Lord’s Library contributor Bill Furioso offers commentary on the Mighty God Scripture found in Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. Check out their ministry At Christ’s Table for additional Bible studies and resources.
A little earlier in the prophecy, Isaiah had revealed the astonishing fact to Ahaz that the coming Messiah would be born a human being, that is, born of a woman – a virgin woman at that in Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” which means “God with us.” This is to say that Jesus is God. Isaiah also told Ahaz that the Messiah would be “a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense” in Isaiah 8:14 (Editor’s note: It also appears in 1 Peter 2:8).
I believe part of the reason for his saying this has to do with the fact that the Messiah is God, and this is a fact that must be reckoned with – one cannot ignore it or side-step it. In His day, as it is in our day, the deity of Jesus Christ was “up for debate.” But the fact remains that God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, as well as Christ’s apostles, all make the claim that He is God. As far as Jesus is concerned, that is “not up for debate.” This is how C.S. Lewis put it in his book Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
So, that will suffice for the “God” part of the name “Mighty God.” The Messiah, Jesus Christ, is God.
Mighty God Scripture in Isaiah 9
The Hebrew word translated mightyis gibbor. It is the intensive form of the root wordgeber, meaning valiant warrior. So, in its intensive form, we could say that this word means a most, or The Most Valiant Warrior. The concept of God as a warrior is first mentioned in the Scriptures in what we refer to as “The Song of Moses.” The Lord had just miraculously delivered the Hebrews from Pharaoh and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and the people broke out into a song. The song spans the first 18 verses of Exodus 15. Here are some select verses:
- Exodus 15:1-3: “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.”
- Exodus 15:6-7: “Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.”
- Exodus 15:11-13: “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.”
- Exodus 15:11-18: “The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”
A psalm of David’s (Psalm 24:7-10) contains these lyrics: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.”
In the verses just prior to Isaiah ascribing the name “Mighty God” to the Messiah, he made reference to His being valiant and victorious in battle (Isaiah 9:3-5). Someone might say: “But, wait a minute! When Jesus came to earth, he was not a Valiant Warrior”; He was more like “a lamb being led to the slaughter.” This is true in one sense, but in another sense, He did conduct battle as a Valiant Warrior. It is a must that we understand this “other sense” – a “spiritual sense”- because misunderstanding this caused His first disciples to stumble, particularly in Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal. We must understand two things:
Firstly, the Lord’s way of doing battle looks very different from the human way – it’s spiritual; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
The apostle Paul said that the Lord defeated the powers of darkness through the cross in Colossians 2:14-15: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
Isaiah poignantly describes this spiritually Valiant Warrior as being “like a lamb that is led to slaughter.” Isaiah 53:7 says: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” The Bible then goes on to say in Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Secondly, we need to understand that Jesus’ first advent had a different look and a different purpose from His second advent. This also was not understood by His first disciples. The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 9:28: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
And the apostle John’s description of Jesus at His second advent looks quite different from “a lamb that is led to the slaughter”– he writes in Revelation 19:11-16: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
As it was stated, at a time when pressure from Rome and the Jews was on Jesus’ disciples, they lost their conviction that He was, in fact, the “Mighty God” – the Valiant Warrior; and this caused them to stumble. Also, as we noted before, while Isaiah was prophesying to Ahaz, king of Judah, about the Messiah coming as the “Wonderful Counselor” – a Miracle-working Strategist”, and the “Mighty God” – a Valiant Warrior, he too stumbled in unbelief and gave his allegiance to Assyria instead.
I think the problem for us human beings can be found hidden in Isaiah’s phrase: “Unto us a Child is born.” A “Child” – even the Christ Child born in a stable – just doesn’t look like a Miracle-working Strategist or a Valiant Warrior. But the Lord spoke through Isaiah in another place (Isaiah 55:8-9) explaining: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Simply put: “God is Spirit” according to John 4:24: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” He’s different! His strategies are different – they’re spiritual according to 1 Corinthians 1:30: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” Editor’s note: See also Colossians 2:3: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
His way of doing battle is different – it’s spiritual according to 2 Corinthians 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Editor’s note: See also Colossians 2:14-15: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
But, for Ahaz, the “big guns” of Assyria looked more sensible than the “Unto us a Child is born” prospect. We usually assess a problematic situation just like Ahaz did. It’s not that it is difficult to believe that God is mighty. After all, if there is a God, then for sure, He’s going to be a Mighty One. I think the problem for us is believing God – that is, trusting in, depending upon, and leaning upon God, Who is Spirit. It’s the “Spirit” part that’s difficult. We are more inclined to trust, depend and lean upon something or someone in the natural realm.
God wants to bring us to a place – a spiritual place – a place in our faith where we can see the Miracle-working Strategist and Valiant Warrior in the face of the Christ Child born in a stable. There is a place mentioned only twice in the Scriptures which correlates with this place in faith. It is in Jerusalem “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;” God called two kings there for the testing of their faith. One failed the test, and the other passed the test.
We read in Isaiah 7:3: “Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;” Isaiah’s son’s name, Shear-Jashub, means “A remnant will return.” This represents a people of faith that God has “formed for Himself” in Isaiah 43:21: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” In this place, the Lord had Isaiah tell Ahaz to trust God, rather than Israel and Syria; trust God rather than Assyria; trust Immanuel, “God with us”; trust the “Wonderful Counselor”, the Miracle-working Strategist; trust the “Mighty God”, the Valiant Warrior; trust the Christ Child born in a stable. But Ahaz chose to trust in and pledge allegiance to Assyria. He became a vassal to the king of Assyria and fell into idolatry.
Now we fast-forward 33 years to another king of Judah – Hezekiah. Assyria had promised to protect Judah, but had now turned on them, threatening to defeat them. Hezekiah faced the same problematic situation as Ahaz did earlier. And the Lord brought him to the same place in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 18:17 reads: “And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field.”
This situation was even worse. There were more than 185,000 Assyrians right there surrounding Jerusalem. A messenger from the Assyrian army challenged Hezekiah’s belief in God and intimidated the people of Judah by trying to discredit the Lord as seen in 2 Kings 18:19-35 and 2 Kings 19:10-13. But Hezekiah’s response to the situation was very different from Ahaz’s – he instead chose to trust in the Mighty God and turned to the Lord in prayer.
We read his prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19: “And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.”
In response to Hezekiah’s prayer, the Lord sent an angel into the camp of the Assyrians and killed 185,000 of them, and the remaining troops ran back home to Assyria. A little later the king of Assyria was murdered by his own sons according to 2 Kings 19:35-37: “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”
We may not be facing the Assyrian army itself, but we all face sometimes overwhelming pressures on our health, our finances, or our families. In these times, we may go through the motions of praying to God, while we are actually looking for something or someone else to really “come to the rescue.” As I said, God wants to bring us to a place – a spiritual place – a place in our faith where we can see the Miracle-working Strategist and Valiant Warrior in the face of the Christ Child born in a stable.
He calls us to that place – “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.” We turn in one direction to see that we are surrounded by “185,000 Assyrians.” We turn in the other direction and we can see the Christ Child born in a stable, who is actually the “Wonderful Counselor,” a Miracle-working Strategist, the “Mighty God,” a Valiant Warrior. We will choose which we will trust in, depend upon, and lean upon. Where will we place our trust? Where will we pledge our allegiance? Will we become vassals of the god of this world that the Bible describes in 2 Corinthians 4:4?
- 2 Corinthians 4:4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
Will we choose to serve and love Mammon instead of God? Or will we identify with the son of the prophet – Shear-Jashub, being numbered among “the remnant who will return? May we be “this people have I formed for myself” that the Bible describes in Isaiah 43:21?
- Isaiah 43:21: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”
Review: We’ve seen this “Most Valiant Warrior” appearing throughout the Scriptures (Exodus 15:1-3, 6-7, 11-13, 18): “the LORD is a man of war” in “The Song of Moses,” “King of Glory” in David’s psalm (Psalm 24:7-20), receiving from Isaiah (Isaiah 53:12) “the honors of a victorious soldier,” called by the apostle John “faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth”, and “and in righteousness he doth judge and make war” with a “sharp sword”, as He rides a white horse with “armies which were in heaven” as the Bible says in Revelation 19:11-16.
- Revelation 19:11-16: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
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