Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
stain glass, source unknown
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
— Isaiah 9:6
It is difficult to read this verse1 and not be influenced by the Christian interpretation that it is a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, as God incarnate. It may be that, although many of Jewish faith argue that the Hebrew translates as "a child was born" and refers to King Hezekiah, ruler of Judah at the time of writing, and one of the very few righteous leaders to sit on the throne.2
My preferred way to read this is is to consider it as applying to every child born in the world. Each son or daughter we are blessed with has the potential to make this world a better place, each one might be called Wonderful, each one could grow up to be a wise counsellor, a bringer of peace. Each one is Immanuel: God with us.3
Perhaps this verse is a message to parents to love their children with all their hearts, to nurture their potential, to raise them with all the possibilities of greatness inherent within each of us, and conversely not to crush their spirits through criticism, judgment, mockery, oppression, control and all the other default behaviours humans fall into. Raise your children as if they were incarnations of God, suggests Isaiah, raise them with reverence, love, faith and a sense of awe. The future of our world rests upon their shoulders.
2 This is the second 'prophesy' verse in Isaiah, the first being found at 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Matthew's gospel combines these two (quite separate) verses to claim Isaiah's words are a prophecy for the birth of Jesus.
2 Hezekiah's reign is covered in 2 Kings 18-20, and reflected on in Reprieve.
3 Context for the term can be found here, Immanuel