it makes when we sing of the Messiah: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”! Each work sounds like a salvo of artillery. It is all very well to hear players on instruments and sweet singers rehearse these words but to believe them, and realize them in your own soul, is better far. When every fear and every hope, and every power and every passion of our nature fill the orchestra of our heart, and all unite in one inward song unto the glorious Immanuel, what music it is!
Isaiah 9:7. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. If Christ is your Saviour he must be your King.
“But know, nor of the terms complain,
Where Jesus comes he comes to reign:
To reign, and with no partial sway;
Lusts must be slain that disobey.”
The moment we really believe in Jesus as our salvation we fall before him, and call him Master and Lord. We serve when he saves. He has redeemed us unto himself, and we own that we are his. A generous man once bought a slave-girl. She was put upon the brook for auction, and he pitied her and purchased her; but when he had bought her he said to her, “I have bought you to set you free. There are your papers, you are a free woman.” The grateful creature fell at his feet and cried, “I will never leave you; if you have made me free I will be your servant as long as you live, and serve you better than any slave could do.” This is how we feel towards Jesus. He sets us free from the dominion of Satan, and then, as we need a ruler, we say, “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.” We are glad to be ruled by “Immanuel, God with us.” This also is a door of hope to us That Jesus shall be the monarch of our hearts is our exceeding joy. To us he shall be always “Wonderful.” When we think of him, or speak about him, it shall be with reverent awe. When we need advice and comfort, we will fly to him, for he shall be our Counsellor. When we need strength, we will look to him as our Mighty God. Born again by his Spirit, we will be his children, and he shall be the everlasting Father. Full of joy and rest, we will call him Prince of Peace. Are you willing to have Christ to govern you? Will you spend your lives in praising him? You are willing to have Christ to pardon you, but we cannot divide him, and therefore you must also have him to sanctify you. You must not take the crown from his head; but accept him as the monarch of your soul. If you would have his hand to help you, you must obey the sceptre which it grasps. Blessed Immanuel, we are right glad to obey thee I In thee our darkness ends, and from the shadow of death we rise to the light of life. It is salvation to be obedient to thee. It is the end of gloom to her that was in anguish to bow herself before thee. May God the Holy Spirit tell of the things of Christ and show them unto us, and then we shall all cry —
“Go worship at Immanuel’s feet!
See in his face what wonders meet!
Earth is too narrow to express His worth, his grace, his righteousness.”