What do you do when your back is against the wall? Where do you turn when the bottom drops out on your life? How do you respond when you see society decaying and the culture crumbling before your very eyes? Such was the situation in which Isaiah found himself.
Isaiah lived in perilous, terrible times. Everywhere he looked there was a bad moon on the horizon. The signs of the times were grim. As Isaiah looked to the spiritual horizon, he saw a divine vengeance. Within a generation, the nation of Israel would be overcome and taken into captivity. The Promised Land would lie in waste. The cities would be destroyed and their gates burned. The plush vineyards would be uprooted and the olive groves cut down. The only persons left in the land would be the old and weak.
Isaiah found himself announcing the impending doom and ruin. Assyria would be the rod of Jehovah’s anger. The sins of God’s people were obvious. Those blessed by God had turned their backs on God. Judgment was sure to come. In chapter one, Judah’s sins are set forth as primarily and fundamentally sins of religion. The people had rebelled against God. They were dull and dead concerning the goodness of God.
In addition, the nation had adopted foreign customs and established evil alliances. They lusted after anything ‘foreign.’ God’s people were pursuing and imitating worldly ways and making no apologies for it. Social decay and moral filth were predominant.
In chapter five, Isaiah recounts a number of national sins, including greed, dissipation, defiance of Jehovah, hypocrisy, a loss of moral distinctive, and political conceit. For these reasons, Jehovah’s coming judgment is sure; there will be no escape.
In chapter nine, we discover God is angry because of Israel’s arrogance. Isaiah describes in vivid detail the trials and troubles sent by Jehovah. The depth of their sin and rebellion is summarized five times in chapters nine and ten; “In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, and His hand is still stretched out.” Look at all God was doing to get their attention and call them to repentance: invading armies, defeat on the battlefield, and unabated anarchy. On the horizon stands captivity. Yet, with the day of judgment waiting in the wings, the people persisted in “doing their own thing.” Divine discipline has failed; only judgment remains.
In spite of this gloom and doom, Isaiah reveals a ray of hope. One, God will spare a remnant. He encourages his readers with four powerful words, “God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:10b, NASB). Immanuel is with us, no matter how dark the hour and depressing the times. For those who follow the Lord, the light of the Lord shines in the darkest night.
The most significant revelation is tucked away in chapter nine. It stands out like a full moon against a black sky. It brings hope to the hopeless and encouragement to the downhearted. Read verse two of chapter nine: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.”
What is this bright spot, this great light? With the prospect of impending doom, how can anyone get excited about this light? The answer is in verse six: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
The light was the “star” of Bethlehem, the babe in the manger, the Christ of Christmas. “God with us” literally coming to dwell among us. In the very first chapter of John’s Gospel we read, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
It is obvious, therefore, that the person of this text is none other than the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the child born to a virgin. He is the sinless Son who pleased His Father in heaven. He is the one who carried the weight of sin and suffering on His shoulders. No wonder Isaiah begins by saying, “His name is wonderful!”
Today we live in a dark and decaying world. The increasing presence of the cults and occult, the rise in false spirituality, New Age teachings and pop religion may cause us to fear the future. The ascent of “anything goes” thinking and “I did it my way” living makes one wonder if God has forsaken us? Are we too under the judgment of God? Some say “yes,” others say “not yet.” Whichever may be correct, this one thing is certain: Jesus Christ is wonderful! What the world needs now is a fresh encounter with the Christ who turns death into life, chaos into hope, and war into peace.
All of us were given a name at our birth. My name, Michael, means, “messenger of God.” My oldest daughter’s name is Erin, which means “peace.” Alfred means “justice.” Allen means “harmony.” Paula means “reserved and timid.” Jacob means “supplanter” or “twister.”
No matter what a name means, the person bearing that name can miss the mark in living up to the name. I know some Michaels who are not saved and live like the devil. I’ve met other persons named Erin who are holy terrors. I grew up with a guy named Alfred; he stayed in trouble with the law. There are people named Allen who disrupt every organization they join. I’ve met some girls named Paula who were boisterous and loud. I have a cousin named Nancy. She’s a sweet lady, but not graceful. Maybe Jacob is the only person who really lived up to his name, so when God changed his nature, He changed his name.
Not all of us live up to the meaning of our name. Not so with Jesus; He is wonderful! All who have found forgiveness of sin, cleansing from guilt, and comfort in prayer will agree. He is called “Wonderful” because He is. This is not a term of flattery. It is simply a name worthy of the Son of God. One writer has stated, “Those who know Him best declare that the word does not over strain His merits. Instead, it falls far short of His deserving.”