Courtney Jacob

And He Shall Be Called: How Isaiah Describes the Messiah

For many of us, the Christmas season is filled with nostalgia: baking cookies, decorating, and attending special programs and church services. It’s a season filled with smells, sounds, and traditions that give rise to memories of Christmases past with family and loved ones.

But sometimes our expectations get the best of us and we forget that the Christmas season can also bring with it overwhelming feelings of grief, loneliness, and sometimes even despair. You may be experiencing the first Christmas without a spouse or parent. Your child or spouse may still be deployed for military service and unable to make it home for the holidays. Pain, suffering, and financial hardship may linger causing anxiety or worry. During times like this, we all wrestle with questions like: Does anyone care for me? With all this war and anger, where is our peace? Is God really in control? Does he really have power over all this evil?

In our Groundwork series, “And He Shall be Called: How Isaiah Describes the Messiah,” we’ll study the well-loved prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 and examine how the gospel message we celebrate at Christmas speaks to the entire array of human experiences.

The Messiah’s Coming

You might recognize Isaiah 9:6 from Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah (yes, another nostalgic tradition of the Christmas season for many Christians). In verse 6 the prophet Isaiah foretells the coming of the Messiah, the one in whom the gospel message centers. It’s a verse that brings great comfort to all who hear it. 

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Originally written for Easter, the opening movements of Handel’s Messiah focus on Old Testament prophecy that foretells Christ’s birth.

Much of the hope and comfort that emanates from Isaiah 9:6, and consequently from the corresponding chorus in the Messiah, comes from the names or titles the prophet Isaiah gives to the anticipated Messiah: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. For people looking and hoping for the Messiah, these names describe what they can expect him to be like.

At the time Isaiah wrote, the Israelites had long awaited the promised Messiah, a Savior to deliver them. All the way back in Genesis, we find the first hint at the coming of a conquering figure that would crush Satan’s head forever:

“And I will put enmity   
between you and the woman,   
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,   
and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

Faithful Israelites clung to this promise and similar prophecies we find scattered throughout the Old Testament as they endured drought, famine, exile, and occupation. They found hope in these prophecies even before they had a name to identify the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s description of the Messiah gave the Israelites something to look forward to and to find hope of deliverance in.

Jesus Christ Our Messiah

Unlike the Israelites, we know the name of the long-awaited Messiah. We call him Jesus Christ. Yet it still benefits us to remember the Old Testament descriptions of the Messiah. By studying and remembering them, we learn more about who Jesus is and can see, even more clearly, how he fulfilled the prophecies.

So join Groundwork this Advent season as we anticipate Christ’s birth through our series, "And He Shall be Called: How Isaiah Describes the Messiah":

...and together we’ll discover renewed hope and comfort for our lives as we explore how Isaiah’s names and descriptions of the Messiah do indeed point to Jesus Christ.

For more on Advent, visit Today Devotional's Advent Resource Page.

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