Increase, Increase, Increase

That is to say, Increasing

Matthew 4:12-17

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace

“Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES—“THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND TO THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Another conjunction; Another calling. Jesus, having fulfilled in the wilderness that which Israel did not, and having heard his cousin was in custody, Jesus left Judea, returned to Nazareth, then settled in Capernaum which is on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Notice that John has been thrown in prison and Jesus flees the scene. Though we are not told this specifically, notice the context and John the Baptist’s statement in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This marks the beginning of Christ’s increasing ministry and the beginning of the end of John’s decreasing ministry. And as Israel fled from Pharaoh and also attacked Amalek, where Moses’s arms had to be held by the rock, so too, Christ has fled Judea but continues to preach what John preached, which found him flung in prison–“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As the people continue to quarrel with God and Moses, and are bound to wander, getting their water from the rock, Jesus is and was the rock. As Israel was to increase, Jesus is increasing.

All of this was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9, according to Matthew. Notice; “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For Thou shalt break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. The Lord sends a message against Jacob, And it falls on Israel. And all the people know it, That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with smooth stones; The sycamores have been cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.” Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin, And spurs their enemies on, The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west; And they devour Israel with gaping jaws. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out. Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts. So the LORD cuts off head and tail from Israel, Both palm branch and bulrush in a single day. The head is the elder and honorable man, And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men, Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows; For every one of them is godless and an evildoer, And every mouth is speaking foolishness. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out. For wickedness burns like a fire; It consumes briars and thorns; It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame, And they roll upward in a column of smoke. By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother. And they slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, And together they are against Judah. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”

Context is King; genre his general. The author’s aspiration to his audience is absolutely apex. It is essential to ensure a proper exegesis of examples from Scripture and to divide rightly the word of truth. Therefore, as we consult our Old Testament tutor of Isaiah 9, we must also consider the context, author’s aspiration to his audience, genre, exegesis and rightly divide. For the sake of time, we obviously cannot consider every word of context, therefore we will hit the highlights by attempting to understand the author’s aspiration to his audience. How does Isaiah 9 relate to the return of Jesus to Galilee? Does not Isaiah 9 refer to the birth of Jesus and not his ministry? It does, for a line or two but as we consider the context we see that it is about the ministry of Jesus.

Consider: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore.” I really should have used this passage in my missives on Revelation. To those who think things are getting worse, listen to the words of Isaiah again;  “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.” Does not no end to the increase mean, there will be no end to his increase? Actually, that is the theme in Isaiah 9. That is that while Israel was to increase, they decrease and ten tribes are now, deceased. On the other hand, Jesus will continue, in perpetual prophecy, to increase.

Consider the battle of Midian and the booted warriors. Consider the people who are fuel for the fire. In the middle of my missive writing, I listened to a… frankly, I don’t know what she is, a prophecy scholar, I suppose, who listed several “signs” that we are living in the last day. That is, Christ will rapture his church during this generation because things are so bad that he has to do it. Since I struggle with short-term memory, I took detailed notes. However, they weren’t detailed enough. Had I known how many times she would say, “I have never seen this before,” when speaking of her sight, not history’s, I would have counted. I did, however, mark each of the “signs” which she so carefully enumerated, in which she stated the phrase more than once–25% of the signs she enumerated, according to her, have never happened before, at least not at the magnitude seen from her window. From Middle-East turmoil to technology of the Mark of the beast, since she had never seen it this bad before, Jesus must rapture his church soon. Pardon my sarcasm but, really, there’s never been turmoil in the Middle-East? Compare now, which has a comparative peace, to 70 AD, then rethink your claim. She has a valid point about technology, Twitter is actively against a christian world view. But who’s fault is that? Christians post pictures of pies but don’t give glory to God. We should perform like the reformers who preached through the printing press. Nevertheless, she ostensibly opines and rips a few verses, or a few words, out of context to presumably prove her point. This is why I used the CAGED method, to eliminate what I think I see based on the culture and climate in which I live. She actually quoted a couple of words from Matthew 24 to prove her point. The same Matthew 24 that reads, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.“ Last time I checked, this, means, this, and, all these things, means, all these things. She then bashed, in an angry tone, amillennials and post-millennials for not taking the Bible literally. Do you see the hypocrisy? Should not “all these things” and “this generation” be taken literally? But I digress.

The point I pathetically attempt to make, is that we take verses out of context. Matthew’s aspiration to his first century audience is to consider Isaiah 9 as a whole in reference to Christ and his ministry, and increase of said ministry. We have seen John the Baptist claim, “He must increase but I must decrease.” Don’t miss this because your entire world view may change based on the increase of Christ’s governance. It’s why I say, “unless you are learning for yourselves, you only know what you have been taught.” This so-called prophecy scholar, did not come up with these thoughts on her own, even though we find her “signs,” incredibly ego-centric. Ironically, one​ of her signs was the rise of false teaching. It has been said to shut out the sermon with numbers in the title–the Bible doesn’t use numbers in that way. Jesus never says, “here are the three things to make you happy,” or “seven signs of the end times will be as follows;” Listen, please do not miss this, you can disagree with everything I have ever said or will say but consider this, when one enumerates “principles,” or “precepts,” or certainly, “promises,” they are absolutely taking verses out of context, the Bible is not written in this fashion. In fact, it is literature, far superior to enumerated lists. Do you want to know what must happen before Jesus returns? Nothing. The same applies to Isaiah 9…fulfilled! It was all fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Do aspects of the prophecy remain, such as the ever-increasing government of Jesus? Yes, of course they do. Nevertheless, the prophecy points​particularly to the priestly ministry of Jesus.

Consider the context and quote of Matthew, concerning the land surrounding Galilee; “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” Matthew makes explicitly evident that this prophecy is being fulfilled in Jesus going back to Galilee.

If Context is King, we must examine the battle of Midian. Since Israel was in perpetual war with the men of Midian (not alliteration alone, it’s also a another literary device, it is irony, for Israel was supposed to wipe out everyone but they only managed to make war with most men), it is difficult to pinpoint the battle of Midian to which the prophetic passage refers. Context is King. When Moses and the Israelites battled Midian, they won the battle, but ultimately failed, miserably. They ended up in intermarriage with the people they were sent to destroy. However, they easily conquered the men, then after Moses yelled at them, most of the women as well. They also killed Balaam, son of Beor. This account is found in Numbers 31.

However, another battle of Midian exists in our Old Testament tutor. This account is found in Judges 7. Gideon and 300 men with trumpets and clay pots were victorious over an enemy so large that their camels couldn’t be counted. I am of the opinion that this is the battle of Midian to which Isaiah refers. Nevertheless, I am also of the opinion that the former was also to be considered, as with any victorious battle because that is the context. We also see joy in division of spoils in both accounts. Specifically though, I believe Isaiah to be referring to Gideon, simply because of the simplicity and overwhelming victory that is also expressed by Isaiah and because of Matthew’s focus on the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. This is because it was in this region that Gideon pursued Midian. Read Psalm 83 for a further emphasis on the battle of Midian. All this to say, it is about the increase of Christ.

I simply don’t have enough time to make all of the connections contained in the context while keeping​ your curiosity. I can provide an overview and those who seek more will no doubt find it, if using the CAGED method. There is no insignificant word in inspired authorship. Isaiah is replete with imagery of darkness and light. Matthew sums it up by quoting a few passages of Isaiah. He is not taking the verses out of context but expecting the reader to understand the context. Words like, Rezin, Ephraim, Midian, Zebulun, Naphtali, fire, smoke and the like are used to show Jesus, easily, shining in the darkness. The Increase of his ministry and government are to be clearly seen. Israel had its share of victories, through​ the Lord of course, but as God said to Gideon when he told him to reduce the number of troops, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’” Israel did become arrogant and failed but Jesus remains faithful. Remind you of anyone? Like Revelation, our Old Testament tutor is a mirror. The more I see the failure of Israel, the more I see my failures. Thank God Jesus doesn’t fail and that his governance is increasing forevermore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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