Isaiah 9 : 1 - 6 ( NRSV )

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.(1) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shone.(2) You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.(3) For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.(4) For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.(5) For a child1 has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;2 and he is named Wonderful Counselor,3 Mighty God,4 Everlasting Father,5 Prince of Peace.6(6)

Comment

     Isaiah announces the coming of a new ruler and the nature of this rule. Historically there is a link with the ideology of the Davidic kings. But instead of pointing to success for a new ruler's armies, the prophet speaks about the victory of "justice" and "uprightness."
     In Jerusalem, "life" and "truth" are organised in self-serving ways (Is.1:1-15). In this context Isaiah speaks a prophetic vision of the powerful will of YHWH being asserted in new ways (Is.1:16ff). The words of the prophet offer an alternative scenario to people who lack faith in any other point of reference outside their own interests (Is.1:21-23). Isaiah envisions the dismantling of the existing power arrangements (Is.24-25a) and the making of a new start (Is.1:26b)!
     Ironically, this talk of dismantling the old, becomes the way that allows the prophet to speak about hope and what comes after the dismantling. In the time to come, there will be a new city, a new community, a new faith (Is.4:2-6). And importantly, emphasis is laid on the fact that YHWH will not quit - until the newness is brought about (Is.9:2ff)!
It is YHWH's power-for-life which will be gifted to Jerusalem. This power-for-life concerns a new neighbourhood wellbeing. It is both a free gift and the requirement for new practices. The movement towards newness takes the form of an ideal ruler, whose ruling ways will be life-giving! (vv.6-7).
     The hopeful vision of the prophet, serves a critical function, of destabilsing the present arangement of power in Jerusalem. This glowing picture of the city's future and especially of it's future ruler, serves to expose the injustices of the present order and the failure of the present rulers. This vision of the promised future, works against, undermines, and subverts the present power arrangements in Jerusalem society. Isaiah's speech about YHWH's power-for-life is another way to speak about the powers for no-life that currently hold sway among the Hebrew people and their current rulers' failure to live up to their calling, to be YHWH's agents. It becomes a statement about the power of ideology to seduce, deceive, and prevent an honest discernment of reality.
 
footnotes:
1. [ v.6a ] A child: A child: the Immanuel of Is.7:14 and Is.8:8; cf Is.11:1, 2, 9. In Christian tradition and liturgy, this passage is used to refer to Christ.
2. [ v.6b ] Authority rests upon his shoulders: Dominion.
3. [ v.6c ] Wonderful-Counselor: Remarkable for his wisdom and prudence.
4. [ v.6d ] Mighty God: A warrior and a defender of God's own people, like God's Self.
5. [ v.6e ] Everlasting Father: Ever devoted to God's own people.
6. [ v.6f ] Prince of Peace: His reign will be characterized by peace.


 

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