Isaiah’s prophecy of a child that would be born to a virgin and named Immanuel (Isa 7:14) and his statement that a child would be born to rule on David’s throne (Isa 9:6-7) are cited of Jesus at Christmas. These descriptions of the life and ministry of Jesus were first spoken as the solution to a political crisis in the days of Isaiah. During the reign of King Ahaz, the Arameans and Israel sought to bring Judah into an alliance that would strengthen the region of Palestine against the marauding Assyrians. To Judah’s crisis, Isaiah spoke of God’s eternal solution. Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7 are just two places in Isaiah 7-12 where the prophet detailed the progression of Messiah’s ministry, from His birth to His dominion.
(1) The Messiah would be born of a virgin. To King Ahaz, the prophet said, “the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14)—a prediction that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ (Matt 1:23; Luke 1:31).
(2) The Messiah would have divine character and righteousness would characterize His rule. Isaiah announced not only the destruction of Judah—with the salvation of only a remnant, but also a time when the Lord’s favor would be extended directly to the Gentiles (Isa 9:1-3), which Matthew said was fulfilled in Jesus’ early Galilean ministry (Matt 4:15-16) during which time He preached, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matt 4:17). Isaiah predicted that the virgin’s child would grow to become a great ruler, saying, “The government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom” (Isa 9:6-7a)—a prophecy that the angel Gabriel quoted to comfort Mary in her role as the one who would give birth to Messiah (Luke 1:32-33). Luke notes that as an adolescent, Jesus’ “grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him” (Luke 2:40), resembling Isaiah’s prophecy of Messiah: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him—a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isa 11:2). Isaiah announced that Jesus’ latter ministry would be characterized by righteous judgment. “He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips” (Isa 11:4), Isaiah said. This schema is reflected in John’s description of the return of Christ in Rev 19:15, “From His mouth came a sharp sword, so that with it He might strike the nations. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty.”
(3) The Messiah would identify fully with His people—a group that would include Gentiles. While Ahaz and many of the nobility in Judah aligned themselves with Assyria, Isaiah and his companions, who together compose a faithful remnant, resolved to trust only in the Lord. The prophet confessed, “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him. Here I am with the children the LORD has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion” (Isa 8:16-18). The author to the Hebrews saw in Isaiah’s companionship with his children (the prophets under his care) an illustration of Christ’s identification with humanity; together they formed a faithful remnant that endured suffering and rejection and victory (Heb 2:1-13). Isaiah’s prophecy, “No one will harm or destroy on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water,” was followed by the announcement that, “On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious” (Isa 11:9-10). The apostle Paul saw in Isaiah’s words justification for Jews to accept the Gentile believers among them (Rom 15:12).
In a time of political turbulence, Isaiah announced a deliverer who would come. The New Testament authors cited Isaiah 7-12 to teach their audiences about Jesus. They understood that the Lord’s jealousy for His people to enjoy His presence would be realized through the one born in Bethlehem. In Jesus, they said, God would work out His plan to be glorified among them and bring direct blessing even to the Gentiles.