By Gregg Bing
Isaiah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah for about sixty years, covering the reign of four different kings. During his ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel, because of their idolatry, was taken into captivity to Assyria as a judgment from God. Isaiah’s message to Judah was that this same type of judgment awaited them if they continued in their own rebellion against God (Isa. 1:2-4, 16-20).
As with all of God’s prophets, Isaiah’s warning of coming judgment was accompanied with a message of hope for the future, a promise of salvation from the Lord. This salvation was to be brought through Israel’s promised Messiah, the One anointed by God to bring redemption to the nation. We find just such a promise in Isaiah 9:6-7. This nation, which once walked in darkness, was to have a great light shine upon them, and this light was Christ.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
During the Christmas season, more than any other time of year, the world’s eyes are turned to this Child that was born. Manger scenes are placed for public display. Christmas songs are sung and played on radio and television, songs such as “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” and “O Holy Night.” These are beautiful songs with wonderful messages about the Lord Jesus Christ, but, sadly, few really think about or understand the meaning in these songs. Of those who acknowledge Jesus’ birth, most never get beyond the babe lying in a manger.
While Isaiah 9:6 begins with the birth of the Messiah as a Child, the second phrase in this verse helps us look further, to the fact that “unto us a Son is given.” Who is this Son? Why was this Son given? What did the gift of this Son mean (to the world)? These are questions we need to carefully consider.
Who is this Son?
In response to Jesus’ powerful healing ministry, the Jews asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matt. 12:22-23). He was, in fact, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1), but did not become so until He was born of the virgin Mary. Jesus referred to Himself most often as the Son of Man, but this, too, was because of the fact that He became a Man (John 1:14, Rom. 5:15, 1 Tim. 2:5).
This Son who was given is the Son of God. This is not a title or an office that Jesus assumed at birth. He did not become the Son of God at birth; He has always been the Son of God. His eternal existence is clearly declared in John 1:1-3.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
In the beginning, when God created the world, the Word (the Lord Jesus Christ) already existed. He existed with God. He existed God. In fact, all things were made through Him (cf. Col. 1:15-17). When Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born in Bethlehem, the eternal Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The prophet Micah, in foretelling that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, described Him as Him “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2).
Isaiah said “unto us a Child is BORN,” but “unto us a Son is GIVEN.” This implies that He was already the Son of God before He was given to be born as a Child. In Galatians 4:4, Paul says, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” In 1 John 4:9 we read that “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him.”
Some teach that the title, “Son of God,” implies an inferiority to God the Father, but this is not Scriptural. The Bible clearly declares the Son to be very God! The first chapter of Hebrews gives evidence of the superiority of the Son to angels. We find the Son described as “the express image of His (God’s) person” (Heb. 1:3). We read of God the Father calling upon all the angels to worship the Son (Heb. 1:6). We see God the Father calling the Son “God” (Heb. 1:8) and then “Lord” (Jehovah) (Heb. 1:10). Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, dispelled the notion that because Jesus took a body of flesh He was not God. Paul wrote, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
Some assert that Jesus, Himself, never claimed to be God, but this is also not true. Three times the Jews attempted to stone Jesus, each time in response to a statement Jesus made about His relationship to God the Father.
When the Jewish rulers questioned why Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, He answered, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Hearing these words, the Jews “sought to kill Him,” not just because He healed on the Sabbath, but because He also “said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18).
When the Jews claimed that Abraham was their father, yet refused to believe in Jesus, Jesus told them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” When they questioned how He could have seen Abraham, since He was not even fifty years old, Jesus asserted, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jews understood that He was claiming to be eternal and thus God, so “they took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:56-59).
Jesus assured the Jews that His power to keep His sheep was given to Him by His Father, saying, “I and My Father are one.” These words do not mean that He simply agreed with the Father, but that He was one in essence, in character, and in person with Him. The Jews, therefore, “took up stones to stone Him.” When Jesus questioned why they tried to stone Him, they answered, “For blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:30-33).
The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the real meaning of the title “Son of God,” that it is a title of deity. When Jesus acknowledged before the Sanhedrin that He was “the Son of God,” they declared He was guilty of blasphemy and delivered Him to the Romans to be crucified (Luke 22:70-71).
Why Was This Son Given?
Why did the eternal Son of God enter into this world as a Child born in Bethlehem? From Isaiah’s prophecy we learn that He came to be Israel’s Deliverer, to free them from bondage to their enemies and to rule and reign over the earth as Israel’s King. Isaiah 9:6-7 declares not just the person of the Messiah but His purpose for coming: “The government shall be upon His shoulder,” He is to be the “Prince of Peace,” the increase of His “government and peace” will have no end, and “upon the throne of David and over His kingdom” He will rule with judgment and justice forever.
However, there is a greater and more important reason for Jesus’ birth, not just for Israel, but for the whole world. In 1 John 4:9-10, it twice says that God “sent” His Son.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
To begin with, God sent His Son into the world to become a Man. The eternal Son of God left the glory of heaven to take the form of a bondservant and be made in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” He willingly humbled Himself in this way “that we might live.”
In addition, God sent His Son “to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins.” All men are sinners, being descended from Adam (Rom. 5:12), and “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God is a holy and righteous God. He could not simply overlook the sins of men. His holy and righteous requirements had to be satisfied. The wages (payment) that God demanded for our sins is death; not just physical death but spiritual death as well, which is separation from God (Rom. 6:23a). Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins. God “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). When Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary, He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live through Him” (1 Pet. 2:24). The Son of God had to become flesh in order to shed His blood for our sins, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness)” of sins (Heb. 9:22). However, His flesh, unlike ours, had to be separate from sin. This is what necessitated the virgin birth. Jesus was not descended from Adam, like we are; He was “the Seed of the woman” (Gen. 3;15). The Holy Spirit came upon the virgin Mary and Jesus was conceived in her womb, thus that Holy One to be born of her was called “the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35).
The gospel (good news) for this present age of grace is that “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and rose again, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). All who hear this gospel message and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior receive the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Salvation is not by works, but by the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, let anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). “Having been justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1), “for He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
The majority of the people of the world do not understand that THIS is the reason for the Christmas season: the sacrificial death of the Son of God for the sins of the world that we might live through Him.
The night Jesus was born the heavenly host praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). But there was no peace on earth in Jesus’ day, nor has there been peace on earth at any time in human history. Why not, if Jesus came to provide a way for us to have “peace with God”?
What Did the Gift of This Son Mean?
In anticipation of the cross and the terrible sufferings He would endure there, Jesus uttered these words:
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but division.” (Luke 12:49-51)
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ made it possible for all men to have peace with God. He died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), but this does not mean that all men will be saved. Jesus’ death did not bring peace to the world, but division. The world is divided over one issue: Jesus Christ! The question today is very much the same as it was in Jesus’ day: “What do you think of the Christ, whose Son is He?” People are divided over the issue of the person of Jesus Christ and over the purpose of His coming into the world.
This great division is brought to light in a familiar passage in the gospel of John, chapter 3. Verses 16 and 17 focus on the wonderful message that God sent His Son into the world to provide salvation for all men.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)
However, as a result of Jesus’ finished work, we find the world divided in their response to Him.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
The world, in God’s eyes, is divided into two groups: (1) those who believe in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for them on the cross, and (2) those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary for their sins.
On which side of the divide are you? Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, or do you remain unpersuaded? There are no other positions to take; a person either believes or does not believe. There is no putting off the decision. If you have never trusted Christ as Savior, you are already under the condemnation of God and are separated from Him.
Isaiah’s promise that “unto us a Son is given” was written specifically to the nation of Israel, but from the New Testament Scriptures, particularly the writings of the Apostle Paul, we see that “unto US a Son is given” as well. Won’t you trust in Him as your Savior today!