He Has The Government on His Shoulders, Of All The Things
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
I realize I just lost half of my readers.
It certainly didn’t mean to Isaiah what it means to us today. So let’s try to get into what Isaiah meant.
In the ancient world, there was a lot more neighborhood justice than we are used to. There was a lot more than we are comfortable with, really. A woman without a husband or a kid on the street had no say at all in a dispute. If you had witnesses to argue on your behalf, that would help, but ultimately, you needed to appeal to a third party.
The government serves as that third party in ‘fair’ cases of justice. Deciding guilt, delivering punishment, or protection in the future, all fell on the responsibility of the government.
A better word, besides this traditional translation, would be kingdom or dominion. It’s the area for which justice is controlled by a ruling third party.
That means fair justice. Fair justice with the right balance of mercy, justice, punishment, and rehabilitation.
So read it like that:
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and justice and fair judgements of guilt and rehabilitation will be on his shoulder.
That’s why it makes so much sense when it says “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,” it’s not talking about taxes, roads, and infrastructure (or any of the negative aspects of government!); it’s about justice.
When terrible things happen, when evil seems to rule, the most basic thing we long for is justice. The joy of the Messiah is that He brings just the right measure of justice and mercy. Only God could weild the two so perfectly, and He does. As we watch, we see it. Most of the time.