Summary: Exploring Isaiah's statement that "the government will be upon His shoulders." Christ the Lord bears His people on His shoulders.

“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 Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [1]

The story of the entire Bible can be told by focusing on the shoulders of mankind. In GENESIS 9:23 we read that two of the sons of Noah, Shem and Japheth, placed a garment on their shoulders and walked backward so that they could cover their father’s nakedness without embarrassing him.

When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away from his home, he placed a skin of water on Hagar’s shoulder [GENESIS 21:14].

Eliezer, chief of Abraham’s servants, travelled to Mesopotamia to seek a bride for Isaac. As he stood by the well near the city of Nahor, Rebekah came with a pitcher of water on her shoulders [GENESIS 24:15].

During the Exodus, when Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land, the people of God each carried on their shoulders the kneading bowls and the dough, which was not yet leavened [EXODUS 12:34].

Bezalel and Oholiab were filled with the Spirit of God. Thus empowered, they made beautiful garments for the High Priest. On each shoulder was an onyx stone engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel [EXODUS 28:7, 12]. Whenever the people of Israel moved, they transported most of the accoutrements of the Tabernacle on wagons. However, the golden table of showbread, the seven-branched candle stand, the golden altar of incense and the ark were transported on the shoulders of the children of Kohath.

When Israel crossed the Jordan, Joshua commanded that a representative from each tribe was to pick up a stone from the middle of the river and place the stone on his shoulder, bearing it to the far shore so that a memorial could be erected there as a reminder of the mercies of God [JOSHUA 4:5].

Samson carried away the gates of Gaza, bearing them off to Hebron on his shoulders [JUDGES 16:3].

Moving beyond our text, we witness the Lord condemning Shebna because of his self-exaltation. God, speaking through the Prophet, says that He shall appoint Eliakim the son of Hilkiah to reign over His people, and God will place on his shoulder the key of the House of David [ISAIAH 22:22].

Passing on to the New Testament, I observe that the religious leaders of Israel in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry were condemned by the Master because they tied up heavy burdens and laid them on the shoulders of the people [see MATTHEW 23:4]. Jesus, on the other hand, taught that He was the Good Shepherd. The shepherd is distinguished as one willing to inconvenience himself in order to seek one lost sheep; and when He has found it, He lays it on His shoulders and carries it home [see LUKE 15:5].

The entire story of the Bible can be told by focusing on the shoulders of mankind. Just so, today, we are focusing on the shoulders of the Messiah.

The Hebrew word translated “shoulder” is šĕkem. Šěkem “designates not just the shoulders, but also the upper part of the back in general. Hebrew šĕkem can designate either the common noun “shoulder/back” or the place name ‘Shechem.’” …The KJV, in GENESIS 48:22, has Jacob saying to Joseph, “I have given you one ‘portion’ above your brothers.” For ‘portion,’ the RSV [together with the ESV] has ‘one mountain slope’ and the JERUSALEM BIBLE [has] “Shechem.” The text presents a play on words here. Jacob parcels out to Joseph Shechem, a place which becomes the latter’s burial place eventually (JOSHUA 24:32)…

“[T]o wear something on the shoulder is to wear or display it proudly and assert authority… In this context note in the messianic passage (ISAIAH 9:6) the phrase, ‘The government shall be upon his shoulder.’ The Child is to be a King and Ruler.” [2]

In the text before us this day, the government, referring to the coming Millennial reign, is said to be upon Messiah’s shoulder. [3] During these days of Advent, I am focusing attention on the Advent prophecy that is found in ISAIAH 9:6, 7. There, Isaiah encouraged the nation through pointing to the coming Messiah. In concise, pointed words, the court prophet spoke of the coming King of Israel. In this message for this second Sunday in Advent, I invite you to explore Isaiah’s otherwise mundane reference to the shoulder of Jesus. Isaiah states that the government shall be upon His shoulders. Whatever can be meant by this statement? What are the implications for us today?

THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER —Isaiah speaks in the present tense, but intends that we anticipate a future fulfillment. He is looking forward to an event so momentous that the entire world will be astounded. Isaiah is actually speaking of the Messiah in this text. As we saw in a previous message, the humanity of Christ our Lord is clearly prophesied in the words pointing to a child that will be born, whereas the deity of the Saviour is confessed in the words promising that a son that is to be given. Now, Isaiah, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, confesses that the government shall be upon the shoulder of this One that shall be born that He may be given in sacrifice for mankind.

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