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“To us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
[1]
The story of the entire Bible can be told by focusing on the shoulders of mankind.
In GENESIS 9:23 we read that two of the sons of Noah, Shem and Japheth, placed a garment on their shoulders and walked backward so that they could cover their father’s nakedness without embarrassing him.
When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away from his home, he placed a skin of water on Hagar’s shoulder [GENESIS 21:14].
Eliezer, chief of Abraham’s servants, travelled to Mesopotamia to seek a bride for Isaac.
As he stood by the well near the city of Nahor, Rebekah came with a pitcher of water on her shoulders [GENESIS 24:15].
During the Exodus, when Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land, the people of God each carried on their shoulders the kneading bowls and the dough, which was not yet leavened [EXODUS 12:34].
Bezalel and Oholiab were filled with the Spirit of God.
Thus empowered, they made beautiful garments for the High Priest.
On each shoulder was an onyx stone engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel [EXODUS 28:7, 12].
Whenever the people of Israel moved, they transported most of the accoutrements of the Tabernacle on wagons.
However, the golden table of showbread, the seven-branched candle stand, the golden altar of incense and the ark were transported on the shoulders of the children of Kohath.
When Israel crossed the Jordan, Joshua commanded that a representative from each tribe was to pick up a stone from the middle of the river and place the stone on his shoulder, bearing it to the far shore so that a memorial could be erected there as a reminder of the mercies of God [JOSHUA 4:5].
Samson carried away the gates of Gaza, bearing them off to Hebron on his shoulders [JUDGES 16:3].
Moving beyond our text, we witness the Lord condemning Shebna because of his self-exaltation.
God, speaking through the Prophet, says that He shall appoint Eliakim the son of Hilkiah to reign over His people, and God will place on his shoulder the key of the House of David [ISAIAH 22:22].
Passing on to the New Testament, I observe that the religious leaders of Israel in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry were condemned by the Master because they tied up heavy burdens and laid them on the shoulders of the people [see MATTHEW 23:4].
Jesus, on the other hand, taught that He was the Good Shepherd.
The shepherd is distinguished as one willing to inconvenience himself in order to seek one lost sheep; and when He has found it, He lays it on His shoulders and carries it home [see LUKE 15:5].
The entire story of the Bible can be told by focusing on the shoulders of mankind.
Just so, today, we are focusing on the shoulders of the Messiah.
The Hebrew word translated “shoulder” is šĕkem.
Šěkem “designates not just the shoulders, but also the upper part of the back in general.
Hebrew šĕkem can designate either the common noun “shoulder/back” or the place name ‘Shechem.’”
…The KJV, in GENESIS 48:22, has Jacob saying to Joseph, “I have given you one ‘portion’ above your brothers.”
For ‘portion,’ the RSV [together with the ESV] has ‘one mountain slope’ and the JERUSALEM BIBLE [has] “Shechem.”
The text presents a play on words here.
Jacob parcels out to Joseph Shechem, a place which becomes the latter’s burial place eventually (JOSHUA 24:32)…
“[T]o wear something on the shoulder is to wear or display it proudly and assert authority… In this context note in the messianic passage (ISAIAH 9:6) the phrase, ‘The government shall be upon his shoulder.’
The Child is to be a King and Ruler.”
[2]
In the text before us this day, the government, referring to the coming Millennial reign, is said to be upon Messiah’s shoulder.
[3] During these days of Advent, I am focusing attention on the Advent prophecy that is found in ISAIAH 9:6, 7. There, Isaiah encouraged the nation through pointing to the coming Messiah.
In concise, pointed words, the court prophet spoke of the coming King of Israel.
In this message for this second Sunday in Advent, I invite you to explore Isaiah’s otherwise mundane reference to the shoulder of Jesus.
Isaiah states that the government shall be upon His shoulders.
Whatever can be meant by this statement?
What are the implications for us today?
*THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER* —Isaiah speaks in the present tense, but intends that we anticipate a future fulfillment.
He is looking forward to an event so momentous that the entire world will be astounded.
Isaiah is actually speaking of the Messiah in this text.
As we saw in a previous message, the humanity of Christ our Lord is clearly prophesied in the words pointing to a child that will be born, whereas the deity of the Saviour is confessed in the words promising that a son that is to be given.
Now, Isaiah, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, confesses that the government shall be upon the shoulder of this One that shall be born that He may be given in sacrifice for mankind.
A noted German scholar of the Hebrew language wrote concerning this passage, “The same person whom the prophet foretold in ISAIAH 7 as the son of the virgin who would come to maturity in troublous times, he here sees as born, and as having already taken possession of the government.
There he appeared as a sign, here as a gift of grace.
The prophet does not expressly say that he is a son of David in this instance any more than in ISAIAH 7 (for the remark that has been recently made, that yeled is used here for “infant-prince,” is absurd); but this followed as a matter of course, from the fact that he was to bear the government, with all its official rights (ISAIAH 22:22) and godlike majesty (PSALM 21:6), upon his shoulder; for the inviolable promise of eternal sovereignty, of which the new-born infant was to be the glorious fulfilment, had been bound up with the seed of David in the course of Israel’s history ever since the declaration in 2 SAMUEL 7.” [4]
Well might we ask what the prophet meant when he spoke of “the government?”
What government could the prophet have possibly had in mind?
Careful study of the Hebrew reveals that Isaiah used a somewhat obscure word that is translated “government.”
Miśrâ is assumed to have been derived from the word śrh.
[5] According to Scripture, it seems evident that God has in mind the reign of Messiah over all the earth.
In other words, this is an eschatological passage, it points forward to the reign of Messiah over the earth.
This is an important truth: Christmas speaks of hope precisely because it points forward to the reign of Messiah over all the earth.
At this present time we know that Satan is “the god of this world” [2 CORINTHIANS 4:4].
Jesus identified the wicked one as “the ruler of this world” [e.g.
JOHN 16:11].
The devil, Satan, is also referred to in the Word of God as “the prince of the power of the air” [EPHESIANS 2:2].
However, the malevolent angel will not always be the ruler of this world.
The Beloved Disciple foresaw a day when Satan would be overthrown.
At that time, it will be announced that “the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ will have come” [REVELATION 12:7-12].
Now, “Satan has sown the world with tears, suffering and death.
The world is nothing other than one great planet for the burying of God’s created people.
Death is everywhere reigning supreme.
Suffering, trial, tears, disappointment, frustration, and hurt are everywhere.
The prophecy says the day is coming when the government of the world will be seized from the hands of Satan, and placed in the hands of the Lord God.
We will have a new King, a new government, and it will be in the hands of the Lord God Christ.
There will be no more death.
The dead shall be raised from the heart of the earth.
All of us shall be immortalised, translated, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.
God will make us kings and priests under the Lord.”
[6]
There is coming a day when Christ shall assume His rightful place as ruler of this world.
The Lord Jesus shall reign over this earth for a thousand years, and we who are His people shall reign with Him, according to His promise.
When at last all rebellion has been suppressed, He shall deliver the Kingdom to the Father.
What a precious promise we have received as recorded by the Apostle Paul.
“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”
But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” [1 CORINTHIANS 15:24-28].
Dr. C. I. Scofield, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and a gifted expositor of the Word, wrote of this coming reign of Messiah.
[7] Indulge me as I explore this extended study concerning our Lord’s coming Kingdom that was first presented many years ago.
“[This] is not a promise concerning redemption.
When the Bible means redemption it says so, and when it means government it says government.
Let us credit the Holy Spirit of God with being able to say what He means… “…That promise enters into the New Testament absolutely unmodified.”
You will no doubt recall when Gabriel spoke to Mary, he concluded his word with this promise concerning the Christ, “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” [LUKE 1:26-33].
Again, I wish to pick up Dr. Scofield’s comments.
“Here, then, are two lines of promise absolutely unfulfilled at the first advent of Christ.
He did not recover the Jews at that time from the countries whither He had driven them, and He did not sit upon the throne of David and establish a kingdom over the house of Jacob.
On the contrary, at the behest of a cowardly Gentile governor He was taken away and crucified.
Then, where is His ministry of confirming the truth of God and the promises made to the fathers?
That is the very heart of the meaning of the Olivet prophetical discourse in the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew.
I have not time, to read and expound this.
It will be before us very much in later studies.
But I want to call your attention to this: in the 24th chapter the Lord first programs this age and says it will be one of incessant wars, heading up in the ‘abomination that maketh desolate,’ and then shall be great tribulation such as was not from the beginning nor ever shall be.
The age rushes on to this terrible period called the great tribulation.”
[8]
The disciples appeared perplexed at what must surely have seemed to them to be a novel teaching; I am quite certain that we would have been equally confused had we been present.
The disciples did not have the advantage we enjoy at this present time, late in the Age of Grace.
You will recall that Peter had earlier confessed his belief that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” [MATTHEW 16:16].
Reading the account, we are led to believe that Peter, and the remainder of the disciples as well, was anticipating a political leader who would lead the Jews in triumph over the Gentile rulers.
Yet, Jesus persisted in speaking of going to Jerusalem, of being crucified, of rising from the dead on the third day.
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