Reading Isaiah’s scroll can sometimes feel like reading a scrawling manifesto of a madman; a letter full of poetry, politics and promises. Words of harsh judgment and affectionate lovingkindness. And then in chapter nine, a glimmer of hope for coming deliverance.
We all know what it’s like to build up an expectation. The future promise of something brings with it hopes and dreams. Maybe you have expectations about the upcoming holidays. Or perhaps some circumstance in your life—be it school, a job, a relationship, family, or something on the calendar.
Yahweh, through Isaiah, builds up the expectation of deliverance—a great light, increased joy, removing burdens and oppressors, dressing down their enemies. What type of Messiah will bring about such a deliverance? Surely, he will be mightier than any warrior, wiser than any king, and the nations will bow before his throne. Israel has faced the great kings of the great nations surrounding them, some Aristotle/Stephen Hawking/Dwayne Johnson superhuman must be coming their way.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
Cue the record scratch. God is sending a superhuman, but not in the form the Israelites may be thinking. This Messiah will come in the form of a child. Any studious Israelite shouldn’t be surprised. From the earliest pages of God’s relationship with humanity, a child is the promised means of deliverance (Genesis 3:15). And this child is promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:3b), Moses (Dueteronomy 18:18), David (2 Samuel 7:12) and others. The Messiah will not be some god who appears at the appointed time, He will be God who is born into humanity for a time such as this. Not only a child, but a son. God protects, preserves and promises through sonship throughout the Old Testament. Abraham’s possession is preserved through his offspring (Genesis 15:5) and the possession of the land of Israel is divided among 12—well, technically 13—sons (Genesis 28:13, 48:5). God even works His promises through lost sons (Ruth 4:14-15) and wicked sons (Genesis 27:36). God’s promised Son will bear the full promises of God. Through His Son, God is closing the gap between His promised deliverance and Israel’s persistent wickedness.
And a son is given, he is not earned. I did not earn my children based on my merit. And those who know the pain of loss have not been punished for their misdeeds. The grace of God is a mysterious thing, but its timing is always right and its measure is always exact. Israel did nothing to earn the blessing of this son, Isaiah has already made that abundantly clear in chapters one through eight. A son is given through the grace of God for the purposes of God. This child, this son is not just coming to an individual, but He is coming for a people.
What would motivate God to give such a gift? A gift isn’t given reluctantly or woefully, but joyfully. Despite Israel’s wickedness and waywardness, the love of God motivated Him to promise a gift of deliverance through His son. And through God’s love, His son is born and given to us.
When God comes to us, He changes everything – including our expectations. Where do you find your hope? A relationship, a job, a new beginning? In what do you place your confidence for deliverance? Your intelligence, your abilities, your finances? God has given us His child, His son, as a means of hope and deliverance. And we need hope and deliverance. What would Isaiah’s letter to you say? I know I wouldn’t want mine published in history’s most famous book. Praise be to God that to you and me, a child has been born. To you and me, a son has been given. Jesus. In this Advent season, I pray that you would experience the grace of God through His Son Jesus as He delivers you now and forever from the darkness that surrounds you. May His deliverance bring you joy and bring glory, honor and praise to His marvelous name!