First Sunday of Advent – “Preparing” – Nov 29, 2020
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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. Of the increase of his government and shalom there will be no end. And His name will be called Mind-blowing, Life coach, Warrior God, Forever Father, Shalom bringer. 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.”
- In 26 days, Christians around the world will celebrate Christmas, commemorating that singular event when the infinite, eternal God joined Himself irrevocably to our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.
- There’s no better occasion for us to ponder the questions: Who, exactly, is this Jesus? What is He like? What is it like to be in relationship with Him?
- And there probably is no better OT text to answer those questions than this remarkable prophesy made over 700 years before Jesus’ birth.
- Today going to focus on first part of verse 6. Before we do that, we’re going to pray, then look at historical and literary contexts for the text, after which we will consider in detail what v.6 has to tell us about what kind of a being Jesus is.
- Isaiah (or Yesh-shay-yah’ in Heb.: “YHWH has saved”) lived, like us, in politically uncertain times. Change of administrations a few years before, when King Uzziah died after 52 years in office.
- To make matters worse, a newly ascendant power was threatening the nation from the east. Assyrian empire made up large geopolitical power centered in what is today Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwest Iran.
- SLIDE 3 Yet remarkably, in verse 1 of Chapter 9, God says through the prophet: “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 honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.”
- Northern lands of Israel – tribal areas of Zebulun (Zeva-loon’) and Naphtali (Naf-talee’) — were devasted by Assyria in 733 when they were annexed as Assyrian territory.
- But in verse 1, God says he’s going to remove their darkness and sadness, give them reason to rejoice.
- God reinforces this hopeful message with what he says next. Notice the use of the perfect tense in in v.2. SLIDE 4 Perfect tense is the verb tense used to describe a past action with continuing results. You often find it in prophetic literature when future events are spoken of with the certainty of completed action
“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.”
- You see what God is up to? Here God saying to northern lands: I’m going to turn your disconsolate gloom into inexpressible joy!
- How’s He going to do it? He tells us in vv.6-7 it will be done through the birth of a baby who will become a great king. SLIDE 5
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
- “a child is born” – This highlights the genuine humanity of Jesus, the one to come. He takes on our flesh and blood, John 1:14; Heb 2:14
- “a son is given” – This hints the preexisting deity of Christ; he will preexist in a Father-Son relationship with God the Father, and out of that filial relationship, given to people (Jn 3:16).
- “the government will be on his shoulders” – This contrasts with v.4 (didn’t read): break the yoke on shoulders of people; broken when He takes government on His shoulders
- Isaiah continues SLIDE 6
And His name will be called
- In ANE, the anticipated birth of a royal heir was a portentous event
- And it was customary to give a king about to ascend to a throne titular names: titles corresponding with his character qualities and the hopes associated with his rule
- In Egypt, five throne-names were typically given as part of the accession ceremony. Possible this is the inspiration for the five names that Isaiah listed here
- A lot to unpack in these names; return in a minute. Before we do, let’s look at what Isaiah says this coming king will do. SLIDE 7
7 Of the increase of his government and shalom
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.
- There is an inflationary quality to the rein of Messiah. His won’t be like other kingdoms which expand and contract with time, but will keep expanding and growing. And with it, God’s shalom–human thriving—will continue to increase.
- But, before the Israelites could experience this Messianic rule, they would have to wait, because after the Assyrians,
- Macedonians under Phillip and Alexander of Macedon,
- Romans, and only then
- Christ (only in part, only in its inception phase)
- And we who were born after the earthly ministry of Christ, understand Jesus to be crowned king in heaven right now; it will only be after his return that he will he be recognized as king on earth (cf. Lk 19:12).
- Isaiah concludes this passage: SLIDE 8
The zeal of Yahweh-of-the-angel-armies
will accomplish this.
- The zeal of God drives Him to action. God could not adopt a blasé attitude toward establishing his Son’s eternal rule for the salvation of his beloved people.
- As one scholar put it: God’s zeal is a fire of indignation against everything and everyone who would harm His called out people and a fire that burns with such love for them and concern for their welfare that is must consume all unfaithfulness in their midst.
- Note how God is described here: Yahweh tsava, “Yahweh of armies” or “LORD of hosts”. He who commands the armies of heaven. You don’t mess with the armies of heaven.
- Thirty years after this prophesy, in 701 BC, during the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, a single angel from God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. Imagine the power of an entire army of angels comprising millions of millions!
- Alright, that’s the flow of the passage. Let’s return to consider the throne-names for Christ listed in verse 6: SLIDE 9
“And His name will be called
- Let’s consider each of these in order. I want you to know at the start that I’ll spend the bulk of our time on the first. SLIDE 10 Jesus is:
- Pe’-leh : Most versions: “Wonderful”. Extraordinary, marvelous, miraculous, inconceivable, astonishing, incomprehensible, mesmerizing, enthralling, fascinating. In today’s vernacular: Mind-blowing
- Yours may say “wonderful counselor”. Peleh can be used adjectivally to modify a noun. But its normal use is as a noun; used this way 13x in OT.
- SLIDE 11 There is a cognate adjective used in Jud 13:18, where the Angel of YHWH (preincarnate Christ) asks Manoah, the father of Samson: “Why do you ask my name? It is mind-blowing.” (New Int’l version: “beyond understanding”; New Mount version: mind-boggling)
- Paul echoed this sentiment in SLIDE 12 Rom 11:33:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
- Do you detect the reverent wonder in Paul’s voice? Is there wonder in ours, when we contemplate and discuss God? Are we overwhelmed with awe when we think and talk about him? Or have we become inured to the mystery of God, overly familiar with his transcendent otherness? You know the adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt”. You and I need to fight the temptation to be contemptuous of God by domesticating the wildness of his transcendent wonder.
- Jesus Christ is mind-blowing. He defies description or comprehension. He transcends all creaturely categories. Want to take just one example.
- The NT makes it clear that Jesus created all that exists. SLIDE 13 Colossians 1:15-16a: “15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth”
- Let’s explore the implications a bit here. I’m going to go all Carl Sagan on you for a second, okay? SLIDE 14
- A few years ago, the Astronomical Journal published the results of a detailed, multi-year study conducted on the Hubble Deep fields – a few parts of the cosmos that looked particularly empty.
- What astronomers found astonished them, SLIDE 15 for it was filled with galaxies. This forced them to revise their estimate of the number of galaxies in the universe from 100-200 billion galaxies to 2 Trillion; now 10-20x previously thought. SLIDE 16
- Each of those bright lights is a galaxy with upwards of 100-200 billion stars in each.
- Some of these stars are staggeringly large. SLIDE 17 To give perspective: Our sun is pretty big: fit over a million earths in it
- SLIDE 18 Yet here is our sun compared to the red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris. With a circumference of 5.5 Billion miles. Can fit over 9 billion suns inside it.
- SLIDE 19 Although the skies can look crowded, stars are generally located at incredible distances from each other. For example, the closest star to us is Proxima Centauri. 4.24 LY away. Sounds pretty close, right? If you were to get in our fastest spacecraft and travel at 37,000 mph, how long? SLIDE 20 81,000 years to get there. If you ever visit this star system, just make sure pack extra under-ware.
- Galaxies are filled not just with stars but all kinds of cool stuff: SLIDE 21
- Like star debris (“space litter”). SLIDE 22 Only this litter is really cool to look at
- Supernovas: SLIDE 23 exploded stars
- Hypernovas SLIDE 24 – rotating collapsed stars emitting bursts of gamma radiation, most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. They can emit in a few seconds 10,000 times more energy than our sun produces over its entire lifetime. SLIDE 25
- You probably know about Black holes. They are collapsed stars so dense that anything coming within their event horizon gets sucked in. And because the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light, not even light can get out. May be as many as a billion of these in our galaxy alone. SLIDE 26
- Pulsar are neat things. Neutron stars rotating 100x second, emitting radio waves and visible light. Small: only 10 miles in diameter. But there are about 100 million in each galaxy. SLIDE 27 the material comprising these stars is super dense. So dense in fact that one thimble full of SLIDE 28 neutronium=100M tons. (If prone to hernias, you def don’t want to try to pick any of this up)
- Who made all this? Jesus did. I think we can safely conclude that he has earned the name “Mind-blowing”
- The second name Isaiah gives Jesus is SLIDE 29
- Ya-aats: “Counselor”: Ya-aats was an authoritative sage, teacher, adviser, wisdom-imparter. The closest equivalent in our day would be a Life-coach: someone who knows us thoroughly and is thus in a position to instruct, correct and encourage us how to live. A skilled life coach is someone who sometimes knows us better than we know ourselves. This is definitely the case with Jesus.
- How well does he know us? King David described this poetically in Psalm 139 SLIDE 30
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
- David knew God’s knowledge of him was comprehensive in scope. And because he knew God’s heart, he trusted in God’s goodness to always lead him in the right paths. Who wouldn’t want to have at our constant disposal an unfailing wise counselor who knows us so intimately? As our Life-Coach, Jesus understands us completely and instructs us perfectly. He knows our every buried desire, broken dream, and grave disappointment. He knows our hopes, our desires and our struggles. He cares about every aspect of our lives. And he is in a unique position to guide and advise us with 100% accuracy. Life-Coach
- A third name Isaiah gives Jesus is SLIDE 33
- Gibbor El: God the Warrior, God the Mighty
- Jesus demonstrated this aspect of his nature when he defeated Satan and all the powers of darkness on our behalf. SLIDE 34 Paul called attention to this fact in Colossians 2:15: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, Christ made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
- But the powers of darkness were not the only thing Christ defeated. He defeated suffering, death and sin in all its power and pervasiveness. In fact, nothing in all creation can stand against the will and strength of this Warrior God.
- Do you think you have some intractable problem in your life? Some sorrow or loss or addiction or mistake too big for him to conquer? Think again. We are taking about a being of such vast intelligence, goodness and strength, that nothing can subvert his will or frustrate his purposes. He invites us to come to him 24/7, cast all of our cares on him, because he cares for us.
- He’s the warrior God! He is also the SLIDE 35
- Ad Av: Everlasting Father, Father of eternity. Jesus said in John 14:9: if you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father. Jesus is the forever Father in two senses.
- First, he is Forever Father in that he is the father or possessor of eternity (Isa 57:15: inhabits eternity; his domain). And as the possessor of eternity, he gives eternal life to whomever he desires according to John 10:28: “I give eternal life to them…” . He chooses to share his eternal life with those he loves.
- Second, he is Forever Father in that he treats his people like an affectionate, caring father—full of tenderness, compassion and loving concern—providing for the needs of all who call on him.
- Finally, Isaiah calls him SLIDE 36
- Sair Shalom: Ruler or Dispenser of shalom, the one who makes it available to all.
- Shalom is often translated peace. But much more. Shalom is a one of the most important theological concepts in the OT. Used over 250 times and requires about 30 different English words to translate it.
- It means wholeness, completeness, prosperity, flourishing, thriving, health, joy, celebration, well-being, rest, quietness, salvation.
- It implies the total enjoyment of God’s comprehensive blessings: physical, emotional, financial, relational.
- I think sometimes, if we’re really honest, we sometimes doubt Jesus heart. We aren’t convinced deep in our gut that God wants to bless us even more than we want to be blessed. We fail to understand the thrill it gives him to lavish us with his love and his good gifts.
- Shalom was a focal point of Jesus’ ministry. He came, he said in John 10:10, that he might give us life in all its fullness.
- Jesus is the one who makes peace possible. Peace with God. Peace with others. Peace within ourselves. That’s why Lk 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men and women”
- Jesus is the Shalom Bringer – it’s an appropriate way to finish off this list of five royal throne names given to the coming king for it captures the essence of what He came to do.
- Let’s end where we began. Who is this Jesus, whose birth in Bethlehem we celebrate in 26 days?
- He is mind-blowing in every way, both in who He is and in what He does. He is endlessly fascinating, tirelessly mesmerizing, unfailingly stupefying.
- He is the consummate life coach, who knows you perfectly and loves you purely; who never makes mistakes, never gives bad advice, is never cruel but always and only good
- He is the mighty, faithful Warrior God who fights on your behalf. He has defeated death, the devil and the dominating power of sin. And He continues, day by day, to fight on behalf of His people whom He loves and He will one day come again as conquering king to make all his enemies his footstool, consign Satan to the lake of fire and rule with us on a renewed earth with justice and righteousness.
- He is the tender and provident Father of Forever, who looks on us with infinite compassion as we face struggles and suffering, who never abandons us, never forgets us, never fails us.
- And He is the sure and certain Bringer of Shalom, who ushers in lasting joy and hope and love and peace between people and God, people and people and people and themselves. All of it a foretaste of the enduring shalom that awaits us in the life to come.
- This advent, as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the wonder of Christ’s coming into the world and taking on human flesh, let’s think often of these five throne names that God reveals to us in the book of Isaiah as a means of keeping our eyes fixed on Him in the midst of the distractions of the Xmas season, adoring Him, drawing strength from Him as we seek to live lives that bring him honor and pleasure.
- Let’s pray. Then end with communion and the benediction.