To Us a Child Was Born

We have good reason to be expectant that God will do, and is doing, what He said He would do.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 ESV)

These words that are repeated often at Christmas time were spoken originally by Isaiah, the prophet, hundreds of years before Jesus. “For unto us a child is born….” These words are so ubiquitous in our western culture today that we may miss the significance of them.

At one time, people doubted the dating of Isaiah because it so accurately describes Jesus who was born around 4 BC. Isaiah lived purportedly in the 8th Century BC. Because Isaiah predates Jesus and the span of time from Isaiah to Jesus, an increasingly skeptical world that seriously doubted the predictive nature of those words begin to think that the Isaiah text was written after Jesus, perhaps in the 1st Century after his death.

People no longer doubt when Isaiah wrote those words, however, not since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the most significant discoveries among the Dead Scrolls was the Isaiah Scroll. It has been dated hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and it is nearly word for word the same as the more recent manuscripts of Isaiah that we had until that time.[1]

Isaiah contains, perhaps, the clearest and most amazing prophecies in the whole OT of the coming of Jesus.[2] For this reason, Isaiah is quoted every Christmas. Particularly the statements stating that the Messiah would come as a child.

At least one aspect of what Isaiah wrote gets lost in wonder of the predictions he spoke. We look back on them now with wonder and amazement that God inspired Isaiah to speak those words so long ago, but when Isaiah spoke them, no one listened. No one believed him.

When Isaiah was commissioned by God as a prophet, he was told the people wouldn’t understand or perceive what he was saying. They would “dull” of heart with “heavy” ears and blind eyes. Imagine that: God calls you to preach His word and says, “By the way, no one is going to understand what I tell you to say.”

We are amazed at those words every Christmas, but do we live like they are true? We look back at the words Isaiah spoke and think about the birth of Jesus with the understanding that hindsight brings.

But consider the Israelites. They looked back on the words of Moses when they were in Egypt, words that people may not have understood or believed at the time they were spoken. And they view the Exodus and miracles God did to allow them to escape Egypt and during their time of wandering in the wilderness the way we might view the birth of Jesus.

Buy, they didn’t understand Isaiah’s prophecies about the future coming of Jesus, the Messiah. John recalls in his Gospel that Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among his very own people – the one to whom the prophecies were shared – and his own didn’t receive him.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11)

We now look forward to the second coming of Christ. Do we believe it? Are we listening? Do we understand? I don’t think we should be so confident that we do perceive things as God has planned. If learn anything from the believers who came before us, we have to admit that their examples suggest that we may not understand or perceive accurately what God plans to do.

Yes, we have the Holy Spirit now, but many Christians who claim to have the benefit of the Holy Spirit often don’t agree with each other on many things.

There is good reason for us to remain attentive, poised to listen, to hear God’s voice with humility and openness. There is good reason to hold loosely to what we think we know and to the way we currently perceive what God is doing. We should cling tightly to what God said, but hold on loosely to our own interpretations of it – lest we makes the same mistakes as the believers who went before us.

In the meantime, we also have good reason to be expectant that God will do, and is doing, what He said He would do based on the record of God’s interactions in history. Jesus is coming again, and He will establish a new heavens and a new earth. He will complete our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. In this we rejoice in hope and faith.


[1] See Christmas Thoughts: What Do the Dead Scrolls Have to Do with Christmas?

[2] Some of the prophecies about Jesus found in Isaiah include the following:

  • Isaiah 7:14 (“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”)
  • Isaiah 8:14 (“Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”) (See 1 Peter 2:8)
  • Isaiah 8:23-9:2 (“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness
  • Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”) (See Matthew 4:12-16)
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 (“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will [a]rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”)
  • Isaiah 28:16 (“Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”) (See 1 Peter 2:8)
  • Isaiah 53:5 (“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”)(See Acts 8:26-36)

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