A study in contrasts

Call this a study in contrasts.

Isaiah 9 is a well-known passage for its description of the advent of the Messiah:

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.

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.

We read the words quickly because of our familiarity with them, but they contain a remarkable description of the most remarkable man who ever lived.

What else is often missed in the discussion of what follows is the anger of the Lord at Israel in vv. 8-21:

Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin

And spurs their enemies on,

The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west;

And they devour Israel with gaping jaws.

In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away

And His hand is still stretched out. (9:11-12)

Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,

Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows. (9:17)

By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up,

And the people are like fuel for the fire.

No man spares his brother. (9:19)

Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,

And together they are against Judah.

In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away

And His hand is still stretched out. (9:21)

What is the source of the anger of the Lord?  Why does He bear this righteous indignation against the nation?  Because of their pride and arrogance of heart (9:9):  “Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, nor do they seek the LORD of hosts” (9:13).

When given the prophecy of the suffering servant, the Messiah and Redeemer, they are not interested.  They prefer their own prideful accomplishments (v. 10).  In their minds, there is nothing they cannot rebuild, there is nothing they cannot restore, there is nothing beyond their abilities.  In other words, in the minds of the people of this nation, they are sovereign.  They live as authoritative kings, unwilling to bow to or recognize the authority of any other king — even the King of kings.  So when they hear the prophecy of the Messiah and when they are chastised and rebuked and disciplined for their arrogant disobedience, they offer a cumulative shrug and they “do not turn back to Him who struck them, nor do they seek the Lord of hosts” (9:13).

Here is the pervasive danger of pride:  it will so delude one that even when confronted with the reality of his humble position, he will resist that truth and refuse to submit to God’s purposes.  He will obstinately assert his rights and abilities and will not humble himself.  He will not seek God.  He will not desire the truth.  The statement about Israel is haunting:  “they do not turn back…they do not seek the Lord of hosts.”  This is how pride will destroy a man.  Confronted with his need and inabilities, he will continue to resist God.

So here is a pair of related questions for this prideful man:

  • When the supremacy of God is demonstrated (in Scripture and in the circumstances of my life), do I respond in humility and worship, or do I resist Him and continue to arrogantly pursue my own agenda and desires?
  • When I experience discipline from God, do I assume that I can restore what the Lord has removed and disciplined, or do I repent of the sin that has infested and inhibited our fellowship?

This chapter is a study in contrasts:  the only King eternal, who humbly became Messiah and Savior to adopt sinful men into his divine family, and sinners who pridefully resist the authority of God and with delusion assert their independence from this eternal King.

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