Welcome to 740 B.C. The land of Israel has been divided by civil war into the North and the South. The southern kingdom consists of the traditional lands of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah and is simply referred to as “Judah” with its capital in Jerusalem. The ten other tribes making up the northern kingdom is referred to as “Israel.”
Isaiah was a prophet during the time of several kings ruling over the land of Judah. Chapter 9 was written in a time of great turmoil within the divided kingdom. Israel, in the north, having first rebelled against God’s chosen King David, had turned away from the worship of God. Under pressure from Assyria, they had allied with the pagan nation of Syria and were seeking to force Judah into the same alliance (ch 7). Isaiah was sent to reassure Judah that the LORD was their strong defender and that Syria and the kingdom of Israel were relying on false hopes that would fail them (“…the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.” 7:16).
Judah was under great pressure to compromise. Would the king of Judah fear God or would he fear man? They had terrible enemies both far (Assyria) and near (Syria and Israel). Would God really provide? Or was it better to hedge his bets and arrange for some well-armed allies?
God’s promise shines brightly amid pressure and threat. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; … For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder…” (9:2-6)
As we know on this side of the cross, the promise of deliverance was so much greater than Judah realized. For not only was God promising to deliver his people from Syria and Israel and Assyria, but his deliverance would extend to the entire world. God delivers all who take refuge in him through his promised Messiah Jesus.
Sadly, the king of Judah feared and trusted man instead of God. The leader of God’s people negotiated for protection with the Assyrians, surrendering David’s throne to a pagan nation hostile to God (2 Kings 16:7-9). Yet, just as God had said, Syria and Israel’s false hopes did indeed fail them, and they were conquered by Assyria as of 722 B.C.
It’s now 2022 A.D. And what will we do? We live during a time of pressure and threat from enemies without and within: the world, the flesh and the Devil (1 John 2:14-16). We too have received great promises from God and the Son has indeed been given to us. But not all his promises are yet completed. We live between the start of God’s Kingdom on earth and its fulfillment. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (v7), but we still await the full consummation of the Kingdom, his government and his peace. Will we trust God? Will we resist the temptations and distractions of the pagan world to centre ourselves around God? Will we focus the few days that God grants us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matt 6:33)? Will we start today?
Father, you know even better than we do the threats and temptations that surround us. But in your word you have given us your precious and very great promises. Grant us courage to trust you. Grant us diligence to obey you. Grant us joy that glorifies you. Thank you for your virgin-born Son, for blood-bought mercy, for your present kingdom and the kingdom to come. In the name of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Amen!