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Sermon 2019-12-15 Ross Woodhouse

 

The Wonder and Worship of the Son

Isaiah 9:6-7, “for to us a child is born, to us a son is given”

Our son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby, any day now. It was about 30 weeks or so ago they gave us their exciting news, and the preparations for his arrival have been gaining momentum each week. Car seats, nappies and buckets, all the necessary kit, we’re set to go. Until then, we continue to make our preparations and we wait in quiet anticipation.

The day we celebrate as Christmas Day is only a couple of weeks away, and we’re no doubt making all of our necessary preparations. Can you imagine being told it’s coming, he’s coming, but the day is 700 years away? Not that the people concerned hadn’t already been waiting or believing for centuries already. Isaiah said, “for unto us a child is born”. I’ve sat with these words for the past two weeks and all I can think of is the excitement and the anticipation of eighth-century: what must have been going in their hearts. The Lord, the king, the promised Messiah is coming, but you nor several generations to follow won’t see this yourself. The longing, the believing, the waiting…hope.

What does it do in our hearts as we come to terms with why God sent the Saviour, what he has done and what he will do. Wonder and worship!

Jesus, the Saviour of the world has come for you. What does the Saviour – who has now come – mean to us? That God would so have it in his heart, that people could be restored from failure, he gave, his son.

There’s so much richness in this passage we’re looking at today – Isaiah 9. Of course, there are dozens of scriptures/prophecies that point to Christ but this one, for me, speaks to several significant things: the mercy of God and the heart of God to send a Saviour (how Jesus came); the sovereignty and supremacy of Christ (who Jesus is); and Christ’s reign overall for all, and for all time (his government).

And even though Jesus came 2000 plus years ago, and today we have Jesus, I’d like us to catch something of the anticipation of the people and more so the heart of God in sending the Saviour, because this has an effect on the significance of Christmas. Let me speak to the second of those for a moment:

I know many people much prefer the New Testament to the Old, preferring to mostly read there (NewTestament) however, we only are able to see and appreciate the full dimensions of God’s character and love because of the Old Testament. It’s all part of God’s plan of reconciling the world to himself. And in Isaiah where he speaks this great prophecy of Jesus’ coming, he is also speaking to a disobedient people (1:2), a people blind and deaf (6:9-10), people and nations who defy God will be punished (5:30; 42:25), he speaks of a God whose judgement is like fire (1:31; 30:33).

It leaves me asking: Is the world any different today? Does/will God judge individuals and nations? Let me answer that with this: is he still God?![1]

It is into this, yes similar, melting pot of denial, defiance and of moral decline today, that God has sent his son the Saviour for anyone who might accept him and call him Lord.

My observation is the world today is consumed with a desire for power[2], has an appetite for immorality, and is constantly in many parts on the edge of war.[3] Peace movements and negotiations proceed all over the world, some negotiated from a position of power, some believe that terror forces the issue, and we are left with an increasingly more dangerous world. Where is the place for peace, righteousness and justice for all? Is God at work…? It’s not a pretty picture is it, but neither was it 2700 years ago. It was into this same context that God said “a child is born…” and will be into today’s context, at some point, that Jesus, will come again. Are you ready?

The problem, as it was in Isaiah’s day, is still sin and spiritual darkness. But the Bible comforts and reminds those of us who have come to trust in Jesus Christ not to despair as if there was no hope because there is! Jesus, is the only peace, the only way to true peace, in a tumultuous, on-the-edge-of war, world.

The story of God’s people (Isaiah) embodies a lot the same faithlessness and independence that we suffer from in our lives, but I love this passage, as it characterises our God, a God of faithfulness, a God whom despite the failure and ignorance of his people, he deeply loved and restores.

Because in his great mercy God will show compassion. God says to them “return to me for I have redeemed you” (44:22) For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. (49:13) “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (49:15)

Through Isaiah, God extends to these people a word of hope!  He’s saying, “I was hurt when you chose to worship other gods instead of me.  But I will not give up on you!  I’m sending my one and only Son to save you from your dark and gloomy dismal spiritual condition.

Little did they know that generations would pass before Christ’s eventual coming to earth. However, we see God the Fathers patience and compassion to send his son…albeit roughly 700 years later! It’s not that God wasn’t able to send the son sooner, the hope of the son-to-come was to sustain the people whilst they traversed dark and difficult times.

As we read Isaiah 9:1-7 think of the anticipation of the people, allow this word to speak into your heart today. Let’s be amazed again at this prophecy about our Saviour and be in awe of God’s love, plans and promise for us.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan —

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

(key verses)

For to us a child is born, to 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.Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given (9:1, 6a)

Nevertheless – despite the war, the despair, the darkness, the hopelessness – a son is given! It may be that this is the most familiar of all the prophecies of Christ. As momentous as any occasion of a new birth is, none can ever match the magnitude of such announcements as Isaiah’s. The birth of all births of the King of kings!

We see three aspects in this scripture that speak to the significance of the Christ-child, his absolute sovereignty and completeness as a King and Saviour: How Jesus came, who Jesus is and what Jesus will do.

 

  1. How Jesus came

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given (9:6a)[4]

This verse sits almost inconspicuously among those around it yet it speaks as one of the most prophetically powerful in all scripture. To fully appreciate the magnitude of these words we really would have had to read and understand everything the people of Israel had been through and how God has journeyed with them through all of that, right up until this moment. It is into all that history the Lord says “nevertheless there will be no more gloom…”. I think here we are best to pause, to consider the magnitude of such a promise, made to a troubled wayward nation, yet one we benefit from greatly. We can include ourselves in the “us”.

To us a child is born, speaks of Jesus’ coming to us in human form, to be tempted in every way we are, yet remain sinless (Hebrews 4:15) and then suffer in human form taking the sin of the world upon his shoulders.

To us a son is given, speaks of Jesus’ deity. He is the son of God that has always been, so he is ‘the’ son given. Gods only son, given.

John Phillips says it beautifully: “The great mystery of the manger is that God should be able to translate deity into humanity without discarding the deity or distorting the humanity.”  The incarnation was a true and genuine wedding of perfect deity and sinless humanity. (v.6)

 

  1. Who Jesus is

And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9:6b)

My name is Ross, you know that, but my name tells you nothing about my personality or my character. I was named after a good mate of my dad’s. In Bible days’ names were very important and the meaning meant something. I’ve noted today that parents seem to consider more thoroughly their kids’ names and what they mean.

It was not enough in his prophecy for Isaiah to give Jesus just one name, he needed four names to give a full description of who Jesus is. Isaiah was affirming that the Messiah will not merely have great titles, but will, in reality, be who those titles claim. Each one detailing a very specific aspect of Jesus, leaving no doubt this king would surpass any human king they’ve had or will ever have.

 

Wonderful Counsellor – Wonderful is a word primary reserved for Christ. It speaks of his being extraordinary, unequalled, marvellous and wonderful. We tend to use the English word wonderful to describe all sorts of lesser things. Let’s think of David, when meditating on the Lord, came to realise he knew everything about him: his thoughts, his intentions, his words. He says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!” (Psalm 139:1-6).

To describe Jesus with the word “wonderful” is to attribute to him extraordinary supernatural ability. Authenticated in his claims about himself with such words as “I am the resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25) What about Nicodemus describing Jesus: “no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2)[5]

As the Wonderful Counsellor, Jesus knew how to deal with difficult people. Even his enemies said, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks” (John 7:46).

Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counsellor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? (Isa. 40:13).

To whom do we turn for wise counsel, in lieu of Jesus? Jesus is the Wonderful Counsellor because he is the only source of truth. The Lord has better counsel and advice, by his word and by his Spirit for your life than anyone.

 

Mighty God – not just another god, but Mighty God, Immanuel, the God and King who is with us. He is mighty, he is strong and he himself is God and as God, he can forgive sin, redeem, restore, heal and defeat the work of the enemy. There is no greater power in all the universe than his.

 

Everlasting Father – he is a Father, a perfect father, who is absolutely trustworthy for all ages, as in the alpha and the omega. In John 14 and 17, he made it clear that he and the Father are one and that he has revealed the Father perfectly. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

 

Prince of Peace – the supreme and sovereign peace bringer and restorer. God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). And because he is a God of peace, chaos is not a part of who he is. He brings peace to those who give their lives to him.

What is this peace that he brings? Recall the announcement from the heavenly host in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (ESV). Who are the people “with whom He is pleased”? People who have submitted their lives to the authority of His government. The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)

What is this peace that he brings? Paul puts it best: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

What is this peace that he brings? Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The peace the world might give is temporary and feelings based. Peace Christ brings, peace in/from Christ is transformative and faith-based. [6]

This child, this son given, is all of this! The names are deliberate and strategic and necessary to set Jesus apart from anything or anyone else. And as we know God delivered on the promise made. Jesus was born and has fulfilled what was announced. God walked among us in the person of Jesus. He took on flesh in order to give us wisdom, protection, fatherly care, and peace as we enter into relationship with him.[7]

 

  1. What Jesus Will Do

…the government will be on his shoulders…He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (9:6b & 7)

Isaiah’s prophecy, then Jesus’ first coming, laid the foundation of the glory that would follow. A child born, a son given, his death on the cross so that people could be reconciled to God. There is no other way for eternal peace with God but through Christ and what he did for the forgiveness of our sin. We now look forward to His coming again and the words of Isaiah provide and reassure us in our hope as we do.

How do we pause and capture the wonder of Christ and worship the son? How do we see him, be awed by our King, amidst the chaos and the clutter? What is it that may be preventing us from entering into the peace and joy that his coming brings us?

Yes, it’s easy to say, and in this country, we are shielded from most of what occurs in much of the world. But we have war of different kinds, conflict, despair, depression, aggression…I think of things like the abuse of our children, violence against women (and men) our suicide rates, cancer (on…). I want to acknowledge it’s been a difficult year for many. The loss of a loved one, a family situation, or the loss of what you thought your life would look like, loneliness. It’s been really hard, but your past experiences don’t have to dictate your future expectations.

Our faith is in God! And the word of God is clear: the time of complete and lasting peace is coming when Jesus returns. There is hope. We who know Christ through faith need not despair as those who have no hope. The government will be on his shoulders! 

I recall watching Parliament TV the night our MP’s were voting on the End of Life choice bill. After the speaker asked for voting, I watched carefully who went right, then left, quickly lost track. After about 15 mins they all came back, Trevor Mallard made the announcement, 69 for, 51 against. My initial reaction was noooo, but then it was like God chastised me, he said “I’ve got this…I’m in charge, I’m the government”

How does our world today compare to the one Isaiah was speaking to? Different time and place but essentially the same issues with the people. Isaiah was crying out to the people, God speaking through him, ‘you cannot carry on like this’, which makes this scripture just as relevant today.

Right now the world generally speaking pays Jesus lip service. Jesus is a religious figurehead, an option among options for those who so choose. His name is used as a curse word. Given a mention at Christmas time.  Even seen as a lie along with his word to be eradicated.

Many will engage with all the trappings of Christmas but not the person who Christmas is all about, which makes this scripture just as relevant today because we are and we have people who need to see the Saviour. Above everything else that we have made Christmas to be it is about the coming of the Saviour King to a world who desperately needs him. His coming then, and again at a future time, perhaps soon?

And that we now anticipate, that we ready ourselves for, just like the people did when Isaiah prophesied his first coming, even though next time he comes will be the last time and will be the end. And when he comes again he will give the world the gift of his sovereign rule and the world will acknowledge him to be all that he is, and bow at his feet and acknowledge him to be the Lord of all.[8]

Christmas is our reminder that God keeps His promises.[9]Why couldn’t this be the most worshipful time of the year. What if we were to start each day between now and Christmas with a prayer like: “I’m so grateful for you Jesus, thank you for all you are”

For those who may be here today, and don’t believe in God, I want to say to you that he believes in you.  No failure is too big for him to forgive.

You may believe in the Christmas Story but have never thought about the fact that the child whose birth we celebrate, after 33 years of walking the earth as a human died…for you.  I want to say to you today there are many alternatives but there is only one true God.  Whether we are living under difficulty, oppression or loneliness, only hope in Christ can fill the void. I know this to be true in my own life. Maybe you’re waiting for God to prove something to you. He actually has proven his love for you, he died!

The gift that God gave us in the birth of His Son, and the gift that Jesus gave us in laying down His life for our sins, the peace (not an imaginary peace but true peace) and the hope that comes from God only comes to fruition when you open your heart to receive that gift.

Restore your sense of wonder and worship Jesus.

 

[1] See Isa. 2:11; 3:15; 13:11; Jer. 16:18; Ezek. 23:20, etc

[2] To be god. No moral absolutes because whatever I want to be I’ll be and it will be ok. And worse we expect God to be ok with that.

[3] Post-Christian and post-truth…is God still God? If he is then we’re not post-anything!

[4] Corresponding NT verses: Isa. 9:6 A child born-Humanity (Luke 1:31); Isa. 9:6 A Son given-Deity (Luke 1:32; John 1:14; 1Tim. 3:16); Isa. 9:6

Declared to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:3, 4); Isa. 9:6 The Wonderful One, Peleh (Luke 4:22); Isa. 9:6

The Counsellor, Yaatz  (Matthew 13:54); Isa. 9:6 The Mighty God, El Gibor (1Cor. 1:24, Titus 2:13); Isa. 9:6 The Everlasting Father, Avi Adth (John 8:58; 10:30 ); Isa. 9:6 The Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom (John 16:33); Isa. 9:7 Inherits the throne of David (Luke 1:32); Isa. 9:7 His Character-Just (John 5:30); Isa. 9:7 No end to his Government, Throne, and kingdom (Luke 1:33)

Adapted from: https://accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html

[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/6-glorious-messiah-and-messianic-age-isaiah-91-7#P633_159901

[6] Peace from God (Rom. 1:7) to all who are the recipients of His grace. He brings peace with God (Rom. 5:1) to those who surrender to Him in faith. He brings the peace of God (Phil. 4:7) to those who walk with Him. https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A290/the-government-on-his-shoulders

[7] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/to-us-a-child-is-born

[8] http://www.sermonnotebook.org/old%20testament/Isaiah%209_6-7(b).htm

[9] Adapted from: https://bible.com/reading-plans/17391/day/1?segment=0