For 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, esv).
Have you ever heard people quote Isaiah 9:6 and skip the sentence about government? It's understandable—we’re all eager to get to the part that speaks most directly to our hearts: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. But in our haste, let’s not overlook the importance of the phrase right before those incredible names: “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.”
Why is this good news? Because human government is flawed and failing. Even in our country, the system is broken; the purposes set out in the Constitution are not always being accomplished. In all human government motives are suspect and hearts are sinful. Instead of a constantly improving society, we have a continually deteriorating one.
If the sad answer to “What’s wrong with human government?” is “Almost everything,” we desperately need an answer to “Who’s going to fix it?” And that answer is found in this verse written thousands of years ago, prophesying two advents—one of which has already happened. “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.”
Although human government has its place, the church’s hope must be always and only in the promises of God. He said a child would be born—a Son would be given—and two thousand years ago in Bethlehem the child was born exactly as prophesied. That was the first advent. But Isaiah also tells us that Jesus will come again, this time to reign in power. That will be the second advent, for which we wait eagerly as God’s children.
Jesus Christ is going to return to earth and He will establish a kingdom of permanence, promise, perfection, and power. This kingdom—this government—will be upon His shoulder. No wonder the apostle Paul calls this our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)!
In Isaiah 9:7 we are told, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” God will not bring about this kingdom just because He can (His ability), or even because He said He would (His integrity). God tells us that His most foundational attribute which will bring about His government is His zeal—the fact that He cares with holy passion about doing it.
We use the term shoulder to describe carrying weight. Asking someone to “put your shoulder into it” is a call for extra effort. “A shoulder to lean on” implies physical and emotional support. And if we “don't think we can shoulder that,” it’s just too much for us.
But nothing is too much for the Lord. Not only will Jesus Christ completely shoulder the government of His kingdom with permanence, promise, perfection, and power; He will do so with absolute sovereignty and glory to spare. This is the second advent we await, to which the first advent drew us nearer.
The baby born in Bethlehem will come again as King. And this time the government will be forever and finally upon His shoulder.
Father, thank You for all You have given me in Your Son, Jesus. I acknowledge that I don’t even begin to comprehend the love You’ve lavished upon me. Thank You for sending Jesus to become a man so He could live a perfect life and die an atoning death for me. Thank you for promising that He will return in power and glory to reign forever, and thank you that Jesus can shoulder everything I need Him to. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.