Everlasting Father

Sermon by David Strain on Dec 16, 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7

Would you take your copies of God’s Word in your hands please and turn with me to the prophecy of Isaiah; Isaiah chapter 9. You can find it on page 573 in the church Bibles. As Ed said earlier, this is now the third week in Advent and we have been using the opportunity afforded by the season to meditate together in a more sustained and focused way on the meaning of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. In our morning services, we’ve been working our way through the four titles given to Christ by the prophet, Isaiah, in the sixth verse of this ninth chapter. He is, we’ve seen, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God; He is the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. This being the third week, that means we’re considering the title, “Everlasting Father.” In a moment, we’re going to read the passage together - verses 2 through 7 of Isaiah chapter 9. Before we do that, would you bow your heads with me again as we pray together.

O Lord, open our hearts, open our minds that we may both hear and believe, we may receive and rest upon Christ as He is offered to us in this part of Your holy Word. For we ask this in His precious name, amen.

Isaiah 9 at the second verse. This is the Word of Almighty God:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Amen.

Everlasting

Now you will have noticed as we read verse 6 that each of the four titles given has two parts to it. As we’ve considered them together, we’ve simply taken each part of each title in turn which means as we think about the third title today, Everlasting Father, we’ll think first about what it means that Jesus is said to be Everlasting. What are we saying here - Everlasting Father?

I was certainly moved - I’m sure you were too - by the scenes that surrounded the recent death and funeral of President George H.W. Bush. The pathos and power of a state funeral and all its grandeur and its solemnity was deeply impressive, wasn’t it? And particularly moving was the eulogy given by President George W. Bush for his father. Did you catch that? Who couldn’t have a lump in their throat to see the son, himself a former president, choking up and grieving over the loss of his father. As I was thinking about what it means for Jesus to be Everlasting Father, that moment in the Bush memorial service came flooding back to me. George H.W. Bush was president of the United States for one term. He was the most powerful man in the world. Now here is his son, another president, standing over his coffin delivering his eulogy. For all the power, for all the influence of both men that they both exercised, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more perfect illustration or image of the impermanence and the fragility of human life. Two powerful men, both of them presidents of the United States, and death is the great leveler of us all.

Now I’ll grant that’s not the most festive illustration with which to begin this sermon at the Christmas season, but I do think it helps set the stage for understanding what it means that Jesus is Everlasting Father. Isaiah, you remember, is sounding notes of bright hope in the opening six verses of this ninth chapter. In place of darkness, he says, the people will see a great light - verse 2. In place of sorrow and anguish, verse 3, there will be rejoicing in place of war and oppression. Verses 4 and 5, there will be peace, liberation, all because, verse 6, “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; the government shall be upon his shoulders.” Because of the coming of the baby of Bethlehem, everything changes because He is the Everlasting Father. He is the Everlasting Father.

You see, like President Bush, all the kings of Judah perished; each and every descendant of David died. But here is Isaiah now speaking of an heir to David’s throne who will break that cycle. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” There’s a king coming, Isaiah says, whose reign will never conclude. This child will reign everlastingly. We watched George W. Bush weep for his father. We saw national mourning. The flags, I think, are still flying at half-mast, aren’t they, for the loss of a president. Many of you have stood at a graveside of a loved one, a family member, and you’ve shed a tear. You’ve wept yourself. Many of us during this season especially feel anew the sting of old grief coming right back to us as we miss acutely those who have gone ahead of us.

But this King of whom Isaiah speaks, this King defeats death, do you see. He’s an everlasting King. He reigns everlastingly. Here is someone to whom you may go after the presents and before dinner on Christmas Day, between the festivities, where in those stolen moments the memory of loss comes flooding back. Here is one to whom you may go, who by His own death and resurrection has brought life and immortality to light, who has triumphed over the grave, who is the resurrection and the life so that anyone who lives and believes in Him should not die but have everlasting life. He is the everlasting one who gives life to all who rest in Him. You can look death and loss and grief in the face and say, “You lose because Jesus has won.” He is the everlasting Lord. Albeit through tears, we may find hope in the face of our grief.

Father

What about the second part of the title? He’s everlasting, but He’s Everlasting Father. We need to be careful here, don’t we? We know Jesus is described as the divine Son. He’s the Son of God. How can He be called Father? We are not modalists, afterall. Modalism is the heresy that says God is really only one person who manifests Himself merely in three different ways - now the Father, now the Son, now the Holy Spirit. That’s not the Biblical presentation, is it? These three names - Father, Son and Spirit - they’re not interchangeable. The Father did not die on the cross. Please don’t pray, “Father, thank you for dying for us.” The Father didn’t die on the cross. The Son did not send the Father into the world. The Holy Spirit was not born of the virgin. We confess, with holy Scripture, with the Church in all places across the ages, that God is one singular, undivided being. He is eternally and He is eternally three distinct persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person possesses the one whole, undivided, divine essence without any remainder. These three glorious persons dwell forever together in fellowship and communion and mutual delight in such a way that we can say that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit; the Son is not the Father or the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Yet, these three are one God; the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

A Word of Affection

Well, okay. But if that’s right - and it is right - what does Isaiah mean when he tells us that Jesus it the Eternal Father? Well I think he means at least three things. The first of them he means to communicate to us a word of affection. This is a word of affection that He is Everlasting Father; a word of tenderness, do you see. He is a Father who cares for His people. We read it in our call to worship, didn’t we - Psalm 103 verse 13, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust.” Jesus is full of a Father’s compassion. That’s why He came. Compassion sent Him - compassion for the lost, compassion for us. Compassion sent Him on His errand that first Christmas Day to be born of the virgin. Luke 7 verse 13 - as you track through the Gospel story you get to see that compassion moving Him and motivating our Savior in all that He did - Luke 7 verse 13, the story of the death of the son of the widow of Nain. Luke tells us when the Lord saw her, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” And then He raises her dead son to life. Or Matthew 9:36, during His itinerant preaching ministry, there were vast crowds that assembled to hear Him preach the Gospel. And Matthew says, “When He saw the crowds He had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” Actually that metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep overlaps nicely in Scripture with the significance of the Father image. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, John 10:11. He calls His flock by name. He leads them out and in and they find pasture for their souls. “He will tend His flock like a shepherd,” Isaiah 40 verse 11. “He will gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom and gently lead those who are with young.” He loves the sheep, do you see. He is a Father who cares, who is full of compassion and tenderness towards His children.

Now, truth be told, some of us have complicated relationships with our earthly fathers. And while we love them, we know this Christmas time is going to be a challenge. In fact, because of our own painful histories, some of us have a hard time having any positive image of fatherhood at all. It’s just difficult for us to relate to in a positive way. So when we read here that Jesus is Everlasting Father, the word “Father” tends to conjure for us fearful, dark images of control and anger, maybe even of abuse. That’s what a father is to us. That’s what a father has been in our experience. And so the best we can manage when we hear Jesus is Everlasting Father is to have sort of a blank space, maybe a big question mark. But do understand, please, that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus here as Father it speaks of Him as a perfect Father, of an ideal Father, of a real Father who cares, who is never turned toward you with anything other than compassion, whose love is not fickle or it never comes with strings attached, do you see, as though if you’d step a toe out of line He would yank it away from you. He knows. He knows all about you. He knows all your waywardness and rebellion. He sees all of your sin and He loves you despite your sin. He loves you in your mess and your confusion and your mistakes and your disobedience. He loves you. Like a perfect father full of compassion for you, you have a perfect Savior in the Lord Jesus. He is a Father to the fatherless. There are no orphans in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. His love never fails, it never runs out, it never gets cold. It’s never withdrawn. He loves you. It’s a word of affection. We can call Him Father in the sense that a father loves his people. Jesus loves us.

A Word of Revelation

But there’s more to it than that; it’s not just a metaphor. You can only ever rightly speak of Everlasting Father if it is referring to God. In fact, that’s how Isaiah himself uses the word, “Father,” in the word Isaiah 63 verse 16 when he prays, “You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer, from of old is Your name.” This is a title that can only properly be given to the living God Himself. Now remember, the New Testament everywhere speaks of Jesus as the Son not the Father. So how can we - given that this is a title of deity - how can we assign it to Jesus, Everlasting Father? We assign it to Him - it’s first a word of affection, now it’s secondly a word of revelation. Jesus is Everlasting Father because He reveals the Father to us. We know the Father by knowing Jesus Christ. So John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” Or John 14, just before Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus told the disciples, you will remember, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known the Father,” He says. Philip, not unlike us I suppose, is struggling to understand how Jesus relates to the Father, and so he asks, “Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us,” and Jesus answers - this is so helpful - “Have I been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

Jesus is not the Father, but He makes the Father known. There is no way to come to the Father except to come to Jesus Christ. You can’t know the Father apart from knowing Jesus Christ. You see the Father by looking at Jesus Christ. He reveals the Father to us. To see Him is to see the Father. So let’s be done; can we be done with vague, ill-defined God-talk, as if that were all that were needed to qualify, to pass muster as a Christian, to incorporate God in some vague sense into our conversation? The Christmas message is that God the Father has revealed Himself to the world uniquely and climatically in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is that you can come and know the Father for yourself, but only through faith in the baby of Bethlehem and the Man of Calvary. There is no such thing as Christ-less Christianity. If you rob Him of His deity, however pleasant and kindly you may be, you are not a Christian. Many even so-called “churches” have stripped Jesus of His deity and reduced their message to empty platitudes about an ill-defined God and they have nothing to offer you this Christmas except sentiment and social work. Let’s not be deceived. What you believe matters. It really matters. The message of Christmas, the Christian Gospel is that God Himself has come to us in Jesus of Nazareth to make Himself known to us in Mary’s child. The Son reveals the Father. He’s Everlasting Father not just by way of affection but also by way of revelation. He reveals the Father to us.

Just think about that for a moment. The one Isaiah calls Everlasting Father is Mary’s baby child. Everlasting Father cradled in the arms of the virgin. Everlasting Father laid in a manger. Our joy really only makes sense, Christian joy only makes sense if into the darkness of a sinful world the Light of Life Himself, very God of very God, begotten not made, the divine Son who reveals the Father, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace Himself has come and we must insist on that and proclaim it with grateful hearts because upon this point hangs the salvation of the nations. It’s a word of affection; a word of revelation.

A Word of Adoption

Finally, it’s a word of adoption; it’s a word of adoption. Jesus is the Everlasting Father because through Him we become children of God. Interestingly, Hebrews 2:13 quotes from the passage, the chapter immediately prior to this one - Isaiah chapter 8 verse 18 - where Isaiah the prophet himself is speaking of his own resolve to stand fast in the face of apostasy. And he says, “Behold, I and the children whom You, Lord, have given to me.” But Hebrews 2:13 puts those words, quotes those words and puts them in the mouth of Jesus Christ so that Jesus says, “Behold, I and the children God has given Me.” Jesus fathers us, you see, when we are brought by adoption through faith in Him into the family of God. Galatians 4:4 - we used it in our assurance of pardon this morning - speaks about the first Christmas this way. “When the fullness of time had come, at just the right time, God sent forth His Son.” He came into the world that first Christmas, “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that” - so here’s the point of Christmas - “so that” - here’s why Jesus came - “so that we may receive the adoption as sons so that orphans may come into the family.”

We’re all orphans because of our sin, alienated from God. And Jesus came to secure our adoption. Now how do you get to be an adopted son or daughter of God? Listen to John 1:12. Speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ, John says, “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, God gives the right to become children of God; children born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but born of God.” How do you get to become a child of God, adopted into the family? You merely believe. You entrust yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ. And when you do, you will be able to say with the same note of wonder and joy that John himself uses when he writes a letter to the churches. First John chapter 3 verse 1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us that we, we should be called children of God, and so we are.” There’s a sense of astonishment that even we, rebel guilty sinners as we are, should have the title and privileges of sonship; heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.

So there’s a word of affection, tenderness here. Jesus is like a father with compassion for His children. He loves you. He loves you. You are beloved by an everlasting Lord. Loved with an everlasting love. There’s a word of revelation here. Jesus shows the Father to you. You want to know what God’s heart is toward you? You look at the life of Jesus Christ. You see Him, the very picture of weakness and vulnerability laid in a manger in Bethlehem, then you see Him preaching full of compassion for the crowds; you see Him now bearing His cross through the streets of Jerusalem as the crowds spit on Him and mock Him. You see Him nailed to the tree, praying for the forgiveness of His murderers. You see Him risen on the third day, ascending to glory. What does His story proclaim to you? It says the Father’s heart beats with love for you and He did it all that you may become adopted children of God. He wants to show you what God is like, but more than that He wants to bring you into the family of God to make you a child of God by grace through faith.

Whatever your earthly family is like, whatever griefs or gladnesses you will know because of your family this Christmas, let me plead with you now, please, please, please do not remain an orphan from the family of God any longer when He sent His own Son to bring you to Himself. “Whoever believes in His name, to them He gives the right to become children of God.” Won’t you trust yourself today and forever to Jesus, Everlasting Father, a perfect Savior.

Let’s pray together.

O Lord Jesus, how we praise You, Everlasting Father, whose reign knows no end, whose compassion overflows, having given Yourself for us to make us children of God. How we bless You for the disclosure You make to us of the Father’s heart, of the Father’s character, of His nature and names and glory. Would You bring each of us, or perhaps someone here for the very first time, but bring us all to bend our knee to You. Send the Holy Spirit upon us and bring us to a place where we come clean at last about the bankruptcy of life lived on our own terms under our own mastery and lordship, of how futile it is. Bring us to a place of repentance and help us to turn over the reigns of our own lives to the Lord Jesus, to Your rule, Your governance, Your Kingly reign, so that as we trust in You now we may receive the right to become children of God, children born not of blood, not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh but born indeed of God. For we ask this all in Your precious name, amen.

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