Monday, January 17, 2011

The Immanuel Book- Isaiah 7-12 # 4

 TEXT :  Isaiah 9: 1-7
TITLE : The Child with the four names
DATE PREACHED  :   2nd  January  2011

This is now  the fourth sermon on the  “Immanuel book“ (  Isa 7-12) .  Previously we had  observed that  the Southern Kingdom  (under king Ahaz  of Judah in Jerusalem) was being threatened by an alliance  of the northern 10 tribes  (under king  Pekah  -  Samaria)   and Syria (under king  Rezin of Damascus).
We saw that king Ahaz was petrified   of this and  was beginning to make plans to  enlist the help of the  Assyrians . He had in fact already given the temple treasury to them  in order to buy their support .
The prophet Isaiah  ( commissioned in Ch 6)  was sent from God  to  tell Ahaz that he needed not fear  the coming invasion. 
Ahaz  however,  would not hear him . Against  Ahaz’s  unbelief God  said that He would give a sign  to Ahaz and the Southern kingdom  : “ A virgin would bear  a  child and call his name Immanuel .”  We  are not exactly show whether there was an immediate fulfillment of that  prophecy  , but we do know that  Matthew sees this prophecy fulfilled in Christ  (Matt 1:21-23) .
Ahaz needed to know that  the land promised on oath to Abraham was Immanuel’s  land   (8:8-10) . There was no need to fear , even though  the flood of enemies would “reach even to the neck” ( Isa 8:8 - see Psalm  69:1)  – seemingly  to overwhelm  them.  But only seemingly . The truth remains: If God is for us  , who shall be against us  ?  ( Rom 8:31)
Ahaz , you and I tend to struggle  with  the  fear  of  the power of man more than the power of God . We are easily  intimidated  by the conspiracies of men  (8:12). Before we run to God  we run to  mediums  and fortune tellers who chirp and  mutter  ( 8:19)
Very few men  of the OT  had received greater  assurance and promises of help in times of severe  crisis  than did king Ahaz  and yet he wavered – and the nation presumably with him .
When God  promises us deliverance  even  in the face of the greatest trial  (when the waters  come up to our neck)  then we must  believe God and not  the ‘ waters’ .  After all a man can drown in a small stream , and yet  be saved  in the open ocean if he can hold on to a plank  and get himself to the shore . Similarly , the slightest  calamities will overwhelm us if we are deprived of God’s favour ; but if we rely on the Word of God , we can come out of the heaviest calamities uninjured. “ [1]   

So let us  remember  what is behind this  whole story .  The future  of  David’s  line  was threatened at this point . The faith of king Ahaz had collapsed  and now the  territory was about to fall into the hands of pagans .  But , did God not  say  that He would keep  the  house  of David?  Surely  God cannot break His covenant with David?   The people  born under  the covenant  may refuse to believe but there will always be a  remnant  that will  believe. One of Isaiah’s son’s , Shear Jeshub – his name  means  a remnant shall return . Isaiah’s children were  signs and portents  in Israel from the Lord of hosts  ( 8:18)

Right now,  in  a dark and fearful moment of history , God is there  promising  them His  presence; promising a sign . There would be light  on this dark horizon ! 
From the history books we know that Jerusalem  was never taken by these  evil allies. God truly delivered  Jerusalem .  However  we  are constantly  made aware in these OT accounts that these  things are signs for an ultimate fulfillment. The ultimate light would be   the Lord Jesus Christ . He is the light of the world ( John  1:9 ; 8:12)
  • Isaiah 9:1-2
It is  significant  what is  reported by the gospel writer Matthew  who links  Isaiah 9: 1-2  with Matthew  4:12-16  :
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.  And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,  so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:  “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—  the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”   From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now for some geographical perspective :   The   territories of Zebulun and Naphtali   were part of  the northern kingdom -  God’s  wayward people.  This area  was  soon invaded   by the  Assyrians  in 722Bc and its people scattered  and mixed with other nations. This helps us to understand a little of the contempt that a Jew of the SK had for  the Samaritans , who  had become a mixed race  .  And yet  (!)  this area ( also known as  Galilee of the nations  - 9:1 )   was the area  in which the  Lord Jesus  would do most of His public ministry.  Do you see the significance  of this ? Not only does Isaiah  speak hope to the SK  ; he also speaks hope to the NK .  Yes , Assyria  caused havoc  in that region  , but the Lord  Jesus would some day  come here  and heal  many  . He would do some of His greatest miracles in this region . He raised  the dead son of a woman in Nain  ( Luke 7:11 ) and  a little girl   (Matt 9 :18ff ).  Here He  would do the miraculous feeding of the 4000 & 5000  beside the Sea of Galilee. The light of the Messiah’s ministry would shine in that  dark region.

Now let us remember  that  Isaiah 9  follows chapter 8 .  Ch 8 left us   with a  note of gloom and doom in  verses 21-22  : “They will pass through the land,  greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against  their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”
By contrast Isaiah 9: 1  begins with a “ but” (  reminds us of the great ‘ but’ of  Rom 3:21). There is great darkness and fear   in that region in Isaiah’s time . There is great darkness and fear  among the people  in the days of Jesus’  ministry as the Romans ruthlessly  ruled   Immanuel’s land . There is great darkness and fear in our own day as we speak . One senses  that  the church (which are Immanuel’s people) at large  is  not  very  committed  to  the life of faith . Our congregations  are  filled with people  that  are  religious  but fearful  and  of little faith .

What a wonderful  light and hope enters  as we  now come to Chapter 9 .  The contrast is  so obvious. The joy in 9: 3 is the opposite of the gloom in  8:21,22.
Here  the  Lord reveals  that the nation would be enlarged, which is so different from it being cut down to a tenth and then cut down even more so that only a stump would be left! (6:13).  
The enlarged nation[2] is  the result of  the  Messiah’s ministry. Matthew notes that Isaiah 9 was fulfilled in Jesus’ ministry !  You may  well ask  : was Israel really enlarged as a result of Jesus coming?  After  all the  Lord Jesus was  crucified  in  about 30 AD with no one  apparently following Him any longer ;  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD  with   1 million people dead ;  and before that all the Christians were chased out of Jerusalem and Judea  by persecution .  That means that  the city was decimated not multiplied !  How can we say  that the nation has been enlarged by the ministry of Christ, when  this sort of thing happened ?  It was even prophesied  that He would be the cause of many falling in Israel ( Luke 2:34) . The appearance was that the nation would shrink.
Yet, if you think carefully  , the  nation  ( Immanuel’s  land ) was greatly multiplied  or  enlarged. Many  gentiles believed  ( this is implied in Isa 9:2) . They were added to the kingdom as  ingrafted branches (  Rom 11:17 ) . Peter then calls these Gentile believers “a holy nation,” and “a people belonging to God.”   Many would believe in Christ, and thereby the nation would be greatly multiplied  by the Lord.
Today especially we observe  how  the church after  Pentecost  ( the church age) has been forcefully advancing  and multiplying in the whole world  .

  • Isaiah9:3-5   :
The coming deliverance is pictured in these verses  in  clear images of military victory.  The enemy would be totally  smashed   by the Messiah  . The reference  to the day of Midian  ( 9:4) is a reference to  Gideon’s victories in Judges 6  which  included  the provinces  of Naphtali and Zebulun in the region of Galilee. Gideon is thus  a picture of the  Messiah  who will  deliver  His chosen remnant .  Christ however  will do  this without  man made weapons .  He  showed this  when  He   demonstrated His superior  teaching over  all religious teachers ,  His superior power over sickness and over demonic forces . On the cross He  crushed Satan’s head .  (Gen 3:15)  .
Paul could  thus truly write:  (The Father)  has qualified you to share in the kingdom of light, for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness…”  (Col 1:12,13. )
And Luke could write:   He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets long ago) salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  (Luke 1:69-75)

  • 9:6,7  : The Child with the Four Names  
If there was any doubt about the  divine nature of  that child , Immanuel ,  before then there is no longer any doubt  as  we consider verses  6-7 .    No one can use these  words  ( attributes) and not come to the conclusion that Immanuel must be divine!

As Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ is the prophet who speaks the counsel of God to us. Such  a  ruler with divine  wisdom far beyond natural understanding is qualified to give direction.

As  Mighty God  ( what a title !)  He is  truly able to deliver His people from  their and His enemies.[3] 

As Everlasting Father : This is a rather strange title for Christ , and we must understand this title  not in the sense that He is the Father in the Trinity. He is not ! Christ  ( the second Adam)  must here be seen as  the human replacement  for   our first  father Adam who  sinned and  thereby  caused all his  descendants to inherit a sin nature .  In Christ  we   receive an everlasting salvation .  In that sense Jesus refers to His family as His children in Hebr. 2:13,14 ( which is  incidentally a quote from Isa 8:18) .

As Prince of Peace :  The coming of Christ is constantly associated with the bringing of peace. He guides  our feet  into the way  of peace (Lk 1:79).  As our priest He has made peace for us with God  ( Rom 5:1) . He is our peace ( Eph 2:14)  and  has reconciled us also to one another.  

These  four names  prove to us that  God’s solution to darkness and desperation is in Christ -  our  Immanuel . He is supremely qualified to  counsel ,lead ,  care  and  provide  an eternally  peaceful environment ( heaven) for us  .

Ahaz and we need to know this   in times such as ours! 
Peace and stability will never  be established by  human alliances . They never work . Only God can  maintain  the kingdom . Only He can maintain this world . Only he can maintain the church .
An so our challenge for this new year is to rest less in our own  schemes and plans and  walk according to the rules of  Immanuel’s land . I am so impressed by the constant  reference  in this prophecy  of  words such as these :  The  Lord spoke  thus to me …” ( e.g.  8:11)  .  Like Isaiah  we must be in constant and prayerful communion with God . To that end will you bow your head with me and pray  a prayer of commitment  and renewal  in the hope and expectation that  the LORD our God will  grant us  the ability to live  by faith. Amen!

[1] Isaiah : Calvin , Crossway Commentaries , p.  89
[2] The enlarging of the nation reappears again in 54:1-3
[3] This title is later used of the Lord in 10:21

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