Monday, December 28, 2009

Whose Child Is This? Isaiah 9:6

PART 1

Many years ago I took a pastoral counseling class that left a very important mark on my theology as a pastor. Understand, I had to endure grueling hours of classes and homework to prove my self as competent with the scriptures. I further took courses to prove that I understood theology well enough to be trusted not to become a David Koresh or Jim Jones or move my church towards becoming a Kingdom Hall. I had classes on how to properly manage a church, evangelize people and understand my church discipline.

One more class I needed had to do with counseling people. The very first thing this counselor/professor said to us right after taking role call was this: “You are not the rescuer; Jesus is the rescuer.” I felt myself suddenly sigh with restrained relief. It was not me to do the saving but Jesus. It was not me to do the delivering but Jesus. It was not me to do the healing but Jesus.

And so I approach this desk tonight with the understanding that no matter what baggage you carried in here with you, it will be Jesus who rescues you. My responsibility is to rightly divide the word of truth, parcel it out as the Holy Spirit leads and present you with the opportunity of a divine moment with God. The rest is up to Jesus.

As a child I remember being in those Christmas programs. Mrs. Story would pass out memorization pieces a few weeks before and then listen to us recite them back to her each week as we returned to Sunday School. Then the day before the program, we would come to the church practice with everyone else. I have no idea what I memorized but I remember that each year as a child participating in the Christmas program.

And do you know, I remember thinking back then: “We are celebrating the incarnation of the Word of God to mankind in human form.” LOL! Of course not! I have no idea what I quoted but I do remember getting a Christmas present from my Sunday School teacher.

But my joking touches on something: what does all of this hoopla of Christmas mean to any of us tonight? Most of us here have heard the Christmas story numerous times. You can only slice a pizza so many ways but it still tastes like pizza. And this Christmas story can become tiresome- maybe, perhaps, possibly, I hope not.

What about you who are sitting here tonight? Have you come in “…beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toiling along the climbing way with painful step and slow?” Do you carry burdens you wish you did not carry? Do you struggle beneath the heaviness of life’s tragedies and difficulties and bad decisions?

These verses are meant for you tonight. I want for you to especially look at the 6th verse from which I plan to speak tonight and next Sunday night.

Isaiah 9:6- “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder. And His name will called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I want us to consider our new birth in light of the birth of Christ. Were it not for his birth your birth would be impossible. Were it not for him coming down from his glory, your hope of eternal glory would be nil. Were it not for him giving of himself totally and completely for your benefit, all of your strivings would bring no glory to him be useless by you.

My outline is as Biblically and textually accurate as a preacher could hope to get so follow me along in three key phrases. The first,

1. For Unto Us a Child is Born.

Let’s look at the very first phrase of verse 6: “For unto us a child is born…”

This Child is not born unless You are Born to this Child.

Is this Child Born to you? Are you born to this Child?

It is difficult to conceive, but there are people who will hear the Christmas songs and never think another thought about the Christ child born in a manger and what it could mean to them.

If a person says that they are a Christian and yet has never experienced what it means to be born-again then they are deceiving themselves. They don’t know. They can keep the rules, the Ten commandments, and honor their mother and father. But unless a person bows their knee and their tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord to the glory of His Father, then they are lost in their sins.

We have what Charles Spurgeon called “spiritual sleep walkers.” These people do the kinds of things that no wide awake person would do. A sleep walker is known to walk outside at night and knock on their neighbor’s door. They will climb ladders, get on roof-tops and all sorts of dangerous things. They do things thinking they are awake when in fact they are asleep.

These sleep walkers presume to be alright with God spiritually. They presume that they are at peace with God when they are not. They presume that they are going to heaven because they are good. But they are only sleep walking. They are not right with God. They are not at peace with God. They are not going to heaven to be with God. Why none of this? They do not know God’s one and only Son, Jesus.

You see, to be born again you must become like a little child and have child-like faith in the Child that has born unto you. “for unto you a child is born…” This child would truly cause the rising and falling of many in Israel and beyond. (Luke 2:34) This child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger came to change your heart and mine. (Luke 2:12)

Only those who hearts have been changed by this Child can claim this Child as their own. Only can Christian people truly receive the prophecy: “for unto you a child is born…”

So I ask again: Are you born again? Do you know Jesus my Lord? Do you know this Christ Child as your Savior? And is he your God and your Lord?

Another subpoint to consider is this:

The closer you get to this child the closer you get to the image of Christ.

I am not speaking of getting closer to this Christ child in a geographical or physical sense but in the sense of becoming a child spiritually.

The natural growth of person is from childhood to adulthood. My wife thinks I’m stuck in my teen years at times and my daughter thinks I’m stuck in the 80’s music wise. But Jesus speaks of us being like little children.

Can you say that you have been made into the children of God? There are a couple of guideposts that might help clarify your answer.

First, do you receive the word of God as it is written without trying to disregard it? Are you willing to accept various and many aspects that are mysterious to you but “God said it, I believe and that settles it for me”? Jesus is the Word in flesh. (Go figure that one out.) Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s word. Jesus’ words will not pass away. When we are as little children, we receive the word of God with joy and look for more.

Second, are you willing to receive leadership from the Church that has been established for your spiritual growth without being divisive among God’s people and rebellious against God’s leadership?

Jesus established the Church in order to prepare God’s people for works of service. But yet in so many situations there are too many Christians who want to argue their own way, try to create Jesus’ church into their own image and miss out on what a real child is like in the kingdom of God.

These two avenues by far are the most important avenues for you as a child of God to get closer to this Child that has been born to you. Remember if you are God’s child then this Child has been given to you.

The next phrase of verse 6 says this:

2. Unto Us a Son is Given.

There is a move to make the scriptures more dynamic in their reading by making translations that make better sense to us in today’s world. I appreciate that. I like reading the Bible so that it makes sense to me. I don’t have time to figure out what a denarii equals or how far a furlong is. Just give it to me in today’s dollar equivalent and in yards and miles.

But something gets missed if we strive to make everything gender neutral and paraphrased too “liberally.”

The issue of this part of the verse becomes very important with all of that said: “Unto us a son is given.”

This term “son” might not mean a whole lot in our time and culture where men and women are almost exclusively guaranteed equal inheritances. Both of my kids will get equal shares of our estate. (I feel good calling everything Naomi and I own an “estate.”) But in the culture of Isaiah’s time, only the sons received an inheritance. In fact, the eldest Son received the lion’s share of the inheritance.

As God’s children we are treated as “sons.” Man, woman, child; slave, stranger or alien. If we claim the Christ Child as our Child then we are God’s son. I am given to that Son who is given to me.

And this is important to understand. Unto us a Son is given.

I like what Jesus said to those who came to him and said, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:20-21)

The Apostle Paul grabs a hold of this concept in full force. Listen to what he says to the churches in Galatia (4:5-6)- 4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

Paul says some more important things about sonship to the Romans such as in verse 29 that Jesus became the firstborn of many brothers.

He writes in verse 14 that “…those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.” Again, cultural context would tell his readers in Rome that whether men or women, they enjoy a level of spirituality that is on a higher plane because they are not slaves of God- thank the Lord; or daughters of God- what kind of blessing is that?; but they are “sons of God.”

Something else Paul snags is found in verse 15- “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father.’” A spirit of fear would come to those who are not God’s children, especially those who are interlopers and do not belong to God.

But, get this: sons were guaranteed a blessing- strangers, slaves and women were not.

And here’s the deal: If unto me a child is born, then I have been born again. Second, if a Son has been given to me then I possess all the rights and privileges of a Son.

And now the third phrase that I think you will find interesting:

3. And the government will be upon His shoulders.

Last year the United States elected Barak Obama as our president. As Christian we owe much more prayer than we do criticism to our president.

There was joy all around the world because Barak Obama who wrote the book, The Audacity of Hope, was ascending to the highest office in the world. People everywhere truly believed that the world would become a better place. The world feels as though it has been hungry for hope and when Obama was finally elected the world rejoiced. Whether he liked it or not, and whether we liked it or not, the governments of the whole world now rest on his shoulders. He should be pitied. And we as human beings should be pitied for ever putting our hopes on the shoulders of any individual. When we do it only proves how quickly we have forgotten the Christmas message and have rendered it toothless.

On that first Christmas some 2000 or so years ago, the government came to rest upon the shoulders of this child, this son. But what are we speaking of?

Many believe that this part of the verse refers to the coming kingdom age after Tribulation when Christ will rule the whole world. We look all around us and wonder if there is a government anywhere that can properly get the job done.

Something we miss on understanding in the way we try to interpret the scriptures is that if we lean too far into the context we miss the truths garnered there for our understanding today. And if we lean too far into our context we twist the truths to fit our actions and behaviors. To find a balance does necessarily mean we meet each other halfway. What we want to do is not simply see the context of Isaiah’s time but how this context played out in the life of Jesus.

A few things to notice:

Jesus’ teachings were never about the principles and values of this world but was everything about the principles and values of another world. Jesus taught his followers the principles and values of another kingdom to be lived in this world. In essence, Jesus shows us what it truly means to be human.

Jesus also shows the power of faith in overcoming in this world. Everywhere he went he did something: healed the sick, multiplied the bread and fish, made the lame to walk, taught simple truths, prayed on a mountain, walked on water, calmed the storm, cast out demons, ticked off the Pharisees, washed his disciples feet and spoke about loving God and your surly neighbors. Jesus shows us how to take the power of another realm and make it work in this realm.

What we learn is that Jesus, the firstborn of many brothers, is leading us into bringing his message of love, faith and hope to a world that is in desperate need of something different to happen.

Not only does Jesus teach and heal, but Jesus also leads and provides. I have put these two together on purpose. Jesus provides everything you need in life as long as you allow him to be the Lord of your life. Flip that around: As Jesus leads your life in paths of righteousness for his names’ sake, he will provide you with everything you need in life.

This is the only kind of prosperity preaching I know. Let Jesus lead and he will give you what you need. If we don’t get what we need then perhaps we might need to consider if we are out of the will of God and how far.

More than anything Jesus wants to be your rescuer. He wants to deliver you from all that keeps you down and keeps you from having that pure and loving relationship with him.

This is why he died. For you, right now in whatever condition you find yourself in.

But for you tonight, he wants to be your rescuer. In all of our strivings to be the leader of your life, Jesus wants for you to put the leadership of your life- your personal government- on his shoulders. He says, “Come unto me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Conclusion- Whose Child is this? He’s yours.

Jesus wants to rescue you from the world’s values of self above others and self before God. Jesus wants to rescue you from who you are and make you who Christ is.

Jesus wants for you to live the power of faith in your life. Not a mythological fate- everything has a purpose kind of thing, but God has a purpose kind of thing. Jesus wants for you to endure in spite of the storms of life that you are facing right now.

Remember, unto us a child is born. Are you God’s child? If so, then this Child was born to you.

Unto us a son is given. Does the spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? If so, then you are an heir of God and co-heir with Jesus.

And the government will be upon his shoulders. Do you trust in Jesus’ leadership for your life? Are you allowing him to not only direct your life but to be your provider?

PART 2

I first brought up the aspect of “unto us a child is born.” Here we learned that to be born again we have to receive this child by coming with a child-like faith. This is actually becoming a child to receive the child. We also learned that faith is the key and faith allows teaches us to continually surrender ourselves to the Lord in such a constant way that we become more childlike in the way we approach God.

Secondly, we learned the importance of being one of God’s sons. When we receive this “unto us a son is given” we in turn become sons of God with Jesus as the firstborn of many brothers. Man, woman, slave and stranger are now treated as though they are sons who have all the rights, privileges and inheritance of a son; something a woman, slave nor stranger could ever receive.

And then we learned about this government that will be on his shoulders. God has now established a kingdom that supersedes all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus now has all authority and is the ruler of this kingdom of God. Furthermore, if I might add to last week, we are called to now share in this authority by going into all the world and preaching the gospel, discipling all men and baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We now arrive to the last part of the Isaiah 9:6 which speaks of the names of this child that will be born of the virgin Mary.

Let’s do some background checking on this first of all. In Isaiah 7 we find Isaiah speaking with King Ahaz and trying to convince him that following God’s lead against the enemy was the best way to go. However, the king disagreed and Isaiah made that famous statement: If you don’t stand firm in your faith then you do not stand at all.”

What makes this situation so hard to understand is that King Ahaz knew where his anointing came from as a king, he knew the history of the nation of Judah and understood the whole sacrificial system. However, he deliberately chooses to ignore the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to do his own thing and go his own way.

Isaiah wants Ahaz to ask the Lord for a sign to prove himself. However, Ahaz refuses. He says, “I will not ask; [and then self-righteously says] I will not put the Lord to the test.”

And so Isaiah, out of frustration and ready to wring the guys neck! Basically he says, Never mind asking, God’s going to do it anyway. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

He is pointing to a day when the kings of this world will no longer cause others to bow before them but they will bow before the son of God in a whole new kingdom where “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.” That kingdom has arrived through Jesus Christ and a new covenant is now in place.

And to prove his point, the Lord shows Isaiah some things that were to come true. He points out that in spite of a nation’s bad choices such as what Judea was making, God was going to prove himself again and again. We now have these verses, presented in a time when God couldn’t be further away than he already seems to be. These verses amaze me because God’s people seem to have no desire to listen to him, believe him when he speaks and definitely not obey him.

But what we see is God’s mercy at work. And he says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty god, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

1. WONDERFUL

This first word describing this child that has been born to us is wonderful. Now some versions of the Bible have a comma between “wonderful” and “counselor.” Don’t worry about it. We know that interpreters of the Bible have to deal with a Hebrew language that is written in all capital letters with no punctuation. These translators have to make calls that sometimes are difficult to make.

But we would all agree that Jesus is wonderful. Furthermore, Jesus is a counselor. And to top it off, Jesus is a wonderful counselor. So let’s not worry about which translation gets it right.

For the sake of our study I have chosen to go with the versions that have a comma and will treat wonderful as a separate name.

After thinking about it, the simplicity of the word “wonderful” couldn’t be more apt. when God created everything he said that it was good. He didn’t say phenomenal, awesome or any other fantastic word. He just said it was good. And Isaiah chooses by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to start out with a name for this Savior as “wonderful.” What does this mean?

There is a word that I think describes how we feel that then helps us understand what this wonderful means and that word is marvel. To marvel means to evoke with surprise, admiration or wonder. We are astonished by what we hear or witness.

Jesus has that affect on people and he has certainly had that affect on me. Check out a few things that I have selected that help us understand how WONDERFUL this child that has been born to us:

a) We marvel at his teachings.

Nobody could teach like Jesus couldn’t. Jesus superseded any others when it came to wisdom and understanding. I’ll speak about that more in the next point.

b) We marvel at his healings.

This man used spit to make another man see again. Try that! This man healed on the Sabbath- which was supposed to be a no-no. This man calmed the storm after telling his disciples they were weak in faith. “Who is this man?” the disciples said as they watched the waters calm down and the storm dissipate.

I find myself at times simply wondering, “Who is this man?” Is it so for you? Do you marvel at the healing power of Jesus in your spirit? A Savior who takes your brokenness and makes you whole? This Jesus who strengthens you when you are weak? Truly, the song writer was right when he wrote: “There’s no better friend to me like Jesus.”

c) We marvel at his giving.

He gave of himself to help others. We see him making a public demonstration by turning over tables in the temple because common people were being cheated by the money-changers. He then said that HIS Father’s house should be a house of prayer for all nations.

d) We marvel at his living.

Jesus shows us over and over how a true human being is supposed to live. The first Adam failed by sinning. But Jesus, this second Adam, succeeds because he is obedient even unto death. There are times when you don’t know how to respond to something and so Jesus becomes your teaching aid.

e) We marvel at his death and resurrection.

Luke 23:35- The people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

I cannot help but marvel at the work of the cross. That God should love a sinner such as I! That the cross all my sins have been taken care of. But even greater still is that power of the resurrection that raised Christ from the dead.

So what does this name wonderful mean to you? I could hardly tell of how many times I have seen Jesus at work in my life, in the lives of others and in various ways.

Not only does Isaiah call this Son that has been given to us Wonderful, but he also refers to him as…

2. COUNSELOR

Early Christians believed that Proverbs 8:12-31 is a direct reference to Jesus Christ because it speaks of one who was with God in the beginning as wisdom.

John 14:26- “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name , will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

No one, and I mean, no one, will ever seek our Lord’s counsel in vain. If you are diligently seeking our Lord’s direction and help He will not fail you- ever. I am convinced of that. Jesus has never failed me yet. (Pastor Brown did not like the yet in that song, though.)

In comparison to Ahaz and his lack of wisdom, Jesus will come with supernatural wisdom. Those who heard Jesus were continually in awe of his teachings. And it is on this subject that I want to answer three questions that differentiates Jesus from other Gods:

a) What did Jesus teach?

· Love God with all your being. You won’t find this kind of teaching in the classrooms of our public schools. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 This holy fear is actually rooted in praise. (Matthew Henry) When a person is seeking out God to know God and because they love God, they will be filled with a certain holy fear. Jesus properly teaches us that the only true love to have for God is a love with everything that is within me.

· Love your neighbor as yourself. Some may not like this one real well, but Jesus pushes his followers to love others. A lawyer in the crowd then tries to trip him up by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan.

· How to pray. Everybody prays but do they pray as Jesus taught? The Lord’s Prayer is a classic guide to praying as well as a prayer to pray. Some Christians even today pray this prayer as a part of the regular devotions. I learned to pray this in church and then at Grandpa and Grandma Moultons.

· How to behave. By way of parables Jesus taught how a person is supposed to act. He also taught not be righteous as the Pharisees. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

· The Great Commission. We are called to carry out his earthly ministry through our lives. He prepared his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel and discipling men and women of all nations and baptizing them.

Okay, they had Jesus back then and it’s nice to read about it and hear a sermon about it. But how is Jesus a counselor to me today? How does Jesus teach today?

b) How does Jesus teach today?

· The Bible. This why it is important to get into the word of God personally and to be a part of a small group or Sunday School class.

· The Church. We highly under-value the role of the church ministry in the life of a Christian in today’s world.

· Ministers. Paul expresses the offices of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers. These roles are means of Jesus continuing his teaching ministry through them.

· Conscience. Sometimes you don’t need to pray about it or seek counsel from your pastor; you just simply know what you ought to do.

c) What do you do when you need counsel?

· Praying works. I’ve not seen yet where prayer has failed me. If in the prayer closet I don’t get an answer, Jesus counsels through another means.

· Listening to Him- Scriptures, music, quietness. I like what Henry Blackaby suggests about personal devotions: get into a place where you are not rushed. If it means getting up earlier or driving to work sooner then you do it. I strive to do my personal devotions at home since my office is my work-place. To each their own.

· Spiritual mentors. You need people in your life that can encourage you in the way. Every person here should have someone that they are accountable to for various issues they deal with in life. None of us are sanctified beyond falling from grace. Jesus commissioned his followers to carry on his work of the ministry.

· Obedience in following him. When you are in disobedience you are going to have a hard time hearing what Jesus is saying to you.

Again, is it wrong to put these two titles together and say “Wonderful Counselor”? Of course not.

Arthur Pink was a Christian evangelist and bible scholar who had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s to study at Moody Bible Institute. He preached and pastored in the United States, England and Australia before dying in 1952. He wrote a little treatise entitled “Jesus was a Counselor” and I want to close with what he wrote.

In Him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). He can be counted on, therefore, to counsel according to absolute truth.

He "knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man" (John 2:24, 25). Because of His perfect knowledge of human character and need, He could apply His flawless knowledge to each individual case. All of His recorded encounters bear clear evidence that He did so.

To Nicodemus, the earnest, searching Pharisee, Jesus said that he must not rely upon his religious position or trappings but get to the root of his spiritual need. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Nicodemus did not understand his real need, and Jesus revealed it to him.

To the woman He met at Sychar's well, Jesus administered shocking counsel when He said, ". . . thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband" (John 4:18). She realized that she was being confronted by One who knew all about her. He had graciously and tactfully led her to this point in the conversation; nevertheless, it was a jarring revelation to her that she must repent of her sin and forsake it. There must be a change in her life. She must set her course in a new direction.

To the man who wanted Jesus to be the arbiter in his financial affairs, He spoke plainly by precept and by parable that the focus of his life was all wrong: "Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12:15).

To the adulterous woman, Jesus was gentle and courteous. He knew the conditions that had brought about her sinful lifestyle. Nevertheless, His word to her was clear-cut and distinct: ". . . go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, was a fine man in many ways, but he was experiencing the crushing blow of a great sorrow: his only daughter was dying. This drove him to seek out Jesus. He wanted Jesus to come and heal his little girl. An interruption arose and they were delayed in their journey. When a messenger came to tell Jairus that his daughter was already dead, as quick as a flash Jesus turned to him and said, "Fear not, believe only, and she shall be made whole" (Luke 8:50). Jairus had displayed an imperfect faith in coming to Jesus. Jesus did not despise that. Now, the master Counselor would lead the good man on to a deeper, more vibrant trust in Him, not by criticizing his small faith but by nourishing and challenging it.

A Jewish lawyer (one who was an expert in Old Testament law and tradition) came to Jesus, not to seek advice, but to trap Jesus into saying something that could be proven false. In response to the lawyer's question, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told the well- known story of the Good Samaritan. When the lawyer correctly identified the Samaritan as the true neighbor of the injured man, Jesus said to him, "Go thou and do likewise!" (Luke 10:37).

Jesus, the all-wise Counselor, dealt with each individual on the basis of that person's need. But in each case, the goal of the counsel was the same: You must change. Sometimes it was a change of attitude that was needed, sometimes a change of direction of the life, sometimes a call to faith or an enlargement of faith already present in imperfect form. But always, it was change!

The word to today's believer is "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). The true Christian will seek to pattern his life and labors after the conduct of the Lord Jesus. This means, then, that whether we are informal or professional counselors, we shall be always trying to call others to change along the lines of truth and Christ-likeness.

Arthur Pink- www.biblical-counsel.org/pa-01.htm

PART 3

Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:14

C.S. Lewis once wrote concerning God’s plan for saving humanity: “The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear- a Jewish girl at her prayers.” In that moment of prayer, Mary realizes her destiny- of course not as much as we now see her destiny- of being the vehicle of God to humanity. God in flesh; God with us; Emmanuel.

I’m not so sure I can fully grasp the truth or the full reality of God becoming like us. What I do know is this Savior, who pitched his tent with humanity, makes a way of salvation through his life, death and resurrection.

As we continue our series, I want us to understand that these references that Isaiah makes to a coming savior, or king, has a lot to do- at least according to tradition- on the references made to a new king who was being anointed.

This new king was considered by devout Jews as someone who would be acting in the stead or place of God. In fact, Psalm 2:7 speaks of God begetting a son as king. This concept of the king being God’s son took root. When Jewish kings took the throne they did so as God’s son. However, those of us on this side of the cross have come to see how this Psalm is a direct reference to the Messiah.

Now we Americans would not consider this thought for even a moment. However, the intent is that this king would be so humbled by the idea that he would be a very caring and loving king. After all, he is representing God.

However, most of Israel and Judah’s kings missed this in their cliff notes on being a king. They must have thought that they were God. Yet, there was a greater David coming- according to the writer of this Psalm- named David. He will rule the world unlike any before him.

1) Wonderful. After thinking about it, the simplicity of the word “wonderful” couldn’t be more apt. when God created everything he said that it was good. He didn’t say phenomenal, awesome or any other fantastic word. He just said it was good. And Isaiah chooses by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to start out with a name for this Savior as “wonderful.” What does this mean?

There is a word that I think describes how we feel that then helps us understand what this wonderful means and that word is marvel. To marvel means to evoke with surprise, admiration or wonder. We are astonished by what we hear or witness.

Jesus has that affect on people and he has certainly had that affect on me. Therefore I concur with Isaiah in saying that he is Wonderful!

2) Counselor. Early Christians believed that Proverbs 8:12-31 is a direct reference to Jesus Christ because it speaks of one who was with God in the beginning as wisdom.

John 14:26- “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name , will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

No one, and I mean, no one, will ever seek our Lord’s counsel in vain. If you are diligently seeking our Lord’s direction and help He will not fail you- ever. Those who heard Jesus were continually in awe of his teachings.

And so I spoke about Jesus’ teaching ministry 2000 years ago, his teaching ministry since then- especially today- and how we interact with that teaching ministry even now through prayer, obedience and spiritual mentors.

Now we arrive to the other 3 titles referred to by Isaiah.

3. MIGHTY GOD

Understand something first of all: God is absolute and this title that Isaiah gives is in an absolute sense. Understand also that Jesus is not a symbol of God but is God. The Hebrew word for God that Isaiah uses, “El”, is never used metaphorically. The son of God himself is God.

Psalm 45:6- “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” This verse is quoted in Hebrews as a verse that refers to the Messiah and uses the same word for God- “El.”

John MacArthur suggests in his commentary that this “Mighty God” would be as “powerful warrior [who] will accomplish the military exploits previously mentioned” in verses 3-5.

To help clear our understanding of this title “Mighty God” look at Deuteronomy 10:17- “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.”

So what is this “mighty God” all about for us on this second day of Christmas?

a) He defeats Satan.

Satan is always striving to create counterfeit kings and lords for us to bow down to. Let’s be clear: as awesome and mighty our president might be, he’s nothing in comparison to this mighty God. As great and powerful as the greatest kings in world history, none prove themselves like Jesus of Nazareth.

Furthermore, in defeating sin by way of the cross and then swindling death out of the hands of hell, Jesus defeats Satan in more than merely a resurrection sense. Sure, it’s one thing to be raised from the dead but it’s another to actually hold the keys of death and hell in your hands. Not only that, but Jesus provides the perfect sacrifice for the sinfulness of humanity and we can now approach the throne of Grace unto a God who is mighty to deliver.

b) He rules the universe.

The world is sustained by his powerful word- the same word that created all things that we now see in the heavens and the earth we walk upon. No wonder his disciples simply asked after he calmed the storm, “what kind of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?”

Moses will tell you: He’s the great God- mighty and awesome.

c) He redeems humanity.

Jesus’ death was needed to fulfill only what God himself could fulfill. No other person could possibly do what Jesus does in bringing salvation to you and me.

Consider the last phrase of the Deuteronomy text I read: “…who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.”

All have sinned. All have fallen short of God’s glory. All are in need of a savior. And just as God shows no partiality towards the widow, the orphan or the stranger, neither does He show a partiality toward those who are lost in their sins.

And then to make sure we understand His grace, he does not take a bribe. You cannot bribe your way into good favor with God by working harder or giving more. Yes, there are blessings for those who put their hand to the plow and not look back, and yes, there are blessings for those who give of their money faithfully and cheerfully, but let’s not confuse the matters. God’s grace is for all of humanity regardless of the state of their sinfulness. “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” This is why we desperately need a mighty God to step up to the cross and be the perfect sacrifice.

None but the mighty God- Jesus Christ- could do such a thing and succeed.

Not only is Jesus the mighty God but he is also referred to as:

4. EVERLASTING FATHER

This term here is in reference not simply to Jesus as God- that was in reference to “mighty God”- but Jesus as our Father.

Now if Jesus is our brother, and God is Jesus’ Father, then how can Jesus also be our father? Let’s look at the notion or intent of Isaiah with this wording. It was not that Jesus would be replacing God as Father but that Jesus would carry on the attributes of our Heavenly Father while here on earth.

a) Representative of his Father.

In older times- and maybe somewhat nowadays- if the father of a family was gone away or had passed away, the eldest son would carry on the leadership role of the father. Drop out rules for high school were a part of the response to sons having to play the father role in their families by taking on jobs to provide in place of the missing father.

In a crude sense, we can better understand Jesus role in coming to earth. He represented the father. And it is in this sense that Isaiah calls this coming redeemer as “everlasting Father.”

First we look at Jesus as representing his father in heaven. This is true. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s being. Jesus told the Pharisees that “when you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Words to be stoned by. Jesus successfully represented His Father- our heavenly Father- while here on earth.

Not only did he successfully represent his Father to us on earth but he shows us a…

b) Father as Protector.

One of the great descriptions of scripture of Jesus is as our Great Shepherd. The imagery of Jesus as the Shepherd of us as his sheep helps us to better understand his role and our place.

He is the protector of his sheep. “I know my sheep… I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 12)

So how does this work?

An example of how this works can be found in a couple of places.

Job was considered a “father to the poor.”

Paul referred to the young preacher man, Timothy, as “my true son in the faith.”

We in the sports world heard of the resignation of Urban Meyer from coaching college football. His quarterback, Tim Tebow, spoke of Coach Meyer as his “dad away from home.”

We could go on about the need for father figures in our culture and world that need the sense of protection from the enemies.

Jesus gives us a picture of the heavenly Father as our Father through Him.

c) Father as Creator.

Jesus was very much an integral part of the creation process. Long before there was an earth, or anything else Jesus was at the center of everything that needed to be done. He has created all things.

d) Father as Preserver.

In the same sense that Jesus is God the Father’s exact representation, our Father as protector and creator, we also see the sense of Jesus as our Father who preserves us.

Through Jesus Christ we have access to the heavenly throne for whatever we need to pray about. Furthermore, we are able to present all our cares to him. And even more so, we are given the strength of the Holy Spirit by this Father who preserves us to carry on everyday living.

e) Father as Eternal.

This then touches on the very fact of Jesus being eternal just as the Father himself is eternal and just as our concept of an eternal God who was and is and is to come. Jesus is not merely a human protector but will be forever my protector. As Charles Wesley wrote “Before the throne my surety stands” will continue on and on.

How could we know God as “father” if he wasn’t a father? Jesus is represented to us as Son and son of God in order to show us what our heavenly Father looks like. Therefore it calls to us what we should look like.

One commentator put it this way: [The Everlasting Father shows us the] “the love which leads Him to exert his power continually in the protection of the Church.” {Pulpit Commentary}

Finally we come to that title that

5. PRINCE OF PEACE

As long as there is evil there will be war between good and evil. The two cannot co-exist just as oil and water cannot be mixed. Jesus is “Prince of Peace” because he comes to convert the world from sin. The only way you or I or anyone else can have real, true peace is to be converted to Jesus Christ.

The world is constantly looking for peace and are hard-pressed to find peace. We are all wondering when the work in Iraq will be completed and if we can actually find an end in Afghanistan. We want peace and yet so far, peace has cost us plenty of sacrifice.

I bristle with so many of you when we think about the peace advocates who would rather Hussein remained as cruel dictator than to have the president of our own choosing.

Will this Prince of Peace bring true peace to the world? Is there something we’re missing out on after 2000 years of striving for peace when there seems to be no peace that lasts?

Without becoming too political, I guess I’m taking the safer route when it comes to explaining Jesus as prince of Peace.

a) Peace with God.

This Prince of Peace brings us the long-lasting peace with God. Through Jesus Christ I am reconciled to the God of heaven. No longer am I at war with God because of my sinfulness but now peace has been brokered. A perfect lamb was offered on the Golgotha altar and was found to be sufficient for my sins. I am at peace with God. This could not happen without the Prince of Peace.

b) Inward rest.

Because I am at peace with God, I now have an inward rest. This rest is what gives me a clear conscience before God. Not because I have quit my drinkin’ and smokin’ and chasin’ wild women but because the Holy Spirit is now continually cleansing me by the sprinkling of the blood of the perfect lamb so that I might have confidence to draw near to God.

c) Peace where Christ’s leadership prevails.

Show me where Christ is the leader and I will show you a place of peace.

· Homes. When mom and dad are submitted to Christ as Lord there will be peace in the home. It doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements and challenges. But if you want your home to be a place of peace then it starts when husbands and wives cherish each other AND are submitted to Jesus as Lord of their lives.

· Churches. When Christians in a local church are all submitted together to the lordship of Jesus Christ as the head of the body, peace will prevail in that Church. I’m convinced that church fights and splits are unbiblical and wrong. They happen when God’s people quit letting Christ be Lord (if he ever was to start with).

· Work places. Your job can be a place of peace, first, by your presence. This means for you to be fully submitted to Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Second, true peace in the workplace can happen when the company owners and leaders are submitted.

· Etcetera. Yes, there is such a place as “etcetera.” Wherever you find yourself you can have the peace of Christ prevailing in your own life.

We need peace to desperately prevail in our world. I have a hard time seeing peace when you have fanatics trying to blow themselves up on airplanes and radicals teaching hate to young people.

But yet, we must pray for peace. We must live out not only our holiness but to follow peace with everyone around us.

CONCLUSION OF IT ALL

Christmas means the world to me, not just as a pastor but as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. This perpendicular intrusion of a holy other (Karl Barth) has changed world unlike anything else- ever.

My prayer is that these titles of the coming Messiah that Isaiah prophecies about would imprint themselves into our hearts not only at Christmas time but throughout every day of our lives. We have the unique advantage that Isaiah did not have- we're on this side of the cross able to experience the fullness of this child born to us, this son given to us.




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