Today we are continuing our sermon series on Isaiah’s Christmas prophecies. Last week we learned how the virgin birth makes the Messiah unmistakable. Jesus is THE Messiah, THE Anointed One. THE Savior.
And maybe you took that truth home and thought, “Cool! What does that do for me? My bank account is still low. My job still stinks. My family life is NOT awesome. And to be honest – some pretty awful stuff happened to me this week.”
Today we are taking a look at a prophecy that talks less about who the Messiah is, but what the Messiah has to offer. Before we do that, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Darkness that Was
The lesson for this morning is from Isaiah 9. A bit of context: The year is 733 B.C. and after years of warnings, years of rebukes, and years of trying to call the people of Israel back to faith…God has just brought judgment.
Armies have overtaken Israel.
War has overrun the land.
Most cities have been destroyed.
People are dead.
Houses are burned.
Families have been broken apart.
In short, things weren’t very merry and bright.
But now that destruction has come, Isaiah doesn’t respond with “I told you so.” Not at all. Chapter 9 is not about gloom. Look at what Isaiah prophesies: “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 honor Galilee of the nations.” (9:1)
Take a look at Zebulon and Naphtali on an Old Testament map. They are on the north east side of Israel. They have the wonderful blessing of being located right next to the Sea of Galilee, being located right near some great fishing and having some very fertile farm land. But they also had the less the wonderful blessing of being the very first bit of land that invading countries from the East would attack.
And attack they did. This land was known for being the sight of some gruesome battles and some terrible Israelite losses. Hence: “In the past God humbled the land of Zebulon and Naphtali.”
But in the future. “In the future he will honor Galilee of the nations.”
Fast forward 770 years. Same area of Galilee, only there isn’t war going on anymore. It’s the Pax Romana – the peace of Rome. There aren’t any battles. There aren’t any sword fights. There isn’t any bloodshed.
But to one man – there’s still war.
Meet John the Baptist.
He’s a soldier, but not the traditional kind.
Instead of armor, he wears camel skin.
Instead of MREs, he eats bugs.
Instead of a sword, he wields the law of God.
Because he’s not battling the Assyrians.
He’s battling sin.
John looks around at the crowds. Sin is everywhere.
Sin is what is ruining that family’s relationships. She yells at him; he yells at her and the kids yell at each other because they can’t deal with the anger.
Sin is what ruined that booze smelling guy in the corner – he did a horrible sin and he can’t deal with it; so, he drinks and drinks and piles up more sins and more sadness.
Sin is what ruined that lady’s life. The one by herself. She cheated on her husband. She cheated with her best friends’ husband. Now? She’s been ostracized.
Sin is even what ruined those nice, churchy looking guys – Their failures and their inadequacies are too much for them to admit; so they wear fancy robes and drip oil into their beards – just so their outward appearance can distract them from the inward awful.
Sin is the real reason for darkness.
So, John fights.
Repent every last one of you.
Repent of sin.
Repent of trespassing.
Repent of vileness.
Repent of harassing.
Repent of hatred.
Repent of lust.
Repent of gossip.
Repent of sloth.
Repent of addiction.
Repent of pride.
Repent of racism.
Repent of lies.
Repent of sin.
Put up a fight.
Come out of the darkness.
Come into the light.
And people listen. They repent.
“Now what? We can stop doing the sin…maybe… but our guilt is still there. There is no way to get rid of it. There’s no way to make up for it. I can quit doing the sin, but the guilt of what I’ve done. That’ll stay with me. It’ll overpower me. It’ll overcome me. Like a cloud of gloom, it will consume me.”
And John can’t help. At least not personally. Because you see when John looks at sinners, he also sees himself.
Unable to help.
As he stands on the banks of the Jordan River, in the land of Galilee, in the very spot that Isaiah prophesied about, at the very spot where John had seen sinner after sinner after sinner, John sees someone else.
John sees someone different.
John sees the Light.
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:3)
Galilee is where Jesus began his preaching ministry. It’s where he did all sorts of miracles. It’s where he battled the darkness of sin with the precious words of the light.
And that’s good news.
II. The End of Darkness
Have you ever been to a harvest party? I’m not just talking about the modern, city slicker equivalent where we drink pumpkin spiced lattes and wear flannel – but a real harvest party! Where after weeks of tilling, planting, irrigating, weeding, hoping for rain during drought and praying for a break during flood season, harvest comes, and you celebrate! You eat some corn dipped in butter. You drink some wine. You play toss the hay bale because there’s nothing to worry about anymore!
Or have you ever been to a plunder party? After years of fighting, years of sweating, years of sleeping in the dirt and cuddling in the mud, finally you conquer the city! Then, the spoils – the gold, the silver, the comfy chair, the fancy robes, the giant legs of ham and bags of delicious Doritos that were theirs are now yours!
Or have you ever been to a “I’m-not-wearing-a-yoke-and-puling-a-heavy-cart-anymore” party? Because a yoke is that big old wooden thing that they put on oxen so that they can’t go anywhere without pulling the giant load behind them. It’s tiring. It’s annoying. It’s awful. But when that is released, and you are finally free!
But none of that compares to what Jesus did for us.
After years of toiling in sin and guilt and shame, Jesus provides a harvest of righteousness.
After years of fighting and losing to temptation, Jesus provides the plunder of eternal life us.
After years of being burdened by guilt and shame and impossible demands of God’s law, Jesus removes that yoke. And sets us free.
6 For to us a child is born. (of a virgin – we’ve identified him) It’s Jesus.
To us a son is given. As in a gift. As in he came for us! As in his life is for us. As in his death is for us.
And the government will be on his shoulders. He’ll be in control after he comes.
Not whatever awful thing it is that scares you.
The One who is control is the One who loves you.
The One in control is the One who died for you.
The One in control is the One who conquered sin and death for you.
Darkness is not in control.
The One who conquered the darkness is in control.
III. The Reign of Light
And what’s the kingdom like under his control? What’s it like to live under the king of Light? Isaiah gives the answer in verse 6-7 by giving this king some Divine Titles. Let’s examine each:
(1) Wonderful Counselor
When you hear the word counselor, there’s really two definitions that you might think of. (1) The Counselor who sits in a chair and strokes his beard and says, “That’s interesting.” (2) an advisor in the king’s court who tells the king when to attack, when to defend, and when to hold a fancy party. This is the definition that we’re dealing with.
Which is very interesting. Because Jesus has already been identified as king and now he’s been identified as counselor too. He’s being identified as his own right-hand man.
Humans would do well to take note. Because we tend to think of ourselves as God’s right-hand men and women. As if we’re Jesus’ own spiritual advisors:
Jesus, I know you have everything under control, but you should probably give me a bigger Christmas bonus then everything will be fine.
Jesus, if you really knew what was best, you’d heal Aunt Clara in time for the holidays.
Jesus, if you really wanted to make a righteous judgment, you’d give that guy a lump of coal.
You don’t give counsel to the Wonderful Counselor.
You take counsel.
Because no one knows better than the one who knew enough to Creator this incredible world.
No one knows better than the one who knew exactly what it took to save it.
No one knows better than to guide your life than the one who knows where it will end up.
(2) Mighty God
I was at my gym the other day for a competition. There was a section of the competition (in which I didn’t compete at all) where people did powerlifts. Where they lifted barbells loaded with weight over their heads.
And when I got there, there was a barbell that had three 45-pound plates on each side of the bar. 90, 180, 270 plus the 45-pound bar = 305 pounds. And I thought – that’s a bit too much. Who’s going to lift that? Who’s going to be able to power clean that? Is this a mistake?
Nope. Some guys walks over, takes a breath and throws it into the air!
Jesus is MIGHTY GOD. That means he’s a lot like a powerlifter. In fact, he’s THE Powerlifter.
No matter how big your sin is.
No matter how big your sin was.
No matter how much it has weighed you down.
No matter how much it is weighing you down.
Jesus can lift it. And he did. In fact, he lifted it up and dragged it through the streets of Jerusalem and carried it to the cross.
And if you think your problems are too heavy for him to deal with?
Think again. He’s MIGHTY GOD!
(3) Everlasting Father
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the batteries in this microphone were getting a bit old. But when I went to the closet to check for batteries we didn’t have any. So, we bought some new ones and switched brands. Good idea. The last brand that we had would last for about one Sunday of preaching – or 2 services. The new set? It’s still going strong.
Jesus is like that. He’s still going strong. He keeps going and going and going and going…and always will go.
And remember he’ll be going for you! Because look at the second part. The word Father does not point to a Trinitarian, theological controversy, but to the reality that believers are God’s children.
And he’s not a Father that runs off.
He isn’t tainted by sin.
He doesn’t get drunk.
He doesn’t slap mom around.
He doesn’t hurt or harm you in any way.
He loves you.
He cares for you.
He disciplines you – sure – but He does so with your eternal interests in mind – aka—that one day you’ll come home.
(4) Prince of Peace
Because unlike how a lot of royalty are portrayed in current shows like REIGN and GAME OF THRONES, Jesus isn’t about violence. He isn’t about blood, violence, political gain and power – not even dragons rampaging the village.
Jesus is different. He doesn’t break peace to bring war.
He brought war to bring peace.
He fought sin. Beat sin. Violently beat it on the cross. And rose triumphantly in order to bring you peace with God.
You don’t have to worry that your God is going to enact divine judgment on you.
Not when you believe in Him as your Savior.
Because then you have peace.
“Repent!” That’s John the Baptist’s cry. That’s the cry of Scripture. That’s what God, our King is imploring you.
Don’t just hear it today. Take a moment. Meditate. Turn from sin!
Because what we tend to do is choose a sin that we don’t struggle with and repent: “I repent of getting together with a group of teenagers to gossip!” That’s not repentance.
Look at your life. What do you struggle with? Where do you lose the battle? Where have you given up fighting? Where is there darkness?
Cry out to God for help.
And trust Him.
Because REPENT is a 180. It’s not a 90 degree turn from sin to another sin. But from sin to trust in your Savior. Trust in the Messiah. Trust in the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
And when you trust, well:
You walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On you living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.