Thank you to our youth choir for ministering to us so beautifully and helping us and preparing us to hear God’s holy Word. As a part of our Advent celebrations, we have been meditating on some of the names and the titles given to the Lord Jesus Christ - in the Old Testament in the morning and in the New Testament in the evening. And so this morning we continue with the second of the four titles given to Christ in the ninth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. We said last time that names in the Bible are usually quite different from our names. We tend to name people perhaps for a family member or a loved one or because we like the sound of the name maybe. In the Bible though, names are more programmatic. They tell us something about the character of the person who bears the name or something about their mission and their purpose. That’s certainly the case for the four names that you find in Isaiah chapter 9 at verse 6, given to the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re told there that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, He is the Mighty God, He is the Everlasting Father, and He is the Prince of Peace.
And so if you haven’t done so already, would you go ahead and take a copy of the Scriptures in your hands. You’ll find copies of the Bible in the pew racks in front of you. And turn with me to Isaiah chapter 9; page 573 in the church Bibles. We’re going to be reading together from the second verse of the chapter through verse 7. Before we read, would you bow your heads with me again as we pray.
O Lord, please open our understanding by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit so that as we read Your Word and we hear it explained and proclaimed we may come to meet Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace for ourselves. Do this for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Isaiah 9 at the second verse. This is the Word of 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.”
Now it's been my experience that Christmas has an often unexpected way of exposing our vulnerabilities. As we work so very hard to make all our days merry and bright, the inconvenient limitations of our natures keep showing up, sometimes all the more starkly against the mandatory cheerfulness of the season. We feel less permission, don't we, than usual to mourn absent loved ones. And yet their absence is felt more keenly this time of year than at any other. All the messaging of the season celebrates family, but for some of us, there are few things that cause stress and tension in our lives than these seasonal family get-togethers. There's this festive party atmosphere - "It's Christmas after all" - and so the deep ache of loneliness that haunts our steps, some of us, has to be pressed down and hidden away. There is something about Christmas that the mythology and the pageantry and the celebration that I love - I'm sure you love it too - and yet it nevertheless quite often runs directly contrary to the reality of my heart experience and the contrast makes what I'm dealing with all the harder. Haven't you found that to be true sometimes?
Now if your Christmas is nothing more than a thin veneer of tinsel and wrapping paper if it's just tradition and sentiment - nothing wrong with tradition and sentiment - but if that's all you've got, Christmas is going to be a very painful time indeed. Our inability to simply flick the "Christmas spirit," whatever that means, to turn that on with a switch, reminds us, doesn't it, how messed up we really are. But as we turn our attention to the titles for Christ that we find in Isaiah 9 verse 6, I want you to see with me that the Scriptures offer us something far more satisfying than a thin veneer of tinsel and wrapping paper than make-believe and avoidance. There is hope for when Christmas forces us to face our vulnerabilities and reminds us how fragile we can be.
The first six verses of the chapter actually ring with wonderful hope, don't they? Light, we are told, is going to dispel the darkness. Joy will chase sorrow away. Freedom will overwhelm bondage. And it will all come about, verse 6, because of the birth of a child; a baby boy. "For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders." Everything changes with the birth of this child. He is the cause of the transformation that Isaiah speaks about. But what is it about Him that could bring about this revolutionary change in the fortunes of the suffering people of God? The answer, as we began to see together last time, the answer is found in the four titles that Isaiah gives us in the second half of verse 6. His name shall be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." That's who He is. That's what He came to do.
And last week we thought together about Jesus the Wonderful Counselor. He is the great Wonder, we said. He is the divine Son in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We can trust Him. He will guide our steps. His counsel is sound and sure and we can trust Him; a safe guide. That was last week. Which means, of course, that our focus this week is on the second title, Mighty God. Jesus is Mighty God. You’ll notice each of these titles has two parts. We’re going to look at each part in turn - Mighty God. It’s helpful to know that in Hebrew, unlike in the English translation, the word for “God” is actually the first word, so we’ll deal with that first.
Jesus, we are being told here, is God. That’s an extraordinary claim when you think about it, because remember, we have just been told in the same verse, in the first half of the verse, that the one called God here is a child who was born. There’s no question that the one upon whose shoulders rests the government is a human being. He is born. Mary’s child grew in her womb in the same way as any other child. Were an obstetrician present from the Bethlehem Delivery Ward to assist in the birth, he would have seen nothing remarkable whatsoever. This was an entirely ordinary human birth. Interestingly, the Hebrew of the first part of verse 6, the translation of the word for child, “yeled,” comes first in the sentence to put some emphasis upon it. It’s the mere fact of the presence of this child that changes everything. He comes and everything changes. The word itself actually means not just “a baby” but “a male child,” which is also interesting because it immediately raises a question why Isaiah feels the need, after telling us this is a male child, why he needs to say “a son is given.” Isn’t a male child always a son, Isaiah? So what’s with the redundancy?
Obviously, there's something more to be said than simply that He is male. There's something about His sonship in particular that carries significance in weight that the prophet wants us to notice. Verse 7 gives us some help. We are told that "He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, and of that kingdom, there will be no end." So He is a son who will inherit the throne and the kingdom, the kingly authority of His father, David. He is son of David. That's useful. That's part of what Isaiah is hinting at.
Second Person of Trinity
But I think there's even more here. This child, remember, is Mighty God. And that reminds us to read the vocabulary that Isaiah is using in the context of the expectations of the people of God in the Old Testament Scriptures as a whole. And so for example, in the second Psalm, you find King David himself speaking of a King who was still to come and saying in Psalm 2 verse 7, "The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you.'" So here's a King who will come to reign and rule, heir to David's throne, who is also the only begotten Son of God. That vocabulary is taken up in the New Testament and applied directly to Jesus Christ. John chapter 1 verse 18; John's gospel chapter 1 verse 18. "No one has ever seen God at any time, but the only begotten God who is at the Father's side has made Him known." That's an enormously significant statement. Think about it with me just for a moment.
"No one has ever seen God at any time, but the only begotten God who is at the Father's side has made Him known." So here is God whom no one has ever seen and He stands in relation to someone else as His Father, and that someone John calls "the only begotten God; the only begotten Son of God; Son of the Father." John 3:16 puts it even more directly, famously. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Here's the point; I hope you can see it clearly. Jesus the baby boy, born in this completely unremarkable way to an unremarkable family, this Man with a normal human nature - the same nature we all share - the Son of David by natural descent, this same child is also the only begotten Son of God; one with the Father and the Holy Spirit before all ages, full of grace and truth. The second person of the blessed Trinity; one God in three persons forever exalted in the heavens. The child who was born, the Son who was given, is the Mighty God. And that changes everything. It changes everything.
Remember we said at the beginning that Christmas has a way of exposing our vulnerability, forcing us to reckon with all the things our culture tells us we are not allowed to feel in this season of mandatory good cheer. To be sure, the escapism of it all works for a little while, doesn’t it, but as you get older it becomes harder and harder to pretend that you’re not hurting. And there’s no amount of tinsel that can heal our wounds. So look, if the birth of Christ were simply the birth of an ancient king, I suppose it’s conceivable we might still commemorate His coming as a point of interest in the historical record. We may even have some sort of celebration like the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving to mark the occasion - fun, but hardly life-changing. But that’s not why we celebrate. The birth of Christ is not merely the birth of an ancient king whose appearance on the scene of history is worth remarking upon and moving along from. That’s not why we celebrate. Is it? No, we know something utterly revolutionary has happened. The baby born that first Christmas is God become flesh, dwelling among us; deity joined to humanity forever in the person of Jesus Christ. So that now upon the throne of God sits glorified Man. So that while we are busy decking the halls and our hearts are aching all the while, we can cry to Him; you can cry to Him. And you can know you are speaking to one who came down in pursuit of you.
He Came for You
Here's the message of Christmas. Only this can speak peace to troubled hearts. Your God came for you. He didn't send someone else. He came Himself in pursuit of you to seek and save the lost in Jesus Christ. And that means that He loves you. Doesn't it? He loves you. Don't you need to hear that again? I certainly do. You are loved with an everlasting love. You are loved with an everlasting love. "God so loved the world, God so loved you, that He gave His only begotten Son." John 3:16 may be my favorite Christmas text. What a gift He gave that first Christmas - His Son. He loved you so much that He gave Him for you. So weak, weary one, sad and sore, sin-sick, ashamed, listen to the good news. You are beloved. God loves you. The birth of Mary's boy is all the proof you should need. God Himself has come for you in Jesus Christ. He Himself has come in pursuit of you to make you His. He hasn't left you to muddle through.
Our message is not, “Girl, wash your face.” It’s not. Our message is not, “Tough it out. Believe in yourself and you can make it.” That’s not our message. Our message is, “You are not sufficient and you can’t do it, but praise God He has come to rescue you in Jesus Christ.” And one day soon, you know, He’s coming back. And when He does, He Himself will wipe away every tear from your eyes. And in the meantime, you have His ear and you have His heart and He will give you grace to sustain and keep you. The baby of Bethlehem is the Lord your God who came in pursuit of you, the Mighty God.
Then, let’s think about that other half of the title given to Jesus - not just “God” but “Mighty God.” The word in the original is actually used to describe a hero, a mighty man of valor, a warrior in fact. You could translate it in precisely those terms. “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Warrior God.” Why did God become a man? Why was Jesus born? God became man; Christ was born to fight for you. That’s what this means. He came to fight for you. The Christmas story isn’t cute; not especially peaceful for that matter. At the end of the service, the response after the benediction is the hymn, “Silent Night.” “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child.” Now I love that carol, but as we sing it let’s not forget that what’s really going on is the opening salvo, the birth of Jesus is the opening salvo in the climactic conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan; between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
You remember the promise of Genesis 3:15. After sin ruptured our fellowship with God and brought the curse upon all creation, God makes a promise, really a curse, upon the serpent. He tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.” So right at the beginning of everything, as the train comes off the tracks right at the dawn of history and sin enters the world, there was a promise of ages long conflict finally reaching a climactic battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The seed of the woman, this child of Eve, who one day would come and do what Adam should have done in the garden and trample on the serpent’s head. And so when God took flesh and came to dwell among us that day in Bethlehem, this seed of the woman was born and He came to do battle with the great enemy of our souls.
If you’re at all familiar with the gospel accounts of the life of Christ you will have noticed how that very spiritual conflict rages wherever Jesus goes. There’s an outpouring of demonic activity during Jesus’ earthly ministry that is unprecedented in Biblical history. And yet, if you look carefully, you will see in every confrontation beginning with His temptation in the wilderness by Satan, and on into the expulsion of the powers of evil from demonized people, Jesus again and again triumphs in every preliminary skirmish during His earthly ministry, Jesus is the victor. He binds the strong man and casts him out every time.
But of course, the Satanic onslaught that came against our Savior will reach its zenith, its pinnacle in His betrayal and arrest and torture and His crucifixion. There, there was the climactic battle. There is the final confrontation. There, the ancient serpent sank his fangs deeply into Christ and as the venom of Satanic wickedness exacts from Jesus it’s terrible price, it looks like defeat. Every other engagement in the war has been victory, but here at the cross as darkness covers the earth and Jesus cries in dereliction and abandonment, “Why have You forsaken Me?” it looks like failure. Doesn’t it? It looks like defeat.
But what appears to be a tragic failure is, in fact, the final victory. Listen to the way Hebrews 2:14 explains it. "Christ came and partook flesh and blood." So he's talking about Christmas; the reason He came. He partook flesh and blood, He became a man, "so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." So why was Jesus born? What is Christmas about? It's really about the cross much more than it is about the manger. It's really about the cross. That's what He came to do. He was born for the cross. There, the battle was joined and Christ's victory assured. He is our Warrior God who fought for us, laid His life down for us, "disarming the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame, triumphing over them in the cross" - Colossians 2 verse 15.
One of my great favorite Christmas carols is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” I love it. I think it’s particularly beautiful, the minor key and the lyrics are so profound. The third verse captures this emphasis really very well. Listen. “Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way” - so there’s a military overtone; they’ve come to do battle. “Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way, as the Light of life descendeth from the realms of endless day, that the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.” That’s why He came, that the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away. First John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared” - the reason for Christmas - “was to destroy all the works of the devil.”
Well, so what? There's a beautiful moment in John 16:33 where Jesus is speaking to the disciples just before He's betrayed and arrested and taken into His sufferings. And He tells the disciples, "In this world, you will have tribulation. It's going to be hard and sore." And that resonates with our experience. Doesn't it? Tribulation - isn't that life here? This side of the new creation - tribulation. It's hard. And then He says something wonderful, "But take heart. I have overcome the world. I've won. I have engaged in the climactic battle and I have triumphed. I've secured the victory; take heart in your struggle with sin and sorrow and suffering. Take heart in your fear and in your frustration. Take heart when tribulation comes. The world is going to wound you, no doubt. Sin sometimes will trip you up in your daily pilgrimage, but I have fought for you and I have triumphed. The world cannot touch you. Satan will not snatch you from My hand and sin will never condemn you. For I have overcome." Jesus has overcome. Our Warrior God. Our Mighty God. Our Conquering King.
So now, if you trust Him, you can say with the apostle Paul, “We are more than conquerors, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We are. His victory is now our victory. Let the world do its worst; nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, nothing. We are secure. Not because we are good or strong or wise, but because Jesus Christ has triumphed and in His victory we are safe. Because He is God come down in pursuit of us, we know that we are loved. He came Himself to win us, to seek us out, to make us His. He loves us. And because He is the Mighty God, our Warrior God who fights for us at the cost of His life and triumphs, we are secure and nothing can separate us from God’s love. We’re not strong, we’re not wise, we’re not sufficient, but we belong to Jesus and He has overcome. And because He has overcome, we are more than conquerors. Praise God for the Gospel.
Now today it may be that you are here weary, wounded, grieving, guilty, seeking help. There is help for you in Jesus Christ. Let me urge you to come to Him, to seek Him for yourself. But maybe you want to talk to someone. I'll be at the back afterwards, so will Billy. We'll be delighted to talk with you. David Felker, one of our other pastors will be down here to my right. We'd love to meet with you and to pray with you. Please do come and speak with us. We do want to help you if we can serve you in any way. For now, would you bow your heads with me as we pray together?
O Lord our God, we bow before You and we confess that sometimes keeping a smile on our faces and sounding festive and filled with good cheer at Christmas is exhausting because our hearts are hurting. We’re weary of the world. We’re sin-sick and sore. We’re sad. We’re just not up to it. We feel how insufficient, inadequate just for day to day we really are sometimes. And we know that the thin veneer of tinsel and wrapping paper just won’t do. It won’t really paper over the cracks that show up in our lives. We need more. Thank You, You’ve given more, infinitely more than we need in Jesus Christ who is able to supply the satisfaction of heart that we crave; who is able to deal with our sin and make us clean. Who is able to give us hope in our hopelessness and dispel the shadows with the light of His radiant love. O God, would You grant that His light may rise and shine in all our hearts and in every home represented here this Christmas. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
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