2003-12-13 - For Unto Us a Child is Born
Excerpted from Geoff's Study in Isaiah 12-13-2003
Finally, the eternal nature of these verses does create somewhat of a problem, assuming this prophecy is specifically limited to Hezekiah. So apparently for Hezekiah, his eternity was only for the length of his life. Sounds a lot like Christians who believe you can lose your eternal life. I guess eternal life only lasts as long as you have it.
Aside for the illogic here, and the poor translations, it is important to realize the interpretation we have been considering was not the original understanding of Jewish scholarship. Going back to Buksbazen: " Jewish commentators did not dispute at all the Messianic nature of this prophecy until modern times, when the Christological controversy became very heated. The ancient (first century b.c.) Aramaic Targum Jonathan paraphrased this passage: And there was called His name from of old, Wonderful, Counsellor, Might God, He who lives for ever, the Messiah in whose days peace shall increase." This paraphrase presents the ancient, authentic and traditional interpretation of this passage. Later Jewish commentators, strenuously seeking to avoid the Christian interpretation, gave it a different meaning."
(Buksbazen, p. 164. NIV Study Bible Notes, Zondervan Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999. )
Once again, scholarship rejects the valid understanding of God's word because it conflicts with its own agenda. And before we become too critical, we should remember that so-called Christian scholars have been doing the same thing for quite some time.
III A Christian understanding: First, remember there is no problem with saying the reign of Hezekiah may be a foreshadowing of the future reign of the messiah. But that's the point: it is a foreshadowing, not the fulfillment.
The only real disagreement seems to be over the (A) first title. It is either two, "Wonderful," Counselor," or, it is one, "Wonderful Counselor." The former was the historical translation found in the KJV, but today, the more accepted is the latter, a combined title. What is clear is that Isaiah, whether he understands it or not, it presenting the doctrine of the incarnation. This child is born, but at the same time this child is God.
Again, keep in mind the Jewish approach that disagrees with this being Messianic is a product of the Middle ages. But this view isn't new; it is the view held by the New Testament and the Church fathers.
The last point I want to make here is, while the verse starts with the incarnation, the primary focus is the Millennial Age, the Second Coming. We know because Jesus came to Israel, and at His second coming He will be coming to restore that nation, fulfilling the titles given to Him here. Which of course moves us into a discussion of those titles.
IV The Messiah's Titles:
A. Wonderful Counselor: As already noted, some see this as two separate titles and others as one. I lean towards the one. He is the Wonderful Counselor because He is God (Pele) and finally the people will gladly desire His words, His counsel. This may also have overtones of His kingly position as well. " Why do you now cry aloud--have you no king? Has your counselor perished, that pain seizes you like that of a woman in labor? (Micah 4:9). The NIV Study Bible puts it this way: " Wonderful Counselor, the coming Son of David will carry out a royal program that will cause all the world to marvel. What that program will be is spelled out in ch. 11, and more fully in chs. 24-27 (see 5:1--"marvelous things, things planned [counseled] long ago")." (NIV Study Notes, Zondervan Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999)
B. Mighty God: There can be no doubt the coming one would be God incarnate. This would be the case, whether Isaiah realized what he was saying or not. Buksbazen states:" Here the Messiah is called the mighty God, the same name as God, thus clearly bearing witness to the divinity of the Messiah. Some translate El Gibbor, God-like hero, but in view of Isaiah 10:21, this is not satisfactory."
"A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God" (Isaiah 10:21).
C. Everlasting Father: The one title which is somewhat problematical is Everlasting Father. Wait a minute! How can the Son be the Father? Within the teaching of scripture regarding the Tri-unity of God, He can't.
Ironside explains it this way. " A better rendering would be the "Father of Eternity," or as some have suggested. "The Father of the Coming Age." The Son is not to be confounded with the Father, though He and the Father are one (John 10:30). But He is the One in whom all the ages meet (Heb. 1:2, margin), therefore, He is rightfully designated, "The Father of the Ages," or "The Father of Eternity." " I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). (Ironside, H. A., Isaiah, Loiseaux Brothers Inc., Neptune N.J. 1952, pp. 61-62)
" But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things " (Hebrew 1:2).
D. Prince of Peace: There are two obvious aspects to this title. The first is specifically Messianic and related to Israel. This is the promise of peace for the nation, a peace which has
never been experienced in the way it will be during the Millennial Age.
"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Second, and more general, the coming Messiah will bring the opportunity of peace between God and His creation. Where we were once at war with God, through the shed blood of the Messiah we are now at peace with Him.
V Conclusion: What do these verses tell us about God and Christ, and flowing from the answer, what do they tell us about how we should represent ourselves as believers? I appreciate Oswalt's insight into the incarnation found through these verses: " ... What is the meaning of the emphasis upon this person as a child? Surely, it is for two reasons. First, it emphasized that ... the divine ruler will not merely be God, but although partaking the divine attributes, will have the most human of all arrivals upon the earth, namely, birth. The expected perfect king will be human and divine. But he language also makes another point. The point underlies the central paradox in Isaiah's conception of Yahweh's deliverance of his people. How will God deliver from arrogance, war, oppression, and coercion? By being more arrogant, more warlike, more oppressive, and more coercive? Surely, the book of Isaiah indicates frequently that God was powerful enough to destroy his enemies in an instant, yet again and again, when the prophet comes to the heart of the means of deliverance, a childlike face peers out at us. God is strong enough to overcome his enemies by becoming vulnerable, transparent, and humble--the only hope, for turning enmity into friendship."
(Oswalt, John N., The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, "The Book of Isaiah," In Two Volumes, William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1986, p. 245.)
Questions or comments?