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"Little child" in Isa

There is obvious connection among Isa 7:14; Isa 9:6,7; and Isa 11:6-9.

The first two prophecies were, firstly and in a limited sense, about the child Hezekiah. in Isa 7, Isaiah is commanded to bring his message of hope to king Ahaz. The original "virgin" in the context would have been his bride-to-be. Ahaz seems to scoff at Isaiah's offer of an encouraging message -- he wants nothing to do with the God of Israel. But the child which his young wife would bear to him would be Hezekiah; this special child of promise was destined to deliver his people from the Assyrian threat.

Isa 9:6,7 -- in the immediate historical context -- carries forward the promises of Isaiah. The new child would become king, would be specially strengthened by Yahweh (as his symbolic name implied: "Immanuel" -- "God is with us!"), and would be bring peace to a war-torn and broken land!

In these first two passages also, the connections with the coming Messiah are obvious and powerful -- so much so that sometimes the original history and Old Testament connections are not given the full weight they deserve. But it is worth recognizing their primary -- if only partial -- fulfillment in the days of Hezekiah and Sennacherib. And seeing the "big picture" of Isaiah helps in this respect.

This brings us to the third "child" prophecy, in Isa 11. The words of Isaiah describe a scene of complete tranquility, when all the savagery of the beasts of the field has been removed:

"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:6-9).

It is certainly a picture, in broad and general terms, of man's reclamation of dominion over the earth, and his subjugation of the animal kingdom (Gen 1:28).

But it is more than that; it is a picture, in specific terms, of Christ's victory over sin and death. (And this is precisely what a failure to link together the Scriptures -- and look for the larger context, the "forest" and not just the "trees" -- may cause us to miss.) In the final and complete fulfillment, Christ is the son born of the virgin in Isa 7:14; he is also the child born "unto us" in Isa 9:6. Then, considering this context, he is just as surely the "little child" in Isa 11:6, and the "infant" ("sucking child": AV) and finally the "young child" ("weaned child": AV) in Isa 11:8. So the beautiful vision of these verses is not impersonal. It is not just about ANY young child -- or even ALL young children; it is about Christ!

Isa 11:6 shows Christ as the "little child" because of his perfect trust in God (cp Mat 19:13,14); he is the "babe" ordained in strength to still the enemy and to have dominion over all creation (Psa 8:2,6-8).

Isa 11:8 shows Christ as the "sucking child" and then the "weaned child" -- feeding first on the "milk" and then on the "meat" of the word, growing in spirit and wisdom and grace (Luke 2:40). Both "cobra" and "viper" belong to the "seed of the serpent" (Gen 3:15; Mat 3:7; 23:33). Jesus, under the nurture and admonition of his Heavenly Father, steadily grew in spiritual strength, and steadily faced one by one the trials of the "adversary" in his flesh. He had nothing to fear from the power of the serpent, for he faced it and overcame it with a greater power -- faith in God's word and promises. And, finally, in the kingdom age, the "den" of the serpent will hold no fear whatsoever for Christ, or for those who like him have become "little children" in faith!


Note: Here is another question: is the description of the great predators lying down at peace with their prey, in Isa 11, to be taken literally, or only symbolically? While not ruling out some sort of more literal fulfillment, the context surely points toward a symbolic fulfillment:

"But you, Bethlehem... out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times [cp Isa 9:6: 'everlasting Father']. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth [cp Isa 7:14: 'a virgin shall conceive'; also cp with Mic 4:9,10]... He will stand and shepherd his flock [as a shepherd protects his flock from wild beasts like the wolf or leopard or lion!] in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God... And he will be their peace [cp Isa 9:6: 'prince of peace']. When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. They will rule [or 'crush' -- like Gen 3:15 again!] the land of Assyria with the sword... He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders... The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep [cp the language of Isa 11:6-9], which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue... I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me" (Mic 5:2-15).

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