"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." Isaiah 9:6[5h]
DURING THE DAYS of the divided kingdom, faithless King Ahaz of Judah fearfully anticipated an invasion by Syria and Israel (Isa. 7:1-2). Isaiah reaffirmed that David's kingdom would indeed be established forever and even gave the doubting king a sign: A virgin will bear a son and call him "God with us" (Isa. 7:14).
Later Isaiah foresaw the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 BC but again affirmed the promises of God given to David. Despite the present darkness, "unto us a child is born, unto 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. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this" (Isa. 9:6-7).
Now many Jewish commentators consider the promised child as Hezekiah, the successor to Ahaz and Messianic hope of Israel at the time. They believe this because the verbs (yulad and nitan) are in the perfect tense (suggesting completed action). However, it should be noted that the perfect tense is likewise used in Isaiah 5:13, which states that Israel had already gone into galut (exile) when it was clear this hadn't occurred yet. Regardless, the hope that one of David's descendants would establish the kingdom of God upon the earth is a recurring theme in Isaiah, and Hezekiah's birth signified God's presence with Israel during a precarious time in Jewish history.
But notice that the language of Isaiah 9:6-7 refers to the ideal King of Israel (i.e., the Messianic hope) in terms that can be read as God's Presence embodied on earth. The four terms used to describe this King (v6) clearly transcend the historical person of King Hezekiah. For example, the word pele in pele yo'etz (wonderful counselor) is used in Judges 13:18 regarding the name of the Angel of the LORD (who in verse 22 is identified as God). El Gibbor (Mighty God) is clearly a title for the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 10:20-21; Psalm 24:8). Avi'ad (Father of eternity) refers to God as Avinu Malkenu (see Isaiah 63:16, 1 Chron. 29:10; Psalm 68:5; Mal. 2:10). And as for Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace), both the Talmud and Scripture refer to "the Name of God as Peace" (Shab. 10b, Judges 6:24). It is clear, therefore, that these terms are designations for the LORD God of Israel and not merely that of a human being.
mi zeh melekh ha-kavod? Adonai izuz v'gibbor, Adonai gibbor milchamah
Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Psalm 24:8
Now while Jesus is indeed the ultimate fulfillment of the verse, there remains an eschatological dimension: He is not currently ruling and reigning as Israel's King on David's throne, since that will occur after His Second Coming during the Millennial Kingdom. Perhaps that is why the verse says, 1) "unto us a child is born" (the First Advent), and 2) "unto us a son is given" (the Second Advent). At the end of days, when Jesus returns as Israel's King, the Jewish people will comprehend the full meaning of these verses and then "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26).
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 One, Counselor of the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace.Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. - Isaiah 9:6-7
Many Christians regard this verse as being fulfilled in Jesus, and while this is ultimately true, we need to be careful to make certain qualifications when we affirm this. Some Christian theologies teach that when Jesus ascended to the right hand of God (after His resurrection), He also sat down on the throne of David, and they therefore conclude that the Davidic kingdom has been inaugurated. An implication of this is that the Church is now "spiritual Israel," a spiritual kingdom on earth. But note that Isaiah's prophecy of this promised son says (v7): "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore."
If we read the various promises given to Israel in the Scriptures in a plain, straightforward manner, however, we are left with a bit of a problem. Either God has "changed His mind" regarding the covenants He made with the Jewish people (e.g. the promises given to Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant), or He has "transferred" the covenants to the Church, which now represents "true Israel." After all, isn't a true Jew who is one inwardly, as Paul said, and doesn't the New Testament teach that God now only relates to people by means of the New Covenant?
But what does the New Covenant (foretold in Jeremiah 31) actually say? Let's revisit the passage:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD of hosts is his name: "If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD"(Jer. 31:31-37; cp.Hebrews 8:8-12).
I have written about this topic before, but suffice it to say here that it is my settled conviction that God has not forsaken the Jewish people, even though there is a "partial hardening" of their hearts until the fulness of the Gentiles is complete (see Romans 11 for the details). Israel indeed has a future and a New Covenant hope, and while Isaiah 9:6-7 gloriously applies to Jesus, the promise has its ultimate fulfillment upon His return to Jerusalem to establish the Messianic Kingdom of God on the earth (Jer. 23:5-6, 33:15; Ezekiel 47:13-48:29, Ezekiel 48:30-35; Acts 1:6-8; Acts 15:14-17, etc.). Like many of the promises we treasure in Scripture, this one too has an "already-not-yet" status...
"Unto us a child is born" therefore refers to Jesus' first advent as Mashiach ben Yosef, our Suffering Servant, and "unto us a son is given" refers to Jesus' second advent as Mashiach ben David. Just as the patriarch Joseph was finally revealed to the Jewish people as a type of mashiach and savior (though they had initially betrayed him and rejected him), so will Jesus be revealed as both Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David in acharit haymim (the end of days). Then will come true the hope of the Apostle Paul who wrote, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:30).