Theme: A Child Born, A Son Given
In this week’s Christmas lessons, we look at five Old Testament prophecies and see what details they reveal about the Messiah’s birth.
Scripture: Hebrews 10:7
There is something else that’s significant about this prophecy. Isaiah writes that it’s a shoot that will come up from the stump of Jesse, and it’s a branch that’s going to spring from its roots. What enters your mind when you think of a stump or roots? Well, obviously you think of a tree that’s been cut down. A stump is a tree that has been cleared away at ground level, and there’s nothing left but roots underneath that stump. It is from this stump and from those roots that the Messiah (called the Branch) is going to appear.
This reference to a stump is a prophecy of the decline of the house of Judah. At the time of Isaiah, nobody would have been thinking about this. They would have been thinking about the great promise made to David, that his line is going to continue on the throne and he is never going to lack one of his descendants who will rule as king. Judah will remain preeminent as the tribe from which Israel’s kings will come.
But with the fall of Jerusalem Judah did become a stump, and his descendants were no longer kings. In that sense the tree of Davidic kings was cut down and it became a stump. It is during this long period of foreign domination over the house of Judah, and Israel as a whole, that Jesus Christ appeared. Christ is the shoot or Branch who will once again reign as king. He reigns now upon the throne of the universe, and my understanding of prophecy is that one day he is actually going to reign upon the earth in what we call the Millennium.
For the second prophecy we turn to the ninth chapter of Isaiah, verses 6 and 7. This passage is similar in some ways and yet it adds an important element. Isaiah writes: “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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase 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 forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
Now, you can tell at a glance that this prophecy or birth announcement is much like the former one. It’s announcing that the Messiah is going to reign on the throne of David. Here it’s not talking about the stump or the root of Jesse, but about David himself and that this king is going to come and reign for ever and ever in justice and righteousness.
The interesting thing that this prophecy adds to what we learn from Isaiah 11 is that this Messiah who is going to reign upon the throne of David is divine. Verse 6 says that to us a child is born, and to us a son is given. That is a marvelous use of theological language. You see, the child was born, that is, he was born a human child. But as a son he was not born but given, that is, he was the Son of God from eternity. God gave his Son and he was born a child. It’s a very accurate use of language to reflect the God-man in the two natures of Jesus Christ.
We see a text like that and it emphasizes why we talk about verbal inspiration. The very words that were chosen are absolutely flawless as we study the scriptural teaching concerning these great doctrines. And the second half of that verse makes the teaching about the identity of this Son explicit. He is said to be the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. For two of those names we can understand how a merely human messiah might fit them. Such a one could well be a wonderful counselor to whom we would look for advice. Solomon could be seen as a wonderful counselor because he was noted for his wisdom. Or we look at the term Prince of Peace and we say that this was also true of Solomon. While David was said to be a man of war, during Solomon’s long reign peace prevailed, generally speaking.
But what about those other two names, Mighty God and Everlasting Father? What an extraordinary thing that is! You know, we have heard that text so many times, we just take it as commonplace. We hear it sung, we hear it read, and we know perfectly well that it refers to Jesus who of course was God who came in the flesh. But remember this was written by Isaiah hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ and written in the context of a committed monotheistic culture. The Jews believe in one God, not more. And while the Greeks had stories about sons who had come from the gods, the Jews had no such theology. They believed, as they were taught in the Old Testament, that there is one God who reigns in heaven. And yet here is Isaiah saying that there is one who is to be born in the earthly line of David who is nevertheless going to be given the name Mighty God and Everlasting Father.
Let me say at this point that this is not a different view of God than what we have confessed throughout the history of the church. We speak of the one true God who exists in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Isaiah writes that the one to be born is himself the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father. This of course is not a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, it’s a way of saying that everything that can be known about God the Father is to be known in Jesus Christ.
What is meant by reference to the “stump” of Jesse?
What important element does Isaiah 9:6-7 add to our understanding of the messianic prophecies?
How do the names given to the Messiah fit with the biblical doctrine of the Trinity?