We have been looking at the prophecies in the Old Testament . . . hundreds of years before Jesus was born . . . that told about His coming. This morning I take you to a familiar passage in Isaiah Chapter 9 verses 6-7. These are majestic words, powerful words, and incredible words because they so effectively describe the true majesty of Christ. They were also a wonderful message of hope to the people of Israel.
Isaiah warned Israel that Assyria was going to attack Israel. Isaiah urged the people to trust the Lord. Assyria was powerful and had conquered many stronger nations, however, Israel belonged to the Lord so Isaiah said they should trust Him. In verse 10 we read this powerful statement:
10 Call your councils of war, but they will be worthless.
Develop your strategies, but they will not succeed.
For God is with us!”
One chapter earlier in Isaiah 7:14 (and remember there were no chapter divisions when Isaiah was writing) we were told,
Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)
So we should already know that “God is with us!” is a translation of the name Immanuel. Do you remember the angel who came to Joseph in a dream in Matthew 1:23?. He said the child to be born was the fulfillment of the Isaiah promise. His son would be called Immanuel, “which means ‘God with Us’. So with that understanding we know that Isaiah was saying the true enemy would be defeated by the coming of Jesus . . . if the people would just trust the Lord.
Unfortunately, he said, the people would rather turn to mediums and other prognosticators (we would turn to news commentators) rather than trust the Lord. We might turn to what people label as science rather than trust what God’s Word has said. We might trust public opinion or the courts of men. As a result not trusting the Lord, many of those people would be killed. Bad times were ahead. But . . . and that’s where we start reading in chapter 9.
1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
So, the Messiah will come and the glory of God will be seen in the world. He will bring light to the darkness and would enlarge the nation of Israel (remember the Gentiles were added to the faithful after the Resurrection). The coming of Jesus would be the symbol of victory.
Next we read a beautiful and powerful description of Christ. And this is where we want to focus the remainder of the morning.
6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!
What distinguishes a good counselor from a bad counselor? A good counselor points you in the right direction. They make an accurate diagnosis and then come up with the correct course of action. A poor counselor tells the counselee what they want to hear. They make excuses and blame everyone else. The counselee may feel good after the sessions but they are not helped.
Jesus tells us the truth about ourselves.
- He confronted hypocrites, those who look good on the outside but are only playing the religious game. In so doing, Jesus warned us to take a hard look at our lives and see if we were really His followers.
- He told the woman caught in adultery to go and SIN NO MORE. He extends grace but want us to use our new freedom to pursue holiness not indulgence.
- He confronted materialism and told us that we can’t worship stuff and still follow Him.
- He warned us to be ready to face opposition if we follow Him. He challenged us to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and truly follow Him.
- He told us that we should forgive rather than hold grudges. When we feel the person doesn’t deserve forgiveness He says we should never forget that we did not deserve it either.
- He said we should let God be the judge rather than playing God. Though we must use discernment we have no right to render judgments for things where only God sees clearly.
- He told us that we needed to see beyond ourselves and see (and help) hurting people around us. He said our job is not to strive to live in a higher class . . . our job is to use our blessings to help others.
Jesus is a wonderful counselor because He tells us the truth about our problems and then points in the direction we need to go to find wholeness, healing and new and everlasting life. The Bible is filled with stories of people who were changed because of the work of Jesus. People were delivered from demons. Tax-collectors and others scorned by society found acceptance and were treated with dignity. Like a good counselor, Jesus will transform your life and your thinking if you let Him do so and follow His instructions.
The second title is that of Mighty God. We must continually remind ourselves that Jesus was God who became man. The power he possessed and continues to hold shows us that He must be God! After the Resurrection the disciples saw this. Even doubting Thomas bowed before him and said, “My Lord, and my God”.
What this means practically for us is this: Jesus has the power to accomplish His purposes! He will finish what He has started in both the world and in us.
We are unfortunately in another campaign season. What I find interesting about these campaigns is the way candidates all tell us all the stuff they “are going to do” yet the reality is that if Congress and the courts do not support them, nothing will be accomplished! Promises are easy to make and hard to keep.
Our Lord has the power, resources, and authority to deliver on every promise that He has made to us. He can change lives, heal hearts, renew homes, restore bodies, and make dead people live forever in His Kingdom. He can open doors that seemed impossible to open. He can cleanse those who have failed miserably, He can use even those who feel they have nothing to offer.
Our Lord is not like other Gods who serve as mere cheerleaders for personal effort. He transforms. He acts. He Redeems. He is all powerful. He is the Mighty God!
There are few titles that evoke more emotion than the word “Father”. A good father is a source of strength, guidance and provision. A good father is one who expects the best from you but also will be there to pick you up when you really mess up.
We all know not everyone is blessed with a good father. In this sinful world there are some fathers (and mothers) who fail in their role. However, this does not change the noble role father should play. The Lord Jesus was the Son of God but is the love of the Father given to us.
The Lord tells the parable of the prodigal son. You likely are well aware of the story. Two sons. The younger one wanted dad to give him his inheritance even though dad was very much alive. Dad gave his son what he wanted and the boy squandered all he was given. When he became destitute, he decided to go home, humble himself, and ask dad for a job.
When the boy arrived home dad was looking out the window and waiting for him. Dad ran down the driveway and wrapped his arms around his son. He invited all the neighbors to celebrate that the son who was lost had now come home.
What a wonderful picture of the gospel! We have squandered the wonderful gifts God has given to us. Yet, if we will come to him and humbly confess our foolishness He will welcome us and restore us. This is all possible because of the love of God for us.
But this is not the whole story. There was another son. He didn’t leave home. He continued to work for his dad and when the younger son returned the older brother was not happy at all! He resented the mercy dad showed to the prodigal son. Dad patiently reminded the son that he enjoyed the Father’s blessing every day and should not resent the fact that He was showing mercy to His brother.
The older brother has the mentality that is a real danger for those who have believed for most of their lives. We must guard against the idea that we have earned God’s favor. When that happens we start to resent those who seem to get in without “paying their dues” like we did. However, the Lord reminds us as a good Father that we also are recipients of mercy. We are not being ‘cheated’ when others are brought into the kingdom late in life. On the contrary, such conversions should make us rejoice that we have been so blessed to live in His mercy for a longer period.
The Everlasting Father knows what each child needs. He knows that each personality is different. He knows that tactics must change depending on the person. He is patient in dealing with each according to their need.
Whether you are new to the faith or have been a follower of Christ for most of your life we all likewise should give thanks for the love the Father has shown to us that we should be known as children of God! We have been adopted and chosen by the Lord of life and should never take that for granted.
Prince of Peace
The last title is ‘Prince of Peace”. When the angels announced the birth of Christ they did so by pronouncing “peace on earth and goodwill to men”. When Jesus came into the world the peacemaker had arrived.
He makes it possible to have peace with God. Sin has created a wall between us and the Lord. He is holy and we are not. Consequently, we are opponents rather than allies. Sin created an un-crossable chasm. Until sin was paid for we could not be made right with God. The problem was that to pay for sin meant facing the wrath of God which no one can survive.
Jesus came to bear sin for us! He endured the wrath of God. He stood in our place and took the punishment from God so that we could be seen as good and pure in God’s eyes rather than as those horribly disfigured by sin. Jesus made it possible for us to know peace with God. No longer enemies but friends. The Bible tells us that everyone who receives Him (Christ) is given the right to be called children of God (John 1:12).
We receive Him by acknowledging that we are sinful and cannot be saved apart from Him. When we embrace Jesus as our rescuer and follow Him as our Master and King, we are clothed with His goodness instead of our sin.
He gives us peace in the time of trial. In John 16:33 Jesus said,
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
We find a new confidence and peace in the trial of life for a few reasons. First, we know that He will help us to overcome the world just like he overcame the world. Our Lord faced all kinds of opposition and abuse from the world and from Satan himself but He overcame all of it when He rose from the dead. He promises that this same power will be given to us.
Second, we have peace in the trials because we know that God has promised that He will work in every situation to accomplish good. So, no matter what the trial, we know that God is using the trial to make us more fit for his kingdom or to use us more fully in that kingdom. I love the statement I heard just recently, you either win or you grow in every situation in life . . . in other words, you always win when you belong to the Lord.
Third we have peace because we know nothing can separate us from His love. Paul reminds us that nothing . . . NOTHING can separate us from His love. A child can walk through the most difficult environment when they are holding the hand of a parent whom they believe will protect them. These children are oblivious to the danger because they are supremely confident in the parent. Likewise, as children of Go we are unafraid as we go through life because we hold the hand of the Lord of life.
He also makes peace between us who belong to His Kingdom. The apostle Paul wrote,
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14)
The Lord has shown us that no matter our ethnicity, our gender, or our social class, we are all likewise in need of a Savior. We all stand before God condemned unless we embrace Christ as Savior. When we turn to Him we all become brothers.
Jesus told His disciples to be one. He exhorted them to love one another. Paul told us to leave no debt outstanding except the debt of love. The Lord commands His people to work together. This is why the command to forgive is so important and prominent in the Bible. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. When we dare to forgive in this way conflict melts into unity. Barriers of opposition become bridges to understanding. Enemies become friends. Jesus is the Prince of Peace because all peace finds its source in Him.
Isaiah, hundreds of years before Christ drew a picture of Jesus that was spot on. He reminded the people that God was making for them just the provision they needed. They were asked to believe the promise of God. We are blessed because we don’t have to hold on to the promise . . . we can hold on to the one who fulfilled, is fulfilling, and will fulfill the promise: Jesus.
There are a couple of lessons we can take from this.
- Like Israel we are asked to trust God rather than the voices around us. People tell us there is no God. Some say if there is a God He certainly doesn’t care about us. Even people in the church tell us that Christ and His Word are not sufficient. They tell you that you have to go to a secular counselor for help with your problems whether it is a marriage problem, a financial problem or a problem with guilt. Yet, the Bible tells us that the Lord has provided a way to deal with these things. He has given us the Word of God.
Of course, the Word of God must be wisely applied (rather than simply dumping verses on other people) but the Bible is sufficient for every need we have because the Lord is sufficient. Daily we must decide where our standard of truth lies: with the wisdom of the world or the wisdom of the Word.
- Once again this prophecy in the Old Testament calls us to seek the Lord. The best person to turn to in time of need are not the counselors of the world, we need the “Wonderful Counselor”. When we have a great need instead of turning to our friends, the bank, or other forces we should turn to the Mighty God that we see in Jesus!!! If we are looking for love, we don’t have to fall into the arms of anyone who will have us . . .we should turn to the Everlasting Father as revealed and seen in Jesus. His arms are open. His love is strong. He will protect us. And Finally in the midst of all the churning of life we should turn to the Prince of Peace. That’s where we will find rest. That’s where we find calm in the craziness of this world. In Isaiah 8:20-22 God said of the people,
20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.
As we approach another Christmas the question is; have you turned to the One born in Bethlehem. Is he YOUR Redeemer? Do you celebrate the birth of YOUR Savior? Have you made it personal and taken a step to trust Him as your Lord? If not, why not do so today. He is the One you have been looking for. He is the One you need. And what’s best is this: All this time He has been waiting for you.
Copyright December 20, 2015 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche